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Making a Brochure, Step by Step
The description of the production process that follows is necessarily simplified:
Scheduling: After the park and Harpers Ferry Center agree to produce a new brochure, the project is normally added to HFC’s program for the following fiscal year. The project is typically slated for planning and research during the first year and production and printing in the next year. A handbook takes an average of two years to produce. Because of the widely varying degrees of complexity and scope of the projects, any one brochure or handbook may take less time—or it may take longer. We are trying to compress the two-year brochure process into a 12- to 18-month schedule. Where commissioned artwork is involved, a job becomes more complicated and is difficult to complete in a short time period.
Planning: The first thing the park does is to fill out our “Background Report for a New Park Publication.” Here the park identifies for us critical elements such as audience, themes, mapping needs, illustrations, etc. We use the report to see what the park thinks and as a preliminary outline in planning the project. The editor at this point will also request relevant research materials from the park. The HFC team members begin researching the subject and discussing various ways of approaching it. We work closely with you to determine the intent, thematic content, and level of visitor-use information for the publication. We also ask you about potential artwork and photography sources to support those elements. Background Report for a New Park Publication
Visiting the park: Sometimes, rather than relying on mail, e-mail, and telephone to plan the brochure, the HFC team will schedule a trip to the park, at your convenience, to work through the design stage of the project. This reduces the time involved in a project and allows the park staff to get actively involved at an earlier stage. This also allows us to familiarize ourselves with the site—see it from the visitor’s point of view—and consult with the park staff. Often the editor will already have a broad outline that will serve as a starting point for the conversation. The visit usually occurs when decisions have been made about such things as the focus of the publication and the level of technical explanation required, the brochure size, mapping, photography subjects, and whether or not original art will be needed. Frequently the map size will influence the size of the brochure. The larger-sized brochures are more expensive to produce, and paper costs are higher.
This is the opportunity for the Harpers Ferry Center team to gather any additional resources—map materials, reproducible prints, contemporary photographs, reference materials, etc.—needed for the project. On occasion the designer will bring along a laptop computer and produce a preliminary design on the spot, while the editor produces a first draft of the text. More typically, the team returns to Harpers Ferry Center, where the designer comes up with a proposed design and the editor produces the draft text.
Designing the brochure: The project designer creates a design proposal based on the unigrid system. (See the brochures section for a discussion of the unigrid system.) Some pictures may already be available for placing in the design; other graphic elements will be represented by blank windows or substitute pictures. The subjects of all the text and graphic sections are specified. Sometimes we can include a draft text at this stage. Picture captions will have to await the final selection, but they, too, will be submitted for park review. Brochures
Park approval of design: All these elements go into the design proposal, which we send as a printout for your evaluation at least twice during the course of the project. Sometimes to speed up the review process we send you a digital file of the design by e-mail. This is furnished as an Acrobat PDF file. We find that in some cases it is best to present the proposed design personally, either with a trip by HFC team members to the park or by park staff to HFC. The park reviews the proposed design and responds with a memo from the park superintendent to the HFC Associate Manager for Media Development, either approving the design or requesting further discussion.
Pulling it all together: Upon approval of the design, all team members can move ahead in their areas: The editor begins writing the final text and gathering historic pictures and photos. If the existing contemporary photos of the park are poor or not available, we commission a photographer to provide new photos. If there is to be an original illustration, the designer commissions an illustrator to create it. The illustration contract specifies stages for completion of the artwork. A typical sequence is: preliminary sketch, finished sketch with color sample, and final color rendering. The cartographer begins creating the map(s), keeping in close contact with the park as questions arise.
Park approval of text: We send the design to the park with the text in place. At this stage some pictures may be placed in the design. The map proof, illustration sketches, and photographs may also be in place. If not, they will be sent separately for the park’s review or incorporated in the final review printout.
Park approval of graphic elements: Illustration sketches and final renderings are sent to park for review as they are completed. Map proofs may also be sent.
Final park approval: A final printout with all elements in place is sent to the park for formal approval to print.
Printing: The job is sent to the printer for printing. Printing takes on average three months for delivery to the park.