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The Essentials of the Aesthetically Pleasing Brochure
In order to have an aesthetically pleasing brochure, it's important that you are incorporating the purpose of your brochure in with your brochure design. For instance, it wouldn't make much sense to have images of bottles of wine on your brochure if your business has nothing to do with wine. Your brochure should give potential readers a hint of what they might be able to expect from your business - just by looking at the brochure. Before talking about the actual content of the brochure, which arguably is even more vital to your brochure's success than just producing an aesthetically pleasing design, keep the following points in mind:
- Unless you are an artist or graphic designer, you will want to have much more text than images. Do not crowd your brochure with too much. While it's important to have a nice text to image ratio, be aware that you should only place images that add to the overall value and understanding of your brochure.
- Don't get so carried away by your design process that you overlook the importance of quality text. I've even seen brochures where the person was so excited he or she forgot to put contact information on the brochure. At the very basic level, a brochure needs to communicate why the product, service, company, or organization exists or provide useful information. While most brochures are created for businesses, many are created as a means for communicating more information to interested parties.
- Be careful about color. Many times we mean well and create gorgeous brochures, but we forget that color printing is expensive. When you print from color to black and white, you lose a lot of quality in your image. Instead, make sure that you use grayscale images or line art. Decide on your budget before-hand.
- Always, always, always save as a high resolution image before printing. Otherwise, your image will look blurry or pixilated. That's not exactly the impression you want to make! Bad graphics detract from what's being said in the content of the brochure.
When you follow these and other basic rules of brochure design, when you go about writing your brochure, you'll have more success.
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1. Know How Much Copy You Need
Before you sit down at your computer, it's important you take a moment to determine how much writing you will need for your brochure. Will you be creating a traditional tri-fold brochure? Or will your brochure be a bi-fold? How big will the font be? How many images will you use? 1,000 words will create a very text-rich brochure. The brochure to the left has about 850 words. You'll notice there's some white space and there are images in the brochure. Doing this will break up the text and create a more appealing brochure for your potential audience.
Once you've decided on a word limit, stick to it! Edit your copy until you have the needed amount of text or less. Nothing is more irritating than when you're trying to read a brochure with tiny text because the writer didn't cut down his or her work.
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2. Know the Purpose of Your Brochure
Quickly jot down, in one sentence, what the purpose of your brochure is. Are you trying to increase interest in your services? Are you looking for people to invest in your products? Do you want people to donate to your cause? Every brochure should have a call to action of some sort - even if it's not implicitly stated. Whether you want someone to be informed or you want to answer questions of a concerned prospective student, there's a purpose. Know it.
Once you know what you're asking your reader to do, you will want to stick to it. Do not put anything in your brochure that does not directly relate to that call to action.
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3. Know Your Potential Reader
In addition to knowing what you want people to do after reading your brochure, you need to know who you would like your ideal reader to be. Are you creating a brochure for a kids' soccer team? If so, you'll want a brochure that will appeal on the outside to kids (to get them to pick it up) but that will respond to parental concerns about the sport on the inside. Take a moment now and write down the characteristics of your potential reader(s).
Make sure you're addressing the interests and concerns of the target audience within your brochure. If you have a few different demographics you are trying to appeal to, you might want to create a separate brochure for each target audience rather than try to squeeze it all into one document.
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4. Outline Your Brochure First
I know, I know, I'm telling you to do a lot of background work. I promise, it will make your life much easier when it comes time for you to write the actual brochure copy. Now you know how long you want it, you know what the purpose is, and you know your target audience, you need to outline your brochure. You'll want to make sure that you know what you're going to talk about! This will help to keep you from rambling, and it can help you to target your audience.
Consider interviewing yourself from the perspective of your potential reader. For example, if you're putting together that soccer team brochure, you might ask questions like "What about injuries?", "Do kids learn about teamwork?", "Is there bullying?", "How much will I have to pay?", "What does that fee cover?" etc. Put yourself in that potential reader's shoes and outline a brochure that will answer his or her questions.
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5. Skip the Background Talk
Unless you're teaching your potential readers to start a business, you don't need to explain to them how it was you got into owning your business; that is, unless you are selling the fact that you've been in business for 20 years. Instead, jump right into the information you need to give readers. Remember, your space is limited, and you don't want to go over the word limits. Chances are, you don't need to explain what cleats are to your soccer reader. This is where knowing your audience will come in handy. If you absolutely have to give background, make sure it's vital to the message of your brochure.
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6. Consider Leaving Your Readers with Something They Will Refer Back To
This is the one exception to the rule about following your purpose and only your purpose in your brochure. If you have space, you may want to leave your reader with helpful information that will cause him or her to save the brochure for later. For the soccer brochure, you might want to have something like "Top 10 Tips for Getting Kids to Eat Healthy" or a recipe for a healthy yet kid friendly meal or if you're doing a brochure for a nonprofit domestic violence shelter, you might do something like "Red Flags for Dating."
Make sure that your useful tip fits the theme of your brochure. That way, when someone wants to find someone who does whatever it is you do, he or she will remember vaguely that that brochure that's always referred to was produced by you.
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7. Don't Leave it Open to a "No" Response from Your Potential Customer or Client
You should never leave your potential customer, client, donor, patron with an opening to say "no." Try not to ask open-ended questions in your brochure - if you do ask a question, make sure you answer it! On that note, avoid words like "If," "Might," "Could," or "Should" as these introduce doubt in your readers' minds. Additionally, when your readers finish with your brochure, they should be motivated, at least for a little bit, to hire you. It's important that you leave the reader with a feeling that he or she understands what you're trying to say - and that you've exuded confidence and helped to guide the reader - especially if you're trying to sell your products or services.
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8. Watch Your Paragraph and Line Length
Even though you're trying to deliver a lot of information in a small spot, you want to make sure that you watch the length of your paragraphs and sentences. If you let your paragraphs get too long, you'll have huge chunks of text when the reader takes a look at the brochure, and the reader may be intimidated. Sometimes, well, many times, when someone encounters a large chunk of text, the information will be scanned or the person will forgo the brochure altogether.
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9. Proofread Your Brochure!
There's nothing worse than printing 5,000 copies of the new company brochure and mailing them out only to find that there are spelling and grammatical errors throughout the piece. Imagine what you would think if you came across a brochure with errors for a business - would you want to use the service, or would you avoid what was being offered? Maybe not everyone will catch the problems, but those who do will lose confidence in your work.
Let your brochure sit for a couple of days between each draft and come back to it. When you do, you'll often find mistakes that you'd have otherwise missed. This also means that you will need to make sure that you schedule your brochure project accordingly.
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10. When in Doubt, Hire an Expert
If you've been struggling to write your brochure, or if you know that you're not a writer, there's no shame in outsourcing the work. There are many adept freelancers and independent consultants out there with experience in brochure creation. When looking to hire someone to outsource your brochure work to, you'll want to check to see whether he or she does both the design and the copywriting. You can get the best value if you find an all-in-one service, but sometimes writers and graphic designers team up on such projects.
Whatever you do when you create your brochure, remember that the most important part of brochure creation is getting the reader to open the brochure up and read it. An expert can help you to do this, as he or she will have studied (and experienced) what works and what does not work.
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- How To Design And Write A Basic Brochure by Tom Egelhoff, Small Town Marketing - http://www.smalltownmarketing.com/brochuredesign.html
- SBA Tips, http://n8marketing.com/Info_files/SBATips.pdf
- Ronda Roberts has created brochures for her own business as well as the businesses of others who have commissioned her to do such work.
Image courtesy of Ronda Roberts.