Tips for producing a presentation folder

Examples of three folders

The presentation folder can be a much sought after and even hallowed item within any business marketing armoury. Often, we are approached by business start-ups asking for quotes for presentation folders as part of their launch budget, but in reality, unless your organisation is ordering a large print run of many thousands, presentation folders are still a relatively expensive item to produce, and as they often don’t directly “sell” a product or service, they can be perceived as a luxury item rather than a must-have.

So in view of the higher production cost (compared to standard leaflets and flyers) it is all the more important to ensure you get the design and conception of the folder right, so it meets all of your requirements.

Before writing your design brief, it can be useful to identify how and where the presentation folder will be used, so that nothing is overlooked.

Uses for presentation folders

Trade shows
Training/conferences
Application packs
Education packs
Corporate brochures which need extra documents
Contexts where marketing materials consist of multiple flyers and leaflets rather than one brochure
Contracts/legal documents
Sample packs

Designing a presentation folder

Presentation folders are very versatile and can be used in a variety of situations and contexts. They can be used to contain a number of different types of printed materials from letters, forms and contracts through to brochures, flyers and even product samples. In view of these multiple possibilities, presentation folder artwork is usually very brand based. Often the cover design will be relatively plain, with branding, and a complimentary colour scheme, or a bold feature-photo which is associated with the brand. In this way, the presentation folder’s main role is to contain the documents within, and to reinforce the brand image.

Presentation folders can be printed just on the outside, or on the inside of the folder too. If the primary role of the folder is to contain other printed marketing materials, you may choose to keep the inside of the folder unprinted or a plain brand colour. This will make the materials contained within to be the main focus of attention.

If the primary role of the folder is to contain contracts, forms and letters (eg job applicant information packs) it may be useful to use the inside cover page to give some general “about us” information.

The designer should also know if the folders are to have business card slots, so they can ensure a suitable location allocated within the design. They may also wish to see the business card design so as to be sure the card and folder designs work well together.

Choosing the shape of your folder

Generally, presentation folders are oversized A4 or oversized A5 size, portrait format as these formats tend to suit the most common types of insert, however, some print suppliers will be able to accommodate other requirements and bespoke sizings.

Folders come in a range of standard shapes and sizes, and whilst the shapes will vary slightly from supplier to supplier, most will have similar offerings.

Typical shapes include – 1/3 height pocket on right hand side, ½ height pocket on right hand side, 1/3 height pocket on both sides, ½ height pocket on both sides, ¼ circle pocket on right
Interlocking folders also have a full height “return” flap on the long edge, which can be of varying widths.

When choosing the shape of your presentation folder you should think about size and shape of the materials it will contain – if your inserts are A5 size, then a shallow pocket may be more appropriate. Larger, or heavier inserts may require the support of a deeper pocket.

Bespoke shape

Folders, whether interlocking or glued are cut to shape using a cutting form. A cutting form is a large wooden board with shaped metal cutters embedded into it (like a large, folder-shaped pastry cutter). If you would like your folder to look a bit different to the rest, you could consider asking your designer to create a bespoke folder shape. This could follow a shape from your branding, or be a practical adaptation to give your folder an additional function. There is generally a cost implication for cutting form design and production, so bespoke presentation folder shapes tend only to be viable on longer print runs.

Interlocking or glued

Interlocking folders are generally delivered flat, unassembled. This reduces storage space, and there is less risk of the folded edges and pockets becoming damaged. Interlocking folders can be folded and assembled as required. They are held together using a combination of slots and tabs. They are great for situations when only small amounts of documents are to be presented within.

Glued folders are delivered assembled. They take up more space in the box, and are more prone to bruising, although use of laminates can reduce this risk. Glued folders tend to have a more manufactured look to them. The pockets are altogether sturdier and can cope with heavier contents, as there are no tabs to come loose.

Business card slots

Business card slots are generally located on the pocket, or the side flap (for interlocking folders). The slots are typically straight diagonal cuts or ½ circle cuts in 2 diagonally opposing business card corners. The corners of the cards are inserted into the slots and tension holds the card in place. The very nature of these slots mean that the corners of the card will be visible from the reverse (which is why they are most often positioned on the pocked/flap), so this should be taken into consideration when choosing the location. Business card slots can be positioned to accommodate landscape or portrait business cards. Be sure to know the measurements of your business cards, as not all cards are the same size. Also, check the design of the card to make sure that important elements on the card are not hidden behind the slots.

Spine/capacity

If you have a lot of documents to contain in a folder, then you should ask about capacity folders. Depending on your supplier, you might have 3mm, 5mm, 7mm or even 10mm capacity. Whilst it can be useful to have capacity, it is ultimately an extra fold in the card, and if you have opted for a glued pocket (better for heavier inserts) it will make them more voluminous to store, and slightly more fragile. Larger capacities will also hold smaller amounts of documents less securely. Capacity folders fare less well in the post if they are not entirely full.

Brochure-folders

If your folder will always be used to contain a standard corporate brochure, you could consider producing a brochure-folder. This is when the covers of your brochure are made up of the folder itself (the back page of your brochure has a pocket). This can be a slick way to present your organisation, and include any relevant forms or contracts within it. These are more expensive to produce than a standard brochure, however they are more convenient for the recipient.

Presentation folder print options

A4 Presentation folders with pockets are generally produced using 350gsm, 400gsm or 450gsm artboards. These weights are sturdy enough to withstand the weight of their contents, yet flexible enough to crease and fold to form the flaps/pocket. Heavier weight board can be prone to bruising or flaking along the folded edges (particularly visible if they are printed with dark or bold colours). This can be mitigated through the use of a laminate finish, which will also protect them from scuffs or scratches and will make any tabs or folds more robust.

When choosing your finish, you should bear in mind the brand identity and also the finish of the inserts. Ideally there should be coherence in design and finish. If the folders are to be used for a particular event, such as a trade show, it can be nice to have business cards printed at the same time. Often, business cards would be printed on the same material as the folder anyway, so the printer could make use of the card outside of the cut lines of the folder to produce a short run of business cards and reduce waste.

Popular print finishes for presentation folders include matt laminate, gloss laminate, anti-scuff laminate, soft touch laminate, spot UV varnish and foils.

In conclusion

There are many aspects to consider when designing and producing a presentation folder, so time spent planning your project will pay dividends later.

The folder design should be coherent with your brand, aesthetically pleasing and practical.

Budget will play a part in your decisions.

Longer print runs will help spread higher set-up costs

It is worthwhile consulting all those who will be using the folders before setting your design brief.

In order to produce a successful design, your designer will need to know how the folder is to be used and what it will contain.

If you have not had a folder before, or you are uncertain of the best way to proceed, your printer or designer may be able to advise you.

Check out our A4 folder design and our A4 presentation folders pages for further details.

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am:pm graphics is a graphic design partnership based in Buxton, Derbyshire. We offer a range of quality, affordable graphic design solutions for print and web, helping our customers achieve a consistent professional identity across a variety of media.

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