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The HDC Guide to Tourism Brochure Design is our basic do's & don’ts guide for those designing their own tourism brochures.

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HDC Quick Guide to Tourism Brochure & Leaflet Design


The following brochure design guide will help you plan, develop & design more effective marketing brochures, tourism guides and promotional leaflets.


There is much more to successful tourism brochure and leaflet design than you might think!
Tourism brochure design requires a real understanding of the psychology of the audience and what they are looking for.

The brochure design planning process begins with "first impressions", and works its way through content, colours, photos, and more.

This basic brochure design guide is designed to give you an overview of some of the key considerations in successful tourism brochure design.

Not that you may be the designer yourself, but you must be an informed consumer. At the end of this article is useful checklist of things to consider in developing your market pieces, and how to help your designers create successful and market friendly brochures.

Planning your Tourism Marketing Brochure

Developing your Theme

The planning model we use for developing tourism brochures begins with the theme.

The theme is the single big message that you need to present to the target audience. Themes are written as a complete sentence that captures the essence of the total site story.

The content of the brochure then continues on the inside to illustrate to the reader that the thamatic statement is is true.


Developing your brochure objectives

The next step in our planning process is too clearly identify exactly WHAT you want the brochure to accomplish - i.e. what are your objectives?

We find that most marketing brochures we come across fail because they are not planned with clear objectives - they are just jammed with unfocussed information.

At HDC we use three kinds of objectives in our planning process.

Learning Objectives:

With learning objectives we aim to quantify the kinds of information that the brochure will present.

For example: "Upon reading the brochure, the majority of tourist will be able to....."

  • List three benefits they will gain from visiting my attraction
  • Describe the main facilities that we have available for them
  • Understand our hours of operation, admission costs and services


With these objectives listed the designer knows what content (and photos) will be required to accomplish (or illustrate) these points.






Emotional Objectives:

In marketing, emotional objectives are critically important. These are the objectives that make a visitor "FEEL" that this will be a great experience that "I can't miss this!", or that "this site or facility will be easy to get to - no trip stress".

Emotional objectives are accomplished mostly with the photos you select. Take a close look at the two brochure covers - what emotions do they convey?


Behavioural Objectives:

For your attraction these are the most important objectives. These are the actions or behavioral you want the potential tourist to do.

Here are some examples:

  • Potential tourists will come and visit our attraction
  • Tourists will go on our tours, eat their lunch at our site, buy souvenirs
  • Tourists will tell others about our attractions
  • Tourists will return for other visits


The behavioral objectives will (might) be accomplished if the other emotional and learning objectives do their job.



Who is the Audience?

The next step in the planning process is to clearly determine just who your target markets are.

Here are some examples of "typical" target markets.

  • Families on holiday with young children
  • Families on holiday with older children and teens
  • Families from the local community (high return visits)
  • Overseas visitors
  • Older visitors (retired or with no children in the household)
  • Retired individuals coming to your site by bus (coach tours)
  • General tourists coming to your site by coach tour
  • School groups
  • Tourists with special hobbies or interests (wildlife watching, hiking, skiing, visiting historic homes, etc.
  • Special groups or tours


Of course these target markets can be further broken down into sub groups, but this gives you the idea. Your site or attraction will have a specific target market mix (year-round or seasonal)that is most likely to want to visit your "kind" of facility or attraction. Understanding this market mix helps you to identify:

  • What photos to use in the brochure (you better have photos of the kinds of market groups that you are trying to attract)?
  • How you distribute your brochures
  • What kinds of services, events, or activities these market groups may be looking for?
  • What market groups do you think the below attractions are most interested in?


Once you have a good idea of your theme or story presentation needs, you have clearly outlined your learning, emotional and behavioural objectives for the brochure, and have focused on the target markets your site is best suited for, or that your want to work on attracting, the next step is in the mechanics of putting this "plan" into action.



The Checklist

The "to do" list for planning and designing successful heritage tourism and interpretive brochures!

1. First Impressions - The Cover

  • Can you tell within 5-10 seconds what the subject of this leaflet (attraction) is?
  • Can you well within 5-10 seconds who the intended market group(s) is?
  • Can you tell within 5-10 seconds what the site "offers" the visitor or market group?
  • Does the brochure header/design provoke attention or interest?
  • Does the leaflet give you a general "oh my - this looks interesting!" feeling?
  • Does there appear to be "benefits" to the market group - reasons to pick up and look at the brochure in more detail (open it up)?

