What is a brochure? The essential guide to the power of the fold

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

There’s a quiet power to brochures. Whether you’ve picked up a sleek, minimalist product brochure from your local store, casually flipped through a vibrant event tri-fold at your favorite venue or felt the texture of a luxury brand’s showcase piece at a shop, brochures have the ability to silently weave intricate tales of brands, services and events. 

But what is a brochure? We believe they’re more than just pieces of paper – they’re tactile stories, windows into the roots of brands, the unsung heroes that connect businesses to people. 

Basically, what we’re trying to say is, we think brochures are a powerful marketing tool – and we think you should too.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide on brochures. We’ll take you through what brochures are, what makes them effective and how to craft your own. 

So get ready, as we dive into the wonderful world of brochures. 

Table of contents

Definition of a brochure

At its core, the brochure definition is simple. It’s a printed marketing material designed to provide information about a business, product or service. 

Designed with specific audiences in mind, brochures will typically combine text and images and aim to inform, educate or persuade their readers. 

But moving beyond the technical, a brochure is far more than just paper and ink – it’s a tangible extension of your brand. A warm handshake to introduce people to your business, a heartfelt hello to express your values, a welcoming journey through your brand’s ethos. 

This marketing tool, often used alongside digital marketing strategies, carries the weight of your brand’s narrative. Each page or fold carries your brand’s mission and invites engagement from your target audience. Whether it’s introducing a new product line, sharing your company’s history or providing instructions, brochures bridge the gap between you and your audience. 

A Rolex watch next to a Rolex brochure]

Sourced via Pexels

What is the purpose of a brochure?

Brochures are universal storytellers. Their ubiquity across industries and cultures speaks volumes about their versatility as a marketing tool, as well as their enduring appeal. 

Let’s take a deeper look at the purposes they serve: 

  • Awareness: Brochures don’t just introduce your brand – they also play a pivotal role in shaping the awareness and perception of your product, service or event. They can pique interest and make sure your audience knows the exact message you’re putting out into the world. 
  • Sales: Brochures can act as your silent salespeople. They offer detailed information about your products or services, including features, benefits and pricing. This helps your potential customers make informed buying decisions, therefore promoting trust in your brand. And of course, increased trust can lead to increased sales and customer loyalty. 
  • Guidance: Brochures are also fantastic instructional tools. Whether it’s a guide on how to use a product, a map for a festival venue or a step-by-step guide, a well-designed brochure makes sure your customers have the essential information they need, right at their fingertips. 
  • Narrative: Brands, especially those with rich histories or unique value propositions, can use brochures as an avenue to share their stories. But this isn’t just about detailing your company’s timeline; it’s about communicating core values, visions and missions – helping to foster deeper understanding and connection with your audience. 

So essentially, while brochures come in different shapes and sizes, their core purpose remains the same. 

To inform, to engage and to connect with your audience. 

A car brochure laid on a table

Sourced via Pexels

What makes a brochure effective?

A well-designed brochure does far more than just catch the eye of your audience – it engages them, appeals to their imagination and leaves a lasting impression. 

When it comes to creating an effective brochure that stands out from the crowd, your brochure should be:

As clear as day

When it comes to creating a standout brochure, clarity is crucial. You need to communicate your message both clearly and precisely. 

So avoid jargon or overly complex language and go for straightforward, easy-to-understand content that ensures your audience can quickly grasp your message. 

A feast for the eyes 

Visual appeal is essential. As a design company, we may sound a little bit biased here, but honestly – who wants to look at an ugly, dull brochure? We certainly don’t! 

But remember, visual appeal doesn’t come from cramming your brochure full of images and a mishmash of bright and colorful text. It’s about thoughtfully curating visuals that complement both the text and the context of your brochure. 

A harmonious blend of photography, graphics and white space can enhance your message, making the content both more digestible and more engaging for your audience.

A mirror of the reader

An impactful brochure needs to speak directly to its target audience. It needs to understand their needs, preferences, challenges and potential barriers – and then tailor the content to resonate with each and every person in a powerful way. 

