Digital Brochures: The Ultimate Guide to Brochures

Making brochures is a central part of many industries and outreach efforts. Brochures are most often used as hand-outs providing information on a specific subject. They are used as informational flyers in meetings and business conventions. Brochures are used in doctors’ offices to help patients stay informed on medical conditions and certain warning signs. Brochures are also still popular in travel, making it easy for tourists to pick up a few ideas for destinations and local adventure on their way out the door.

If you need to design a brochure for work, school, or a personal project, it's easier than you think. All you need is a good graphic design program and six organized panels of content.

What is a brochure?

A brochure starts as a simple piece of letter 8.5x11 letter paper, turned landscape, and folded into thirds. What you do after that is all about design. How the paper is printed determines what you see when you look at the tri-fold paper, and how that simple design can unfold into a reader experience. A brochure is something you can hand anyone, it fits in a binder, it can be folded into a pocket or purse, and interestingly, brochures can be packed with more information than common printouts due to a more efficient use of the tri-fold space.

The 6 folding sections of a trifold brochure

A brochure is made up of six sections, the three folded sections printed on both sides. Two-sided printing is essential and necessary for a good brochure design. Consider how the page folds. Place a piece of paper in front of you and fold the right third over the center third. Then fold the left side over the center.

The "Front" panel that flips open like a book (right to left), its reverse-side is page 1, and  folded-over right side is page 2. Then the user fully opens the brochure to discover more details on the inner panels. Finally, some readers will also flip over the brochure so you want back-side data to be rewarding and informative.

How to make a digital brochure

Create a 6-section model

The first step to designing a great brochure is to use the brochure model. You will need an effective image editing program like CorelDRAW to help you render the sections of your two-sided page design.

Take two rectangles that scale with 8.5" by 11". Split each into vertical thirds and label the sections. The first side will be sections A, B, and C. The backside design will include panels D, E, and F where D and A are mirrors of each other.

When you unfold the brochure, it will read D first on the cover, then open to show A and F. Then F fold back to reveal A, B, C as the inner panels. The final elements will be on E, the backside panel.

Design the front and back panels

Start with the top panel and the bottom panel when the brochure is folded. This is panels D and E, interestingly. Design your front cover, and then the back panel as this is what people will see when they flip the brochure over during initial review. The cover should inform and entice readers to open the brochure for more details.

Create an unfold-flow of information

Now consider your content flow through the fold-out and inner panels.  This is your chance to impress your audience after promising a worthwhile read with your cover design. Separate your content into framed, unframed, and bullet-list sections to help the eye glide over your message and details.b


Building a brochure is easy once you have the right model to work with. If you are using a brochure, lay out the sections and use framing to clearly define each point you intend to make. Use your cover panel to grab the eye and define the brochure, use your back panel to intrigue readers into opening the brochure when browsed.

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