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Why Brochure Design Is Like a Grocery Store

April 17, 2013 Gina Gallup

grocery store aisleThere are so many different types of brochures. Some are standard, like the 4×9 size you see in racks, or 8.5×11, because that’s the same size as regular paper. Some are square,  or horizontal, or even cut in a weird shapes like a circle or triangle. Some have interesting finishes on them, with shiny foil stamping or embossed logos or unique papers. And – let’s be honest here – some brochures are designed better than others.

Is good design important?

We human beings are hardwired to gravitate toward good design. We want things to be easily understandable and to make sense. And that’s what good design involves. It’s not just making things pretty, though some get caught up in that aspect. What good design actually does is make things understandable. When done well, design can quickly, simply and elegantly communicate an idea. It sets up an architecture so the eye is shepherded through the layout in a specific way.

And that is how good design is like a grocery store.

When you walk into your favorite supermarket, you may just want milk, flour and ice cream, but you don’t expect those items to be together on one table right at the front. What if the store was a free-for-all with just a couple of large bins and everything mixed together? It wouldn’t make sense. The store is set up in a specific way to enhance your experience: There are aisles to facilitate walking around, carts to carry things in, lights to be inviting and items grouped in certain, logical ways. Plus, the “staples” are spread out in a way that steers you through the store. You may not have thought about laundry detergent, but if you have to walk by it to get to the bread, it may trigger the memory that you need it.

That is purposeful design. It’s smart, simple, strategic and makes sense. It brings order out of chaos. And it is a part of our lives, whether or not we think about it consciously.

What good design actually does is make things understandable. When done well, design can quickly, simply and elegantly communicate an idea. It sets up an architecture so the eye is shepherded through the layout in a specific way.

When you look at a brochure and quickly know what kind of company it is, and not just that, but you have a perception of what it deems to be important (quality, community, company leaders, etc.), that is because you have been influenced by the design. When you see a book cover and understand what kind of book it is and its target demographic… When you see a movie poster and instantly know if you’re interested in it… When you see a car that has the hard-to-define-but-all-important “look” that you want… When you prefer a house floor plan because of how the kitchen flows into the dining room and den… That is because a designer took the time to strategically create and execute an understandable, purposeful and elegant design.

Logical, engaging the senses, pleasing to the eye – am I talking about brochure design or a grocery store? You tell me.

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