Choosing the Best Fold for Your Next Print Job
I give a lot of presentations on the topic of folding, and one of the most common questions I hear after showing a mind-numbing assortment of high- and low-budget folding solutions and techniques is, "How do I know which folding style is the best choice for my project?" The answer relies on a mix of elimination, organization, and instinct.
There are four questions to answer at the beginning of the process that will help you decide on the most appropriate folding style for your project.
1. Is the content text-heavy, and must the content be read in a particular order? Or is the content image-heavy with shorter nuggets of text?
If the layout includes a large body of text that should be read in a particular order, rule out the roll fold. There's no guarantee that everyone will open the panels in the same order.
If the layout is text-light and image-heavy, you can do lots of things. Gate folds and roll folds offer a great reveal, accordions are fun, and if you have the budget, a specialty fold makes sense if the concept lends itself to a special folded solution.
2. Will the piece be mailed or inserted into an envelope?
Accordion folds are notorious for causing trouble during auto-insertion into envelopes, and due to the fact that they do not have a closed edge, they generally require four wafer seals when produced as a self-mailer. If you love the accordion, and you're sending it through the mail or inserting it, try a wrapped accordion instead.
Specialty folds, due to their unique shape or form, may also require hand insertion and special mailing considerations. Talk to a printer or a United States Postal Service Mailpiece Design Analyst (MDA) for guidance.
3. Who is your audience?
Think about the end recipient's experience with the piece. For example, some viewers won't do well with a piece that could be confusing to fold back down to size. Mind your paper, too: The glare caused by a super-glossy sheet can make reading difficult for older eyes. If your viewers are creative, their standards for design are high and you could have success with something unique. A conservative or academic audience (engineers, bankers, researchers, etc.) tend to seek order and may be put off by something outside the norm.
4. What is your budget?
You knew I had to go there. Of course, budget has to play a role in choice of folding style. The good news is that there are great things that can be done on low and high budgets. If you're in the low-budget category, try a simple guillotine trim to shorten the cover, rotate it, or change the format from upright to oblong. Little tweaks can make all the difference. And, low-budget people, know that you're not doomed to a portfolio full of tri-folds. Parallel folds, accordions, roll folds, and gate folds--yes, gate folds--are all quite economical to produce these days.
After answering the questions above, you should be able to eliminate some choices. From here, organization is key. Start to think about how you want your audience to experience the piece. Do you want the content slowly revealed? Consider accordion, tri-fold, or parallel. Do you want them to experience surprise somewhere? Consider gate, poster, or specialty.
Lastly, instinct comes into play. Looking at the content you have to work with, what folding style feels right? Which folding style works conceptually with the design concept and content?
In the end, success relies on the proper choice of fold, distribution and styling of content, paper choice, and placement of critical marketing messages. The best folded print materials use folding as a component of the overall design concept and delivery, and not as a gimmick.
Got Cool Folds? Enter the Folded Inspiration Design Competition
The online folding community foldfactory.com is searching the globe in a first-of-its-kind "Folded Inspiration" competition to reward the best uses of folded paper and design for print. Entrants will compete for prizes in eleven categories throughout the competition, and in the end, there will be a juried design competition and a book of the "best of the best" ideas for folded materials.
The global competition runs from October 1, 2010, through May 15, 2011. To enter, download an entry form and follow the instructions. Entry fees are low, with a portion of the proceeds donated to graphic arts education programs and the balance funding the expansion of the foldfactory idea library and services for the graphic arts industry.