How to Lay Out and Produce Printed Marketing Materials

By Alexander Hiam

You can easily design and/or produce your own printed marketing materials with a little help. The brochure is the most common form of printed marketing. An effective print brochure follows this standard layout:

  • The appeal, with its enticing headline and compelling copy and visual, goes on the front of the brochure — or the outside when you fold it for mailing, or the central panel out of three if you fold a sheet twice.

  • The subheads that structure the main copy (which responds to objections and highlights strengths) goes on the inside pages.

  • The fact base, needed for reference use, goes in the copy and illustrations beneath your subheads.

If you don’t know what each part of your brochure does, then you need to redesign it. Otherwise, that brochure becomes a waste of time and money.

Although you can lay out a brochure in many ways, try going for the simple format shown here. It’s simple and inexpensive because you print the brochure on a single sheet of legal-sized paper that you then fold three times.

You can fit this brochure in a standard #10 or #12 envelope, or you can tape it together along the open fold and mail it on its own. This layout allows for some detail but not enough to get you into any real trouble. Larger formats and multipage pieces tend to fill up with the worst, wordiest copy, and people rarely read them.

A simple, multipurpose brochure layout.

A simple, multipurpose brochure layout.

To convert the design into an even simpler, cheaper format, use 8½-x-11-inch paper and eliminate the return mailer (the left-hand page on the front, the right-hand on the back). It’s the part that can be returned with the blanks filled in to request information or accept a special offer.

If you do remove the return mailer, however, be sure to include follow-up instructions and contact information on one of the brochure’s inside pages. You can point readers to a web address where you have a form they can fill in to receive more information. An electronic form can thereby take the place of the traditional return mailer.

You can print and fold a brochure at your local photocopy shop. Most copy stores now accept e-mailed copies of files and can produce short runs of your brochures (as well as pamphlets, catalog sheets, and other printed materials) right from your files.

However, if you need thousands of copies, you should look into offset printing, which is a more cost-effective option at that quantity. Offset printing is how most books, magazines, and newspapers are printed. The printer makes a plate of each page, and the printing press automatically inks the plate, transfers or “offsets” the ink to a rubber blanket, and then transfers that to the page.

You can also do smaller runs (100 or less) right from your own color printer. Buy matte or glossy brochure paper designed for your brand of printer (HPs work well for this) and simply select the appropriate paper type in the print dialog box.

Today’s printers can produce absolutely stunning brochures, but you have to fold these brochures yourself, and the ink cartridges or toners aren’t cheap, so print as needed rather than inventory a large number of brochures.