Help Files and Tutorials for Computer Users  
Brochure Basics - Designing a Brochure

Flyers and brochures are often considered 'junk-mail', but are often a necessity in selling a product or service.  Whether your flyer or brochure gets noticed or tossed depends a lot on the first few seconds that a potential customer notices it. It is extremely important to get your message across in a professional manner so that your brochure becomes a piece of information, and not a 'junk-mail' casualty.  This page will present some very basic, but important concepts in designing for advertising.

Remember three key ideas in designing advertisements:

  • An old adage: "Steal from the best" (see what others are doing), use models, and ask someone for help

  • KISS: Keep It Short and Simple

  • CCC: Clutter Creates Confusion


Optical Centre

Readers sub-consciously focus in on a spot slightly above and to the left of the physical centre of a page.  This is called the Optical Centre of the page. 

The Optical Centre is where you want to place an important feature of your ad, because this spot will get the most, and first attention.  If a reader is 'scanning' the page, this is probably where their eyes will begin.

Fig. 1



This ad uses what is called a "Drop-Cap" on the first word of the main paragraph.  Putting this Drop-Cap at the optical centre of the page tends to lead the readers eyes to an important part of the ad.

A common premise in advertising is that if you can "hook" or capture a reader's interest, the reader is more likely to continue reading the entire ad.

Fig. 2



"Zed" Pattern

Human beings tend to read, or scan, in a zed pattern.  The eyes flow in a left-to-right, top-to-bottom pattern, much like an old-fashioned typewriter.  If you design your ad accordingly, you will increase the chances of the reader paying attention to the majority of your ad.

Fig. 3



This ad takes advantage of both the Optical Centre condition, and the natural tendency to "Z" scan a document.  The heading of the bulleted list draws attention to the features of the vacation homes, the subject of this ad.

Bulleted list are a popular component of a flyer or brochure.  Bulleted lists often facilitate an appropriate use of white space in a document.

Fig. 4



White Space

The term "white space" refers to amount of blank area in a document that does not contain any text or graphics.  In creating a pleasing ad, the amount of white space can be just as important as the amount of graphics and text.

This restaurant menu contains too much white space, or at least, too much in one area (between the test columns).

Fig. 5



Here is the same menu with a very slight makeover. The columns are brought closer together to get rid of the big gap, and a series of dots are added to facilitate left-to-right scanning.  A simple graphic at the bottom balances things off nicely.



Here is a document with too little white space.  A common mistake in designing advertisements is to try to put too much information on one page.  You may be paying 'per page' printing costs, but this is not the way to economize. 

 An ad is not an encyclopedia.

Fig. 6



Rivers of White

Rivers of White is a term given to a 'natural' phenomenon where the natural placement of text leaves white channels of space in a top-to-bottom orientation.  Although this can not in itself be considered a mistake, it does produce an un-pleasing visual.

How do you fix it? There is no magic answer.  Experiment with paragraph widths, font size . . . whatever works.


Fig. 7



Symmetry & Balance

Visual Symmetry & Balance can be equated to physical balance of objects on a scale.  In this example, one large graphic or text block can be balanced with two smaller objects.  We are not measuring to scientific equalities, just to whatever looks pleasing to the eye.

Fig. 8



Examples of asymmetrical balance.  Keep in mind that balance in design is interpretive, not an exact science.

In the business card to the left, notice the Novell logo in the top left corner balancing the Microsoft Logo in the bottom right. The CompTIA logo balances the block of text in the top right corner.

Fig. 9


In the menu  the ice cream picture attempts to balance the overall size of the large block of text to the right.

The information block on the lower left somewhat balances the silhouette of the coffee cup on the right.


Fig. 10



Widows and Orphans

Pay particular attention to the tops and bottoms of columns and pages.

  • Widows: the last line of a paragraph that is forced onto a new page

  • Orphans: The first line of a paragraph that is separated from the rest by a page break.

Fig. 11



Rule of Thirds

The "Rule of Thirds" is a guideline used in professional photography as well as in Graphic Design.  It is a rule that can be broken, but generally, it means that points of interest in a photo or graphic should be placed near one the intersections created by imagining the image divided into thirds, as shown in Fig. 9.

Framing your image in this manner can create a more dramatic effect than if you had perfectly centered the image.

The sunset on the water is the most significant feature of this photograph.  Notice how it intersects with the "thirds" dividing lines.

Fig. 12


The preceding examples are meant only as a guide.  There are a lot of factors going in to making a good advertisement.  I like to follow an adage taught to me in Architectural Design: 

You can measure all you want, follow all the rules, and do everything you have been taught, but the bottom line is:  If it doesn't Look right - it isn't!

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