Brochure design

Subject: Brochure design
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 1997 11:21:39 -0600

Elizabeth Lambert wondered where to put the most important
information on a brochure (i.e., where will people read
first).

I can't provide any definitive answer to this, since it
will depend on the nature of the information and the
audience, but in general, the most important part of the
brochure is its cover: that's what people see first, and if
you don't grab their attention with the cover, they won't
bother opening it up or turning it over... they'll just
throw it away or ignore it. (That's the standard design
philosophy I've seen espoused, and it makes sense to me:
brochures are devices that are intended to scream out "open
me up and take a look inside", and they'll do that quite
well if you get the cover right.) The back is probably the
least important part.

The message you want readers to take away with them is
obviously the most important information, and that's the
part you'll devote the majority of the brochure to
communicating. Since some readers may never get past the
cover, can you include a summary of this message on the
cover too? Worth a try.

Best bet of all: You mentioned that you're a student, and
this is an excellent opportunity to do some audience
analysis and usability testing. First, ambush a dozen
classmates. Put the brochure on a table (or hang it on a
wall, or wherever you intend to display it) and ask them
what they think... watch how they pick it up (if they do!),
how they open it, what their reading pattern is. Ask them
if they can read it as they walk past. Ask them to tell you
(in one sentene) what message they got out of reading it...
is it the one you intended?

Then go beyond this and investigate some less obvious
things: will the brochure fit neatly in a standard mailing
envelope? If not, you'll have to fold it (and ruin the
design?) or go to a large envelope, which is more expensive
to buy and more expensive to mail. Brainstorm this to get
other ideas: can you print the brochure once and reuse it
for many years? Could you print a large quantity of it to
get economies of scale, and then overprint only information
that changes (e.g., dates)? And so on... have fun with
this, and use the exercise to get you past the idea that
audience analysis and usability testing are scary things.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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