The Basics of Good Design
The difference between a good-looking brochure and a great-looking one is in the design. Here are the most important factors to consider.
First and foremost, pay attention to how the brochure will look in its display setting. If it will be stacked in a display case alongside other brochures, make sure that the most visible part of the brochure--the upper-third of the front panel--contains identifying information such as your business name and logo.
Limit your brochure to two fonts: one for headings and another for the rest of the text. In choosing your fonts, look for typefaces that contrast rather than look similar. Generally a serif font like Times New Roman or Cambria works well for body text, and a sans serif font (one without the little projections at the ends of the letters), such as Arial or Calibri, is a good choice for headings. Avoid using script fonts for body text, as they are hard to read in large blocks. If you use a script font for headings, be sure to use mixed-case and not all-caps. Using too many fonts will make your document look messy; working with just two helps keep the design restrained and professional looking.
For the same reason, don't go overboard on your color palette. To set up a color scheme, click the Page Layout tab on the ribbon toolbar and click Theme Colors; then choose a color set close to what you want. Next, choose Create New Theme Colors and edit the set so that it contains the colors you want to use. Save the Theme color set for future use.
Simplicity is the key to getting your message across, so limit yourself to a small range of images, such as photographs and line art, and make sure that they have a consistent look and style. Microsoft offers plenty of clip art and photo content (to browse it from within Word, select Insert, Clip Art). You can also search Flickr.com for images that carry an Attribution Creative Commons license (you'll find additional information about Creative Commons licenses at Flickr and at Creative Commons). If you still can't find anything suitable for your brochure, check out stock image sites such as iStockPhoto.com and Fotolia.com. In many cases you can obtain multiple images created by a single photographer or graphic designer, which possess a shared look and will work well together.
Most images available from Microsoft and stock sites are large enough to print correctly on any printer in your office or the printers available at a print shop such as Kinkos. They're also suitable for online printing services such as Moo and VistaPrint. As a rule of thumb, an image should contain 150 pixels per printed inch; therefore, a 4-by-6-inch printed image should have a resolution of at least 600 by 900 pixels originally. To avoid scaling problems, don't enlarge images once you've imported them into Word: If scaled to too large a magnification, they'll print with ugly jagged edges. On the other hand, there's usually no harm in shrinking an image to fit, since doing so merely packs the pixels closer together.
Apply a Common Design to a Series of Brochures
If you're creating a series of brochures, each one should incorporate the same fonts and colors, and should reflect the same overall design sensibility. To that end, design your basic layout with boxes for text and sample images where your final images will go. Include details that will appear in every brochure--such as your business name, address, and logo--and save this file as a custom template. To do so, choose File, Save As, and select Word Template (*.docx) from the Save As Type drop-down menu (it appears beneath the file name box); then type a name for the template, click Templates in the top-left corner of the dialog box to file the template in your templates folder, and click Save. To find the template thereafter, choose File, New, click My Templates, and select the desired template.
You can increase your template's functionality by adding text styles to the saved template. Select key elements in your brochure, such as the headings and the body text, one at a time. To save each as a style, click the Styles panel on the Home tab and choose Save Selection as New Quick Style. Type a name for the style, click OK, and save your template again. Henceforth, the styles will be available in every new brochure you create using your template, so you can quickly format newly added text with a style by selecting the text and clicking the style name to apply that style.
When to Call a Professional
If you have difficulty coming up with a compelling brochure design, consider asking a professional designer to create a layout for you. If this person is willing to create a template in Word, you'll be able to edit it and subsequent brochures in Word. Though most designers prefer to stick with the tools that they like best, they should at least be able to design the pieces for the brochure--including any curved shapes, say, or your logo--as transparent .png files that you can then import into Word and use to create a brochure template. In this way you can combine the designer's professional skills with your Word skills to devise a great brochure template that you can easily fill with your own text and images. Another option is to buy Word templates for brochures and other professionally designed printable materials at a site such as StockLayouts.com, LayoutReady.com, or PoweredTemplates.com.
Sarah Jacobsson Purewal discusses how to Design and Create Essential Print Materials for Your Business, and Rick Broida introduces the Paste Special Command in Word and explains How to Adjust Your Document's Line Spacing.