Brochures are a great way for a company to further brand their company. Whether a company is trying to sell something, inform their target audience of their services, or simply serving an educational purpose it's important as designers that we understand the objective or primary purpose.
Often times a client that comes to you for a brochure design might not have clear objectives. In fact, you might even hear some say "Just design something that looks good." Well, wrong answer. You should always take some time in the initial stages to clarify some of the projects objectives. This will not only help you in the design process but also appropriately allocating adequate time. Not to mention properly pricing the project.
Obviously the size is an important factor. It not only gives you an exact space to work with but it will help you if you are involved in the process of obtaining an estimate from a printer. Printers often will ask for the flat size of the piece, meaning what size it is before any folds.
Clarifying color decisions early on will not only help in the design process but will make a big difference in printing prices. For instance, using 2 color spot/PMS is cheaper than 4-color CMYK. It's important that you never use RGB colors which are only intended for on screen display. You should always closely compare a company's logo PMS colors with the CMYK colors in print, using a pantone book that compares both color models is very effective in deciding whether you should use additional PMS colors in addition to CMYK so that the logo effectively maintained it's identity. In some cases CMYK colors are very similar to the Pantone variation, but there are also many instances where the colors look nothing alike.
There are various types of folds for brochures. It's important to know the way the brochure will fold prior to designing so that you can create a unified piece. It's important to know that folds are most effective if created parallel to the paper grain, if not you'll likely have a ragged edge where the paper folds. Scoring the fold area prior does assist in creating a cleaner fold, especially with thicker paper. Scoring creates a line or depression in the paper. You can use a dull knife (or similar) and a ruler.
When using folds you must also allow for overlap. For example, if you have and 8-1/2" x 11" sheet folding into 3 panels, the panels need to be 3-11/16", 3-11/16" and 3-5/8". The 3-5/8" panel would fold inside the other panels.
To find out more about the common types of brochure folds review International Paper's Knowledge Center on "Types of Folds". [http://glossary.ippaper.com/default.asp?req=knowledge/article/213&catitemid=32]
Most brochures do have bleeds incorporated into the design. As a designer you should allocate about 1/8" for bleeds. A bleed basically extends the graphical elements past the document size/trim size so that when the piece is being trimmed there are no white lines around the document size. You're almost guaranteed that during the trimming process the trim will be off by 1/16" of an inch. For that reason you should also give yourself an appropriate margin in your document set up for important elements such as body copy or company information.
For print projects you should use postscript or Open type fonts. Open type fonts are mac and pc compatible. Although true type fonts are available and look good on screen but they don't work well when it's time to print.
International Paper's Knowledge Center on "Fonts"
Adobe's Introduction to Open Type Fonts
The main file formats that are used for print are TIFF (Tag Image File Format) and EPS (Encapsulated Postscript). Both file formats, regardless of whether the graphic is bitmap or vector, should be in CMYK color mode. Bitmap images should be saved at 300 dpi unless specified otherwise.
TIFF file format should be used for photographs or bitmap images . EPS file format should be used for vector graphics. EPS should also be used if you are using a clipping path on a bitmap image or if you are creating a duotone image.
Because graphics files can get rather large, it's recommended that you flatten all artwork prior to printing so that it takes less time to print. Some printing companies charge you for the time it takes you file to "rip" or process through the server to print.
It's wise that you take into consideration if your project will use any special finishes or techniques such as die cuts, varnishes, embossing, etc. All of these features will cost additional and should be duscussed when planning the project.