Publication Best Practices

There are many ways to start a publication, but none of them will yield a professional and effective final product if you don't take a few minutes to consider a few important factors. Hopefully these tips will help you get started and help you determine the type of publication that best fits your purpose.

Ask yourself

Here are just a few basic questions that often need to be answered when beginning a publication project:

  1. Who is my audience?
  2. What is my message?
    1. Am I informing or educating?
    2. Am I requesting action?
  3. How will this publication be distributed?
  4. Do I have a budget?

As you might expect, the answers to these questions will change the direction of your project at every step. This is why you must have some educated answer for these types of questions before embarking on a publication.

Understanding the different types of publications

brochure exampleBrochure

Brochures are great for highlighting information that can be described in brief chunks of information. You want to give the reader enough information to spark interest, but brief enough that they can review the brochure in just a few minutes. Then, there should be a way for them to take action after reading the content; call, email, visit a webpage, register, etc. The most effective brochures are light on text and are balanced with visuals appropriate for the topic. Typically, a traditional trifold brochure can be filled with the proper amount of text by writing one page or less of actual content. This will leave plenty of room for designing a cover, including images and other graphic elements, and contact information.


Postcards have a similar purpose to brochures, but are clearly limited on available space. As a result, you must be very succinct in your message. Determine what is absolutely essential for the recipient; maybe it's a date and time, maybe it's a deadline, maybe it's a call to action. Provide the recipient with enough information so that if they are interested, they can collect more information via phone, email, webpage, etc. Postcards can be various different sizes, but the most common sizes are small cards at 5.5" x 4.25" and oversized postcards at 8.5" x 5.5" or 11" x 6". You must be aware that large postcards cost more to mail than small postcards, so be sure consider mailing costs when planning your publication budget.


Posters are great marketing tools for events and can be a low cost way of 'advertising' around campus. While the term 'poster' can be ambiguous with regards to size, a typical poster is 11" x 17". This works well to include a simple message on a page large enough to be seen from somewhat of a distance, while not monopolizing the legal hanging areas around campus. Posters are most effective when you treat them as you would a small postcard; provide the reader with just enough information about the event (or message) that they can then follow up by attending, calling, visiting a webpage. Remember you have just a few seconds to catch someone's attention so the information must be concise and clear.


Flyers can be very similar to posters, but they can also be a way to distribute a significant amount of information. Take into consideration that a flyer, unlike a poster, will likely be handed to someone. The reader will likely have more time to stop, read and absorb the information. As a result, a more detailed message can be shared. But remember, always give the reader a way to follow up.

booklet exampleBooklet

Booklets can be used in a variety of different ways and have the advantage of presenting information on multiple pages. Since booklet are typically saddle stitched (bound with staples), they can be more expensive to produce, but it can be worth the expense to get a large volume of information printed. Booklets are great for event programs, college offerings, detailed information about services, to name a few. In the end, if you have a lot of information that must appear in print, a booklet is ideal for presenting that information in a clear way without overwhelming the reader in a small space.

Magazinemagazine example

 When a booklet just doesn't do what you need, it's likely that you might want to consider a magazine format. A magazine is basically a large-format booklet. And, like a booklet, a magazine provides you with the flexibility of many pages and lots of space for text and images. Magazines can be very valuable, but require a significant amount of work if done well. Keep this in mind when considering a magazine.