2. Leaflet/Brochure Planning

  • Are the objectives of the brochure clear (to you and the audience)?
  • What information do you want your market groups to learn?
  • How do you want them to feel about your site or attraction?
  • What do you want the market group to do as a result of reading your publication?
  • Does the publication have a clear theme or central marketing message?
  • Is your target audience clearly defined (who is in the pictures you are using)?
  • How will you distribute your publication (this affects design, paperweight, etc.)?
  • * Mail out to potential visitors?
  • * Distribution via brochure rack? Remember that in most cases only the top 1/3 of the brochure will show
  • * Distributed by a third party?

Your brochure can easily get lost in a "sea of brochures" if you are not careful. The effective use of the top 1/3 becomes more important when you consider where and how your final product will be made available to the public…….

How will you evaluate the success of your publication (know that your stated objectives are being accomplished)?


  • You can pre-test draft brochures with test groups (some of your current visitors)
  • Do response evaluation of your current brochures
  • Do audience observations at dispersal points
  • Analysis by an expert
  • Other evaluation methods



The important thing to remember is to find out if the brochure is successfully conveying the messages you want "BEFORE" you print and distribute thousands of them!

3. Brochure Design Mechanics

3a. Point Size

Point size is the size of type you are using for your brochure. As a general rule you want to use as large a point size as you can. This may mean you have to edit your copy to get it to fit with a larger type.


  • Is the point size used for your brochure appropriate for the target audience (i.e. if it is to small, older visitors may have trouble reading it)?
  • Get some examples of other brochures to look at (and learn from). What point size are they using - can you easily read the copy?

3b. Font

Font is the way the text letters look. For example, this text is "Times New Roman". This is Antique Olive. This is Renaissance. You want to select the right font to go with the correct massage illustration. Your designer can help with this too.

Some things to consider:
  • Is the font easy to read?
  • Would you want the total text in Renaissance?
  • Does it support the theme (old font types for historic site brochures, more modern fonts for science museums, etc.)?
  • Are a variety of fonts used (and why)?
  • What colour should the font be printed in - do I need to have text in colours?

3c. Brochure Folds

Another thing to consider is how you want your brochure folded. Here are some things to consider:
  • Is the design best suited for a open (no folds) or multiple folds (like a road map)?
  • For larger publications, can the user easily re-fold the publication?
  • Is the fold part of the overall "design" - help define topic areas?

3d. Paper Selection

Another important area to consider is that of what kind of paper should we use to print our brochure on? Here are more things to consider:

  • Does the paper type used support the message/theme of the brochure?
  • What colour paper should you use? Remember if you print photographs on colour paper, the "white" parts of the photo will now become the colour of the paper and can really ruin a photograph.
  • What paperweight will you use? This has an impact if your brochure will be used in a brochure rack like the one below.

3e. Paper Texture

Like with the weight of paper, paper also comes in different textures. This can run from enamel paper, like most colour brochures are printed on, to special papers with lots of textures (fibres) in them. Again, a printer can show you lots of different kinds of papers to select from.

3f. Paper Finish

This is part of the paper texture selection, but needs to be considered. Remember that if you are designing a brochure for outdoor use, like a site map or a walking tour, enamel papers (with shiny finishes) reflect sunlight, and may be very hard to read outdoors. You may want a flat finish (non-glare) paper for outdoor use.


Does your type of paper then support the publications intended use?

Non glare for most outdoor use


Heavier weight paper for outdoor use (won't bend or blow easily in the wind)


Lighter papers for mail outs or bulk mailings



Does the brochure use unique or interesting die cuts to attract or focus the potential tourist's attention? Die cuts are an expensive brochure treatment, but can add to the "attraction power" of the piece. A die cut is most simply, a cookie cutter for the paper that cuts out designs.

3g. Publication Copy/Text

Copy or text presentation is also an important part of the overall brochure design. Too much text (or all text) can overwhelm the potential visitor. Remember -they are not on holiday to read lots of stuff. Here are some things to consider about your publications use of text:

  • Is the copy written in short - provocative paragraphs?
  • Does the copy address information that the visitors will need to or want to know?
  • Can the visitors easily find the key information points?
  • Is the copy written in an "interpretive" manner (provoke, relate, and reveal information)?
  • Is the copy written using active - colourful language?
  • Does the copy "get to the point"?
  • Does the copy use colour text appropriately?
  • Is the copy written in a simple - non-technical language? As a note, I write most of my exhibit and publication copy at a 5th grade (about 10-12-year-old) vocabulary level
  • If technical terms are used, are they illustrated or defined?
  • Are larger/bolder paragraph or topic headers used to help the reader find key points?
  • Does the copy have "white space" around it?
  • Is it written in an "editorial" or "speaking" style?
  • Does it "leave the reader asking for more"?
  • Does it properly prepare the potential visitor for the "promised" experiences (are there restrooms, children's play areas, food services, etc.)?

