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Beyond the tri-fold brochure

May 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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We do a lot of things on auto-pilot — sometimes it's just easier that way. Get a brochure project, use a tri-fold. Need some more space for the layout? Switch to a roll fold or a double parallel fold. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Snore.

Now, I have nothing against tri-folds, roll folds or double parallel folds. I love all folding styles, and these styles happen to be the worker bees of the bunch — inexpensive, practical and reliable — but they also are very common. Familiarity has its place and, for many reasons, every fold can't (and shouldn't) be a specialty fold. But it's nice to have a few special folds in your repertoire that you can pull out when time and the budget are tight. Here are some new folding options to think about. Some require diecuts, hand folding or other special steps — as always, communicate with your bindery operator before showing the concept to your client.

Carrier Combo

I'm really excited about sharing this idea, because it has so many creative options. This fold is a combination of one folding style nesting into another. There is some flexibility here in choice of folding style, but the overall concept is that the “carrier” piece has an outside or inside inverted short fold — basically a short fold that folds up from the bottom, visible from either the inside or the outside of the piece. The short fold creates a “pocket” that can hold an additional nested piece (folding style optional). The end result is innovative and truly impactful.

Stepped Double Parallel

The stepped double parallel fold style is a fun modification on an old standard — the double parallel fold. The concept is simple — by shortening the cover and adjusting the lengths of the trailing panels, you can create a “tabbed” effect along one side. It's a fairly easy layout adjustment that will offer a lot of mileage from a creative standpoint.

Wrapped Stepped Accordion with Short Cover

Here's another great accordion folding option — budget beware — a wrapped stepped accordion with short cover. This is an innovative way to close one edge on the challenging stepped accordion fold, while maintaining the “tabbed” appearance that is so appealing. The short cover is optional — you could always make it flush if you needed to close the right edge, too, but the short cover really showcases the stepped panels.

Asymmetrical Accordion

Imagine this: an accordion fold where some panels are shorter (in pairs), creating an interesting and varied zigzag profile while maintaining a flush appearance when folded. This is very exciting for promotional pieces or other special projects.

Funky Broadside with Center Slit

This is one of my latest finds — it's a funky broadside fold with a center slit that allows the piece to fold down to a booklet-like format. It's difficult to describe this one, so look closely at the illustration, but this 16-page broadside fold utilizes a horizontal slit right on the fold that goes across the two inner panels, which releases them and allows the piece to fold down to a booklet-like appearance.

Tapered Roll Fold

Let's have fun with diecuts! Take our good buddy the roll fold and apply a creative, tapering diecut to the roll-in panels and see what you end up with. The panels overlap and layer to create a wonderful visual texture. Whether the shape is simple and geometric, or varied and organic, this style has a lot of character.

If you're looking for more inspiration, check out my new “ideas” resource at You can watch short videos of real printed samples of the styles featured in this article, plus an additional 120 folds are available to view.

Trish Witkowski is president of Finishing Experts Group Inc. (Nashville, TN) and the creator of the FOLDRite System, a 2004 GATF InterTech Technology Award winner. Contact her at