Across the Board

Blog on e-business and online payments.

Not All Brochures Have To Be Ugly And Boring

Corporate brochures don’t have to be boring. There are instances when taking a different approach to design actually pays off. Sometimes it’s good to break the mould. Designing a corporate brochure is not an easy task. First, the brochure needs to convey the company’s spirit. It also needs to show the products, inform about company’s politics… Not to mention it needs to be visually attractive. Quite a lot for a bunch of printed sheets of paper stacked together. At the end of the day, the most difficult task proves to be making an unforgettable impression on the reader.

Let’s face it: a corporate brochure is not a synonym of fascinating literature slash great art. Most of the time it is neither. The aim of a corporate brochure is mostly informative. If we take a look at those brochures we collected at fairs, only a few actually stand out. Most follow the well-treaded path of stock photography mixed with long texts written in a currently most popular typeface.

If our brochure differs from the lot it may be noticed by its potential reader. If the design is interesting, the reader may simply feel the need to share the positive experience with other people. How often can we hear someone say “Take a look at this brochure, it’s really pretty”? Not very often. Unfortunately, we don’t hear “Take a look at this brochure, it’s really informative” as well.

What can be done in order to make your corporate brochure stand out?
Set your priorities: do you really need to write the company’s history in this tiny booklet? Do you have to rewrite everything you’ve put on your website? Do your clients need so much information about each and every product?

Prepare the beta texts, plan them out onto a number of pages.

Once you’ve got that sorted out, it’s time to design. I always find it easier to design with all the texts ready (at least scripted in their draft versions, unlikely to change in a 180 degree swirl). For the latest PayLane brochure, we’ve decided to go with minimalistic approach: no photos, pure colour and substantial use of white space.

Why no photos? Nowadays, you either take your own photos to show off your company’s offices and happy employees, or take a picture from stock. The first solution is great for startups: you can show the enthusiasm, the working frenzy so often associated with buzzing innovative business. It does not necessarily work with larger companies: corporate executives in suits look soulless and might have been taken from stock. Plus, what is really the purpose of showing an employee behind a desk in a typical corporate environment? This does not show that your working environment is unique. This does not stress the bright sides of your company. And it will not help you sell your products.

Stock photos, on the other hand, are just that: stock photos with well-known models, easily recognizable and easily forgettable. If you want your brochure to stick out of the crowd, avoid using those. Unless you can use those photos in a unique way: I have seen great examples of photos in brochures but most of them used macro photography, shots that were obscure at first and linked with the message via metaphor. It is tricky to do, though.

If you sell tangible goods and wish to showcase those in your corporate brochure… By all means, do so. Forget about everything I’ve written about photos catalogue brochures are a different kind of animal altogether.

We’ve decided to convey our message (we are a different, better sort of payment provider) through words and layout. The idea of QUESTION/ANSWER pairs came up during one brainstorming session and stayed for good. It made the brochure feel more like a guidebook. A guidebook to online payments.

I didn’t want to use a typeface (or typefaces, to be exact) that has been used to death by everyone else. Remember the times when every brochure used Futura? The retro appeal of such fonts as Lobster could have influenced the final look of the whole brochure and everyone and their uncle uses Museo these days. Still, one cannot deny that those typefaces are not only very legible but also extremely good looking. Not having the luxury of time to design our own typeface, I’ve decided to look for a font with Museo feel (easy to read, looks great in large chunks of texts). I recommend this course of action: after all if you want your brochure to stand out, you don’t want it to use a typeface that has been used by every kind of business there is… Look for new options, don’t follow the crowd.

Summing up this rather longish elaborate:

  1. set priorities and write interesting, unique texts,
  2. don’t use stock photos,
  3. if you absolutely MUST use a stock photo, do it in an unconventional manner: a detail, a metaphor… (Just don’t type “metaphor” as your search criteria on iStock. Seriously, don’t.),
  4. white space is good,
  5. use a unique font.

And finally, observe how your readers react. Frankly, we hardly have any printed PayLane brochure any more. And we had a couple of callbacks. Yes: don’t forget to include contact info in your brochure. You’d be surprised how many times people forget to write in an email.

To view PayLane’s brochure go to Carbonmade and Issuu.

Ania is interested in all things design, as well as popular literature and film. She writes about the pretty side of credit cards and e-business. She's also responsible for some neat infographics and spends her free time writing short fantasy stories. An avid reader of graphic novels, she tries in vain to finish one herself. Has a credit card and is not afraid of using it online. Owner of a rather wicked sense of humor.

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