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Art from the modern wing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
It’s happened. The bane of our existence has come back for another round. The dreaded brochure redesign has been commanded by the heavens. On the surface, everyone – even us – seems to think that this is a great, creative, informational task. And then you get into the content and the images, and then you remember the last 3 brochure designs, and then your eye begins to twitch.
Sound familiar? I know for me it is. After many years, and a few too many brochure design requests, I’ve come to see them as a necessary evil. Brochures are one of those things in our marketing and communications careers we’ll have to do. A Lot.
Text too long – check. Planned photos never the right size, color, or non-existent – check. 16 action items for a 8.5 x 11 piece of paper – check! What’s a marketing warrior to do?
Ask what the “Single-Minded Purpose” of the piece is
We all have this nightmare: encapsulate the entirety of your organization – its mission, philosophy, 5 year goals, programs, products, social impact, and big up coming changes all in the same design. (Oh, include a photo of the kitchen sink too? Got it.) I joke, but its true. Small businesses and nonprofits in particular sometimes lack the soft touch subtly that works best in a brochure.
A brochure should explain 1 thing, have 1 take away, and promote 1 action item. ONE. UNO. Your audience isn’t looking for a long, content-rich document when they pick up a brochure. They are looking for quick information. Is your brochure about the WHOLE company/organization? Still try to get to the single goal of the piece. Goal is donations, great; goal is engagement, got it; goal is more volunteers, lens decided.
Getting clear alignment on what this 1 topic is and its 1 goal will significantly help focus the piece and provide structure to the content. Remember, if people want to learn more, they will go to your website. It will also help set expectations from your leadership. If you’re working with a designer, this will allow for a fruitful dialogue throughout creation.
Conceptualize 2 designs
Creative slump? Unsure what design direction you want to do? Mock up two designs – one you’re sure will get picked (text heavy) and one that really gets you excited (DESIGN!!!). I’m not saying create two complete brochures, but conceptualizing something that gets you visually engaged is good for the soul.
Cut the text in half
Not sure how in the heck you’re going to fit all the content you were given? Cut it in half. BUZZ – right down the middle. Be vicious. Take no prisoners. Separate yourself from the organizational lens for a moment. By the time you get the number count in half, you’ll have a strong idea of what you must keep and what language can be streamlined and rewritten. This is my favorite activity and the one I find the most fruitful in any piece I create.
Think outside the fold
Trifold got you down? Ask yourself, does it really have to be a trifold brochure? There are so many wonderful sizes and shapes out there. Maybe the problem with the brochure is the space you have think you have to work with. Try a new size or shape and see what develops.
Plan for printing
With every brochure project I get, my first question is – how are you going to print this? In house? At a printer? At the office supply store?
When you plan for printing, you’re directing what types of design elements you can and can’t have. This information is key if you want to design a brochure with a bleed or ensure certain colors look great.
The final look of the brochure and certain design elements can also depend on the type of paper you use. This is important to keep in mind, particularly if you can’t figure out why your nice design on screen doesn’t look so great printed.
If you’re new to designing brochures and collateral don’t worry. The self-taugh club around here bakes cookies and drinks LOTS of coffee. We’ll be great friends. (It’s all about practice. I promise.) Whether or not you’re using Adobe InDesign or Publisher, Word or Powerpoint – there are a few tips that will help elevate any in house design.
Brochure design can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be onerous. Let’s take a deep breath and start folding some paper.