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The comic book art of brochure design

The comic book art of brochure design

The company or product brochure is a critical tool in the marketing arsenal. However, the limited space available in each format – be it flyers, booklets or annual reports – means that most brochures tend to be packed chock-a-block with facts, charts and graphics.

While working on client brochures recently, I found myself referencing Buddy Scalera’s hypothesis that web design should follow comic books.

Comic book design has been elevated into an art. Much thought goes into each cover, offering a sneak preview of what’s inside, promising another exciting read.  Each issue is competing for attention among hundreds of covers at the newsstand.

While most of us do not have the luxury of a resident artist to come up with frame-worthy brochures, there are some principles that cross over into brochure design.

Here are the 7 C’s of Brochure Design (with a nod to comics art):

1) Context

The context that the brochure will be used will determine its design. Similarly, teen comics differ from those that appeal more to adults with the choice of colours and characters. Is your collateral meant to support sales with product facts and additional information or is it meant to grab a prospect’s attention at a busy trade expo?

2) Composition

Be creative not clichéd. We’ve all seen the same stock photos and logos stuck on a white background. Consider your positive and negative space and what should be in the background versus what you want to highlight. The worst brochures I’ve seen take a movie poster approach of sticking stock photos all over, hoping for the photos’ halo effect on the brand – except your prospect does not know anyone in that photo other than the fact that they’ve seen them in another brochure.

3) Circle

Know what you’re trying to sell or what message you want to put across and put that in focus. In comic books, the circle is used as a contrast to the sharp edges of a rectangular cover and throws a spotlight. Sometimes a looming villain or melee is used to depict action. And I do not mean that photo of 3 suits looking at a chart lurking in your Photos folder…

4) Colour

While we usually work within the confines of a corporate colour scheme, creative use of colour can help freshen up an otherwise dated-looking colalteral. You don’t have to use all your corporate colours at once, monochromatic brochures or bold colours can pop up when everyone is using their corporate palette against a white background. Colour can also be used to define a theme when you have a series of brochures. Negative space with a lot of white can also be powerful when designed well as in the Spidergirl cover below (The Economist covers also use this to great effect).

5) Copy

Text is equal – and sometimes secondary – to graphics on the cover. It should really just tell your prospect how amazing your product/service inside your brochure really is. Use a play on words and an angle that will appeal to your readers. Teen comics – like Archie – often use a gag that highlights the relationship dynamics between the characters (in this case, Archie and his rich girlfriend, Veronica). Consider using less text to reduce clutter.

6) Competition

Find out what your competitors are doing. And then do something else. If everyone has a zig-zag lines with arrows on their front cover, featuring original graphics will help you pop out at that trade expo brochure orgy. This popular Spiderman cover stands out because it does not look like a typical action-packed comic book cover.

7) Coherent

Decide on what impression you want to deliver to someone looking at your company brochure. Do you want a serious look with gravitas or perhaps one that demonstrates the breadth of your product/service offering? Or maybe you want to highlight the bleeding edge tech side of your company?

Bring that across in the brochure layout, design and finishing down to paper texture. It’s hard to convince your prospect that you’re the next billion-dollar Alibaba when he’s holding your limp, one-page brochure.

The cover also needs to be coherent with the content in terms of design language and copywriting, so that the prospect will not only pick it up but read what’s inside.

Now, have a look at your current brochures and imagine your top prospect walking through a trade show of 1,000,000 people. Will he spot your brochure? Will it make him stop and look to see what’s inside? And will he keep it for further reading later or does it join the others in a nearby bin?

Speak to us if you need help in sprucing up your collaterals.

Tags: Content Generation, Creative, Graphic Design

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