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Considerations for Brochures with Pocket Folders

A commercial printing client of mine is designing a cross between a brochure and a pocket folder to showcase her client’s business. My client, who is a designer, came to me for suggestions for a piece of marketing collateral that will be a brochure, or short booklet, in the front, but that will have a pocket on the interior back cover into which the end-user can insert multiple 8.5” x 11” single sheets of marketing material.

Physical Considerations for the Pocket Folder Brochure

Overall Size of the Brochure

I encouraged my client to consider a 9” x 12” pocket folder if the inserts that will go in the back brochure pocket will be 8.5” x 11”. This will allow room for comfortably inserting and removing the sell sheets.

Beyond the flat and folded size of the brochure, I asked my client to consider the need for a build for the pocket, the spine of the brochure/booklet, or both. For the brochure, the build would essentially be a spine. It would allow for a build in the pocket, which is essentially an extra piece of printing stock that will hold the pocket open (like a gusset), allowing for the inserting of multiple sell sheets. I have seen 1/4” or larger builds on pockets, but they are more fragile than pockets without builds, so if my client’s client only needs to insert a few printed sheets in the back pocket of the brochure, I’d encourage her to forgo the build. But it is something she has to address in some way.

Once the dimensions of the pocket folder brochure have been determined, it will be prudent to consider the shape of the rear-cover pocket. The pocket can be horizontal, allowing the inserts to be dropped in from above, or it can be vertical, allowing the user to slip in the sell sheets from the side. In either case, the designer can make use of the ability of the pocket to “hide” a portion of the first insert. In fact, the designer could even print an image on the pocket that continues onto the sell sheets.

Materials for the Brochure

For a job like this, I have suggested that my client choose a stock with a thickness of up to 130# cover. This would yield a substantial printed product. It would not feel flimsy. It would also accept lots of opening and closing over time, without the brochure‘s becoming worn or tattered.

Whether she chooses a stock coated on one side or two would depend on the ink coverage. If the ink prints on the exterior covers of the brochure (plus the interior back pocket, which is on the same side of the press sheet as the exterior covers), then a C1S (coated one side) sheet would be ideal (perhaps a 12-15 pt. C1S). If she will want to print on both sides of the press sheet, then a C2S sheet would be preferable (perhaps a 130# cover stock). For the sell sheets themselves, I would probably suggest a 100# text sheet (perhaps a dull or gloss commercial printing stock, depending on my client’s preferences).

As with any printed product that will receive heavy usage, it will be prudent to coat the exterior covers in some way. Options would include UV coating, aqueous, laminate, and press varnish. (Unfortunately, the last option, while inexpensive, can yellow over time or even alter the colors of the underlying ink. Therefore, it will be important to know how long the pocket folder brochure will be used.)

Approaches to Designing the Pocket Folder Brochure

Even before ink hits the page, it would be prudent for my client to request a paper dummy from the custom printing vendor. This will be unprinted, but it will provide a good idea of how the pocket folder brochure will feel in the hand, how durable it will be, and how the sell sheets will fit into the back-cover pocket.

In addition to paper dummies, I have suggested that my client look at pocket folders online. Some vendors that specialize in pocket folder printing will include a series of design options on their web pages, reflecting different sizes, different configurations and placement of pockets, even different shapes of the pockets (horizontal, vertical, scalloped, glued at the edges, with and without builds). It’s like an online “idea file.” With this information in mind, my client might then request printed samples to review options for both physical construction and graphic design.

The Dies for Cutting the Pocket Folder Brochure

Pockets such as these must be cut with metal dies. This increases the cost of the overall pocket folder brochure. In some cases, however, depending on the design, some printers may have standard dies on hand that have been used for other products. If my client wants a more unique approach, she will need to pay to have custom dies created for her design project. She will also need to build more time into the schedule for the die-making component of the job.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

You may find yourself designing a similar printed product. If so, start early by requesting printed samples and paper dummies from your paper merchant or printer. These will give you ideas for both the graphic treatment and the physical specifications of the project.

I would approach a number of commercial printing suppliers for a job of this complexity, since it will require printing, die-making, and converting skills, and since it will be a comparatively expensive project. More than with most jobs, a project like this requires specificity on your part, a printer you trust completely, and good communication with your vendor throughout the process regarding schedules, costs, and your expectations. On the positive side, you can experiment and develop a truly unique and powerful graphic product.

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