The design anatomy of a brochure

A brochure doesn't just have to look pretty, argues Simon Tilbrook of Swallowtail Print, as he explains how to combine aesthetic demands with business needs.

When you're producing a brochure, you'll want to create something that looks gorgeous that your fellow creatives will coo over. But designing a brochure isn't about making something that looks pretty - it's primarily about fulfilling an organisation's needs.

In this article, I'll go through each of the main elements of a brochure, and the things you'll need to get your head around before you even start designing your brochure...

01. The front cover

This take on the traditional corporate brochure, called 'Life Crafted', is a spectacular example of how brochure printing and design doesn't have to be boring

The front cover is the heart of any brochure. The goal of your front cover should be to grab your audience's attention by creating an emotional connection, a want to read or explore what lies within your brochure.

The best brochures stir up a range of emotions, from curiosity and intrigue, to awe and excitement. If you're designing for an accountant, for example, the trend in that area might be to produce rather stiff, corporate looking designs. Instead, this would be a great opportunity for you to differentiate your client, by opting for a design more in line with the cool, alternative corporate brochure shown above.

02. The flap

The examples above demonstrate how to limit text and still provide a powerful message

If the heart of your brochure is the front cover, then the flap, or inside front cover, has to be the soul.

This is your opportunity to grab your reader's attention. If your front cover has been designed correctly, now's your chance to capitalise on this with a punchy tagline and offering of some form. For example, if your goal is to raise awareness of your company and the services you provide, you could use this space to briefly summarise how you can help your prospects.

It's best to limit the amount of text you use on the flap. Remember, your readers have short attention spans and they probably aren't fully invested in reading your brochure just yet, so try to use powerful, stunning visuals along with short snappy, calls to action to encourage further reading.

03. The contents

The contents page's primary purpose is to be clear and informative

Now that you've captured your audience's heart and souls, it's time to work on their brain. The brain of your brochure is the contents - the pages in between the front cover and back panel after the flap. With your readers emotionally stimulated, the next step is to present your message or offering in detail and drive it home.

Brochures are created for a number of purposes. The reasoning behind most corporate or commercially orientated brochures is to increase awareness, drive sales or encourage repeat purchases. Once you've fully understood the purpose of the brochure, you'll be better place to decide how to arrange the contents, especially in terms of hierarchy.

04. The back cover ('wallet')

After your reader has progressed through your brochure to the back cover, it's time to hit them with a well thought-out call to action. The back cover of your brochure is affectionately nicknamed 'the wallet', because its the perfect place to ask your reader for some money...

You've done the hard work and not only captured your reader's attention, but delivered value to them – you've now earned permission to ask for something in return, as reciprocity dictates. Here are some common 'wallet' call to action ideas:

  • Asking your reader to 'like' or 'follow' your social media platforms
  • Prompting the reader to use a specific discount code to gain money off one of your products or services
  • Asking the reader to call or email you directly
  • Giving the reader a reward if they visit you in store

05. The lips

The 'lips' is crucial for continuing the relationship with the reader

The 'lips' is the section of your brochure that lists the company's contact information and how best to contact it. This section is often neglected, not just in print and brochures but on websites, emails and various other forms of contact.

For those of you looking for tips on how to improve this section, here is a list of essential 'lips' information you need to include:

  • Your email address, if possible list several email addresses - each suited to a different purpose
  • Your contact number - if you have multiple offices it might be best to list these, or just provide the closest number to the location you're looking to target with your brochure
  • An incentive - it's not just enough to list your contact information and expect business to flood in. Before you list your contact information, provide an incentive for calling or a reason for people to pick up the phone. This could be as simple as "For your free design needs analysis, call now on..."

06. Key takeaways

So that's what makes up a brochure - now here are the key takeaways to implement to improve your own brochures:

  • Use a visually stunning front cover that evokes a powerful emotional response
  • Capture your readers' investment with your flap
  • Once your reader is invested, capitalize on this by presenting your product or service in the best possible light with lots of high quality images and snappy benefit statements
  • Make sure you craft a well thought out 'wallet' section of your brochure by providing a clear call to action that follows on from the information you've provided in your brochure
  • Don't neglect the contact information you provide and make sure it's accompanied by an incentive or reason to call

07. Further reading

You're now ready to start designing your brochure. But before you do that, you may find these articles of further help...

Words: Simon Tilbrook

Simon Tilbrook is the owner of Swallowtail Print, a premium brochure printing and design firm focused on delivering maximum value to their clients. Further bio on Simon can be found here.

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