This relevance makes readers feel seen and understood, strengthening their connection with your brand and increasing the likelihood of them becoming customers. 

A person holding a red eco-volunteering brochure

Sourced via Pexels

A gentle nudge 

Every brochure has a purpose. Whether that purpose is to inform, promote, persuade – essentially whatever it is you want to achieve. 

But people don’t like to be aggressively sold to. That’s why a subtle yet compelling call to action that gives your reader a gentle nudge in the right direction – whether that’s visiting a website, making a purchase or attending an event – will always work best. 

After all, the best CTAs should feel like friendly invitations, not forceful demands. 

A globally minded message

In today’s interconnected world, acknowledging diverse cultures and sensibilities is key. A standout brochure is sensitive to a wide range of perspectives, from featuring multilingual content for countries where more than one language is spoken, to showcasing a diverse range of imagery. 

By appealing to a broader audience, your brochure can become more inclusive and effective. 

Effectively, a standout brochure is a careful blend of form and function, to inform and inspire action – perfectly crafted with its audience in mind.

What are the different types of brochures?

Picture a brochure. 

Some of you will instantly think of the tall, thin, foldable type that you’d pick up at a museum; others may think of the simple booklet-type brochures. 

There are actually a number of different types of brochures, each with its own set of uses and advantages. Check out our guide to explore all the standard sizes available for brochures.

Let’s go through some of the more common types:

Bi-fold

With just one fold creating two panels on each side, the bi-fold brochure is the most simple option. Reminiscent of opening a book or a magazine, bi-folds are great for highlighting a clear distinction between two segments or topics. 

They’re often commonly used for restaurant menus, product catalogs or any situation where extensive space for images and content is needed. 

bi fold brochure

Sourced via Depositphotos

Tri-fold

A tri-fold brochure has three panels on each side, giving the feel of an unfolding story or three-part narrative. This type of brochure offers a structured way to present information sequentially. 

Because of this, tri-folds are a popular choice for promotional materials such as event handouts or tourist information guides. 

tri fold brochure

Sourced via Depositphotos

Gate-fold

With a central panel flanked by two smaller ones, there’s a certain grand reveal to opening a gate-fold brochure, which makes them perfect for highlighting a product.

This format is normally used for luxury products or special announcements, where the centerpiece of the brochure requires the greatest emphasis. 

gate fold brochure

Sourced via Depositphotos

Z-fold

The accordion of the brochure family, each panel of a Z-fold brochure folds in the opposite direction of the previous. The result? A journey in paper form. This is a great choice for when you want to guide readers through a series of interconnected yet distinct sections. 

Because of this, it’s often used for instructional guides or timelines. 

z fold brochure

Sourced via Depositphotos

Your brochure guide: 8 simple steps to create a brochure

Creating a winning brochure is no easy feat. It’s a delicate blend of art and strategy, perfectly balanced to take the reader on a journey of discovery and learning.

Here are the 8 steps you need to take to create your perfect brochure: 

Step 1: Find your audience

First things first, you need to know exactly who it is you’re speaking to. 

Take a deep dive into everything you need to know about your audience. Research their behaviors, preferences, challenges, pain points and needs. 

This foundation of knowledge makes sure that your brochure can resonate with your audience, making it not just a piece of paper but a meaningful communication tool. 

A brochure from Brownie and Madam branding program, laid out like an eye test

Sourced via Brownie and Madam by Chen Design Associates

Step 2: Define your purpose

Now that you’ve got a grip on your audience, you need to figure out what exactly it is you want to achieve. 

Clearly articulate the primary goal of your brochure. Is it a tool for education? A way to promote yourself, your brand or your product? Are you persuading people to take action? 

By knowing your endgame, you can curate content that aligns seamlessly with your goals – making sure every word and every image is packed with direction and purpose. 

Step 3: Gather the gold

Now comes the first truly tricky part – gathering your core content. 

You need every word to be carefully sculpted, each image to be perfectly suited and your graphics to be well researched and pleasing to the eye. 

The key here is to prioritize quality and relevance over quantity, ensuring that each element of your content amplifies your primary message while also adding depth and context. 

