Thursday, February 24, 2005

When a Dummy Is Smart

I recently sat face to face at an oblong meeting table across from the best designer I’ve ever worked with. We were discussing the project at hand and I was glad to be working with her again. She's a top-notch designer, fast, smart, good. Together we probably have 40 years of experience doing what we do.

So what were we doing as we sat together? Making dummy out of plain white copier paper, folding carefully, counting out pages: "Okay, it's an 8 pager, so here are two pieces of paper." "I'll fold ‘em." "I'll number ‘em."

Anyone not in-the-know would have thought we were making crafts for our kids' kindergarten classes. But what we were doing was developing a brochure for one of the best known brands in the world.

Both of us like minded from the "let's get going and accomplish something" school of production, we naturally grabbed some copier paper and started folding.

It was that important that we agree together on what each page was going to “say,” what flow would best represent the objective of the brochure, where graphics would work, how facing pages would match up from a copy perspective, where the call to action should be.

As I sat there folding paper and using different color markers to map out headlines and sidebars, I realized that even with advances in technology, some things don't change. Smart people start with dummies today just as I did on my first project twenty years ago.

So what exactly is a dummy? A dummy is quick mockup of the deliverable you’re creating. A dummy is a way to sketch out what content will go where, what pages will appear as spreads, which pages need graphics, which not, and so on.

Or, as you might learn on

A dummy may be for internal use, ideas for layouts use placeholder text and graphics. Or, you may give your printer a dummy of your design showing how it is to be assembled. This would probably be a laser-printout of your document, trimmed to the final dimensions and folded.

When you're writing a brochure, start with a dummy. Even if you think you don’t need to.

Your dummy might contain the following for a typical eight-page (self-cover) brochure:

  • Page 1 - (Front cover) - nice design treatment, company logo, catchy one liner or tagline.
  • Page 2 - (Inside front) Business problem description/explanation.
  • Page 3 - Company intro: Enter "company," the first with this unique perspective on solving X (Business problem).
  • Page 4-5 - (Center spread)-Product/service intro, graphics, etc.
  • Page 6 - That special something that makes the company unique OR partners/customer successes if available.
  • Page 7- (Inside back cover) call to action (Why are you doing the brochure-to drive traffic to the website? To get people to call?) For more information on how you can (Realize the XYZ benefits of solving this business problem…)
  • Page 8 - (Back cover) company contact info, website address, continuation of design treatment from front cover.

The next time you're thinking about what your brochure, white paper, employee newsletter or magazine should contain, start with a smart colleague and a dummy.

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