It may initially seem obvious what sets a brochure apart from a magazine, but from a design point of view the line can be very fine.

While it’s tricky applying a blanket rule, here we present several key differences and similarities between the design of a brochure and the design of a magazine.


1. Price [same]

In reality, for a design company, there’s not a huge difference in client fees at the early stages of design on either a brochure or magazine. Both products require hitting on a design style with the right tone for the audience. This involves choosing fonts, colours and images to suit.

Money is of course a major consideration for many companies. However, real value for money comes from creating a product that gives you good results. This takes time and careful consideration.

ASI brochure and folder
This brochure by Red Onion was a success: “Thanks again for your hard work on the brochures, they have been invaluable and have led to us being 30% oversubscribed in our offer.”

The cost for design isn’t vastly different whether the product is printed or purely distributed on a standard PDF. There will be a small saving when only doing a PDF, because hi-res images and optimisation aren’t quite so important. But, in light of the cost for the entire job, this is negligible.


2. Timing [different]

A magazine is an editorial product which by nature is something that’s produced on a regular basis and at some point is superseded by a new edition. Whereas a brochure is usually a single product that is timeless and has a long shelf life.

On this point, additional design costs for a magazine can include such things as setting up style sheets. This is so each issue can be rolled out on a regular basis with a similar visual presentation, while allowing for adaptable graphic elements to ensure the design remains fresh.


3. Brand [same]

Arguably a brochure may fall under the ‘brand guidelines’ of a company and therefore require some enforced rigidity in its design approach – though this can be said of some magazines too.

Often the most impressive design solutions evolve from when a designer is given free reign to try something new, so it’s important not to let the brand give too many constraints.

Essex Effect magazine news spread
Dynamic images and condensed fonts helped make this news spread easy to digest.

In the case of Essex Effect magazine, the University has a strong internal communications team so there was a limited list of fonts that could be used. However, it was important for the magazine to stand alone from other comms and this was achieved by introducing a condensed font. It’s not rocket science, but a small tweak in the design of the publication can yield substantial visual gains.


4. Tone of voice  [different]

This will often depend on whether the publication is strongly corporate vs more people-focused.

Undeniably a successful magazine at its heart should be people-focused. It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in, it should always be a case of ‘people first’ when considering both the written and visual approach.

FM buildings cover
The cover of FM magazine

The lines between brochure and magazine are often blurred in the case of FM magazine. As the features are very specialist, finding the right kind of people for the international title makes for an interesting challenge.

Who Cares Junior Magazine
Cover of Who Cares Junior

However, this junior magazine is aimed squarely at its target audience.

So, while a brochure is usually more formal and corporate, magazines are often more people-focused.


5. White space [same]

This doesn’t literally mean ‘white’ space – it means the careful consideration of empty space to add impact to a design. This is often most prevalent in brochure design, as brochures tend to use white space to draw the eye and focus on one theme.

Essex Effect Police spread
In this magazine, space has allowed the main image to breath, adding impact.

It can be used to great effect in magazines too, but magazines tend to be more busy with content and white space can sometimes make readers feel they’re getting less value for money.


6. Paper [different]

This not only tends to set magazines and brochures apart but also, of course, defines print products compared to digital products.

Brochures tend to be printed on thicker paper, or even card. They have a dense texture that gives an impression of longevity. Big areas of flat colour can really stand out.

Magazines usually have a larger distribution and often more pages, and so the use of thinner paper can save money. Thinner paper endorses the idea of ‘throwaway’ – with a new edition to look forward to.


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