How to Design and Layout a Brochure

Learn how to design and layout a brochure in this article for graphic designers. 


How to Design and Layout Brochures


How to Design and Layout a Brochure

Designing a basic brochure - how hard can that be? For good graphic designers, the answer is a lot tougher than you think. Even for the most basic type of brochure, before you ever put pencil to paper or click your mouse, there is essential information the client and you need to discuss.

The first thing you need to know is the purpose of the brochure or what the client wants that brochure to accomplish. That ties directly into who the target audience is and what the message of the brochure will be. There are three main types of brochures and in each case; the cover is used to accomplish a specific goal. The three types of brochures are those that are used to advertise or market, those that educate or inform, and those that entertain.



For a brochure whose primary purpose is to advertise or market products and services, the cover will most likely have two parts: a catchy phrase that grabs the potential customer’s attention, and then lists the benefits of the product (what will this product do for me?). In the instance of a brochure that is primarily educational or informative, the product generally appears on the cover with the information of what it does or can do listed inside. The entertaining brochure is used the least. You might see it in a family-style restaurant, for example, and it contains puzzles, drawings, etc. for kids to keep them occupied. But, for this piece, I’ll focus on the first two types of brochures.

The next thing you and the client need to decide is the number of panels in the brochure, which is influenced by a number of factors. Some questions to consider:

· How much information will be in this brochure?

· How is this brochure going to be used?

· Is there a bleed?

· Is the brochure going to be of a unique design that might include die-cuts or unusual folding?

· Will the brochure be a direct mail piece? If so, what are the postal regulations for the size and mailing costs?

· Also under mailing, will there be a returned piece such as a Business Reply Card (BRC)?

· What is the allotted budget for the brochure?

Designers need to get the parameters and specifications from the client before they proceed, as these may greatly affect the cost. Printers can also be a tremendous resource in explaining how a brochure’s parameters and specifications will affect everything from the size of paper a brochure is printed on, to trimming, folding, and special cuts.

Once those decisions are made, the graphic designer and client need to discuss what is often referred to as the “hierarchy of information” or what’s the order of information; starting with the most important and moving onto the least. At this stage, you’ll need to know on which panel or panels information is being placed. In some brochures, information (particularly photographs and maps) can go across two panels to striking effect. At the same time, when thinking about how the brochure will be laid out, consider whether each individual panel will hold distinct information or are the panels related?

You’re still not quite ready to move into the actual design process as you need to refer back to that target audience the brochure is aimed at. Here you need to know the answer to the following question: what is the message the client is sending with this brochure? Advertising, educating, informing, and entertaining are how that message is presented; the actual message is what you want to say about the particular product, service, or company.

When all that information is gathered, you can finally get down to the business of designing. You’ll take into account the basic elements of good design - alignment, repetition for a sense of unity, contrast and a focal point that provides interest, balance, scale and perspective, color, and so on. You’ll also want to keep in mind the font, size, color, and orientation of the text.

As with any design there are also things you’ll want to avoid. These include:

· Avoid over-used typefaces, two of which are Arial and Helvetica.

· For content type, keep the point size under 12.

· Don’t use more than three type faces in a brochure.

· Generally don’t use more than one alignment.

As you can see, designing even a standard six-panel brochure is often a much more complicated process than you initially might think. The more organized you are, the easier the graphic design process will be, and probably a lot more fun. With any design project, it’s a good idea to have all the necessary information, pictures, parameters, and specifications before you let your creative juices flow.

Catherine Johnson is a writer and graphic designer living in

Minnesota. You may reach her via e-mail at: catherinejohns58@yahoo.com. [tags]design, brochures, design brochures, layout, layout brochures, graphic design[/tags]

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  1. Posted June 18, 2007 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title . Thanks for informative article

  2. Belle Adriano
    Posted July 1, 2007 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    this article is informative though too short but self explanatory. thnx

  3. Posted July 18, 2007 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    This is a great article that covers all the areas of brochure design and content. People often forget how important layouts are when designing for print.

  4. miguel
    Posted July 23, 2007 at 1:41 am | Permalink

    i have a question wich program you recomend to design brochures


  5. Posted July 23, 2007 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    I recommend using either QuarkXpress or Adobe InDesign.

  6. Posted February 12, 2008 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    For non-printable brochure we can use Adobe Photoshop ?
    Non-printable (for me) means that brochure will be seen in a website or maybe on a CD.

  7. Posted March 10, 2008 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Very Interesting article on brochure designing. Very useful

  8. josh
    Posted March 14, 2008 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Puts you in a new light. Good to know thanks!

  9. A.Ranjith
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    this is what am expecting..thanks

  10. Posted May 29, 2008 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I like how you are breaking down the purposes of a brochure - very helpful to me. thanks.

  11. Posted June 4, 2008 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    Excellent article, if a little short! Good quick read though!

  12. Posted June 21, 2008 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed the article. I was interested in not just information but an example of a six portion advertising brochure. I can identify with portion 1, 3, and 5 should contain. I was looking for assistance with 2,4, and 6. Thank you.

  13. hist
    Posted August 22, 2008 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    @Standard’s question:

    I probably wouldn’t recommend using PhotoShop for anything that involves text, as this is not the program’s forte. Even if it is only intended for digital presentation, if a user chooses to zoom in on a particular area, they will see a loss in quality. However, if that professional edge is not a concern, and PhotoShop is an easily accessible tool, then it can serve its purpose of getting the message across. It just won’t look AS good as it could ;)

  14. Mutegi
    Posted October 13, 2008 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    Thanx alot. Great piece.

  15. Posted November 3, 2008 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    What about designing brochures in Adobe Illustrator? What are the fundamental differences when designing in Illustrator vs. InDesign?

  16. Mehendi
    Posted July 21, 2009 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I wanted to know about brochure designing and i was in a dilemma on HOW to design one…thats when i came across your site…and thanks to u…now i am much more confident that i will be able to design a brochure…thank you…and God Bless You

  17. Alejandra
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Well, that’s a great article, I’m sorry I never had a class that explained things like that in college.

  18. kin vanna
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    I really like with your explaination in this page about brochures,thank you so much!

  19. AKILA
    Posted September 11, 2009 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    hi .. i hope that you are fine
    i liked this page a lot … thank you so much

  20. meraj
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    I want to make better career in graphic desiging

    so what to do to become a good designer

    means which things can help me for make new designs

    please suggest me


  21. Design Purist
    Posted October 18, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    If you are telling people to stay away from over-used typefaces such as Helvetica you are mistaken… Every good typeface has it’s place even if it is widely used. To many creatives familiarity may play a big part in defining a clear message. That is not to say “Always use something you’ve seen a lot, or that’s popular” but you certainly shouldn’t denounce something for being so enjoyed by many. Sure in some cases you want a typeface that is original, or even super modern and edgy because that is what the client wants. But in MOST cases that is not what they want.

    Posted October 19, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    It was very useful but I think the author could have given more information on the layout , the design elements and how to achieve them . But altogether - good .

  23. Posted October 20, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Would be nice to see some graphics. Also some software recommendations. Adobe? Coral Draw? Which one is better?

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