Step 4: Pick your canvas

The format of your brochure should be an extension of your content. A design that fits with your message and your content seamlessly.

We’ve already taken you through the different types of brochures and which layout suits what type of content, so make sure you pick a layout that works for your brand and amplifies your message. 

Because when you mix the right canvas with the right text and design, amazing things can happen. 

An unfolded, well-designed, colorful brochure

Sourced via Bristol-Myers Squibb pharmaceuticals

Step 5: Balance your design

Again, we may be biased, but the importance of a balanced design can’t be underestimated. 

Design isn’t just about aesthetics – it’s also about functionality. You need a perfect equilibrium between your text and your visuals, making sure that you’re creating a brochure that facilitates easy reading and understanding, while also being amazing to look at. 

And remember, don’t cram images and text into every space imaginable. Leverage white space as a design tool, allowing each of your more design-focused elements to breathe and truly stand out. 

A hand picking up one of a number of Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent brochures

Sourced via Musée du Bas-Saint-Laurent

Step 6: Pick your pixel-perfect images

Captivating images play a key role in creating an eye-catching brochure. 

Make sure to prioritize image quality. Incorporate high-resolution images that capture attention and resonate with the essence of your content. 

But make sure that you’re not just using images for the sake of it. These images should elevate your text, provide additional layers of understanding and spark the desired emotion. 

If your images don’t gel well with your text or your message, they can actually do more harm than good. So make sure to really get to the crux of what you want your imagery to say, then find the perfect images to go along with that message. 

Step 7: Make your brand shine

You’re almost finished. You have your audience in mind, you’ve got text that amplifies your message, images that shine and it’s all topped off with a design that makes people stop in their tracks. 

But is it really you?

Your brand’s identity should flow through your brochure, making it unmistakably yours and yours alone. So the final design step is to skillfully weave in brand elements like colors, logos and typography, making sure they complement rather than compete with or dominate your primary content. 

guide to brochures

Sourced via Studi8 design

Step 8: Proofread your work

You’re done! Your hard work has paid off and you’ve created something phenomenal. But do you know what would ruin it all? Slap-bang in the middle of the page, a typo. 

Before you hit print, make sure to scrutinize every single detail. Check your grammar is right, your formatting is consistent and your information is accurate. 

A properly checked brochure will radiate professionalism, strengthening your brand’s reputation. 

Printing your brochure

Now it’s finally time to bring your brochure to life and immortalize it in print. 

This step is as crucial as the design itself. After all, a well-designed brochure can lose a certain amount of its charm with poor printing. 

Here are some tips to make sure you do your hard work justice: 

  • Quality first: The paper you choose is the backdrop to your story. Go for a high-quality paper that complements your design. Whether that’s thick and sturdy for a luxurious feel, or a lighter paper for easy distribution. 
  • The right amount: Think about your distribution strategy. Are you handing these out to anyone you see at a large event? Or are these for a specific chosen few? Print according to your needs, but always make sure you have a few backups, just in case. 
  • Extra touches: Do you want to add a bit of final flair? Try going for a different finish such as matte for a sleek, modern feel. Or maybe a linen paper that adds a nice tactile dimension. Anything to make your brochure memorable. 
  • Pro or DIY: DIY printing is certainly an option, but if your budget allows, professional printers have the expertise and equipment to make sure your brochure shines. They can advise on important elements such as color accuracy, bleed margins and other technical aspects. So your final print can truly hit its mark. 

printing your brochure vistaprint

Crafting connections

Brochures, in their myriad of forms and colors, are more than just marketing tools.

They’re the bridge between your brand and your audience and between ideas and understandings. 

So as you set out on your brochure journey, remember: It’s not just about the design. It’s about the desire to create something that truly resonates. 

Now get out there and start crafting your brochure, one fold at a time. 

Print with the best

Remember how we said professional printers know best? 

We weren’t kidding around.

At VistaPrint, we know our stuff and we definitely know our brochures. So come and get your brochures printed with VistaPrint today. 

Print with passion

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