3h. Photos and Graphics

As you begin to draft out your brochure (or critique an existing one), it is important to remember that the human beings remember:

10% of what they hear;
30% of what they read;
50% of what they see;
90% of what they do.


It is said that a picture is worth a 1,000 words. The distressing point is that, if you don't pre-test the pictures you use in your brochures, it can be the WRONG 1,000 words!


A graphic assessment should consider:

Size of photos or graphics used. One really good - large photo is better than lots of small ones (below).


Photo Composition - some important things to consider, many of which we have already illustrated include:


i. Who is in the photo (market groups)?

ii. What are the people in the photo doing? (Hope they are having fun or recreating in a safe and stewardship-like manner.)

iii. How do "non-visitor" composition photos help you accomplish your objectives (why do you have photos with no people in them?



There are times when "no people in the photos" might work. Particularly when you are trying to keep control over the "numbers" of visitors, or what you are marketing is the "getting away from people" experience. This approach is attractive to very specific market groups. Can you name some market groups that this brochure style would appeal to as in the above brochure examples?

Will you need colour photos, or will black and white do?


Will the photos you selected "date you" if they are not updated regularly?


Do the photos clearly illustrate the strengths of the site or facility?


Do the photos clearly identify the site or facility?


4. The Photo Selection "self test"

Here is a little exercise you can do with an existing brochure. Cut out all of the photographs out of the brochure, lay them out on a desktop, and mix them up. Then ask staff members (or visitors) to see if they can tell you where the photos were taken (or are they photos that "could come from anywhere", like a general lake photo, or fall colour photo?

5. Graphic Assessments

Sometimes a graphic will work better than a photo, and can give a better "interpretation" of the site or facility. More things to consider when using graphics:

Do the support graphics clearly illustrate the theme, story or concepts?

Are graphics simple and easy to understand?

Is the use of a graphic here better than the use of a photograph?

What size graphics should be used (look at objectives)?

Is the graphic "visual information" market appropriate (will the user understand and correctly interpret what they are seeing)?

6. General Leaflet/Brochure Layout Assessment - Putting it all together

Does the publication have attraction power and holding power?


Is the layout clean, simple, but yet powerful?


Is it clear as to the intent of the publication?


Can the user easily FIND needed information?


Have the BEST photos or graphics been selected (and pre-tested)?


Do the photos clearly illustrate the strengths of the site or attraction?


Do the photos clearly illustrate the intended market group(s) you want to attract?


Will the user be "inspired and motivated" to visit the site or attraction?


Can the user get the message mostly through visuals without having to read to much copy?


Does the layout support the theme and objectives of the brochure?


Has the draft layout been pre-tested to see if "visitors like it" as much as the person who designed it?


Is there "white space" to give the user visual breathing space?


Has the best type size and font, best paper size, colour, texture, and weight been considered?


Has the right design been used for the intended distribution and presentation method?


What shows on the top 1/3 of your brochure?

7. Psychology of the Audience

We see lots of pretty brochures on our travels - unfortunately, most don't actually work. The reason being that most brochures fail to understand and respond to the psychology of the intended audience.

When planning a brochure you should consider how visitors learn, remember and relate to your intended message:

  • Have you given me, your potential visitor a reason to pick the brochure up?
  • Can I, the visitor clearly identify the target market groups your site is aimed at and am I part of that market? I.e. Is your site or attraction "for me"?
  • Can I list three benefits I (or my my family) will gain by visiting the attraction if this is a marketing publication (three reasons I should visit you)?
  • Are there photos with "people in them" that I can relate to?
  • Do the photos illustrate the benefits I will gain by visiting the site/attraction?
  • Are there clear directions as to how to find the site?
  • Is there a usable map with landmarks I can look for (most visitors can't read typical road maps)?
  • Have you given me an overview of customer services available?
  • I don't like to read - is the text short, provocative, interesting?
  • I can't read text printed over graphics! You try it!
  • I can't read text that is too small and don't like to look at "little" photos
  • Is there a creative design to get my attention?


In general, have you taken the "risk" out of the visit to your site or facility (I feel certain that I will get my money and time's worth from visiting you)?

8. Summary

In general, there isn't a single "right" answer to creating successful brochures. There are lots of right answers. The test is which ones will work best in helping you accomplish your specific objectives for your unique target audiences.

This short guide is not "everything", but enough to get you started in looking at your publications and helping to increase your chances of a successful brochure marketing strategy.



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