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Jan 1, 2005 12:00 AM

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New approaches to roll, letter, gate and accordion folds

How many brochure folds can you name? That’s a question I often ask during my presentations to various groups in the graphic arts and I always get the same answer: roll, letter, gate, accordion and, very rarely, map or parallel.

But the folding world is far bigger than these six old standbys—by my count, there are at least 200 brochure folds. Will 2005 be the year you—and your designer clients—move beyond the same old boring folds? These fresh folding ideas and handy tips can help.

Try a different format
Suppose you don’t have the budget for a fancy folding style. Don’t despair—there are several affordable folding options. Does the piece have to fit into a No. 10 envelope or a brochure rack? If not, don’t get stuck in the same old 4 x 9-inch rut—consider upright, oblong, narrow or square formats.

Upright—An appropriate style for folding pieces with a finished height of at least 3⁄4 inch greater than the finished width. Common upright dimensions are 5 x 8 inches or 4 x 6 inches.

Oblong—Folded pieces must have a finished width that’s at least 3⁄4 inch greater than the finished height. Common oblong dimensions are 6 x 4 inches or 8 x 5 inches.

Narrow—Finished height must be twice the finished width. Common narrow dimensions are 4 x 8 inches or 4 x 9 inches.

Square—Restricts the difference between the finished height and width to at least 3⁄4 inch greater. Common square dimensions are 6 x 6 inches or 6 x 51⁄2 inches.

Fresh takes on old favorites
The wrapped accordion combines the familiar accordion fold with a protective cover. The open edges of standard accordion folds are notoriously incompatible with automatic insertion equipment and, if you’re not using an envelope, would typically require multiple wafer seals to go through the mail. The wrapped accordion eliminates these problems while also creating an interesting "reveal" when opened. Nonetheless, the wrapped accordion is more difficult to produce on the folding machine, so plan accordingly.

Double parallel folds are common and practical—some open at the front and some open at the back. While there are many parallel folds to choose from, you might want to take a closer look at the 10-page parallel. It’s a double parallel fold with an extra cover panel. At first glance it looks a bit like a letter fold, but then you see the interior pull-out panel.

We rarely see variations on the ubiquitous letter fold. Why not try it with a broadside twist? The broadside option doubles the total area for a spacious, poster-style interior, yet it folds down neatly into a tailored package.

Rather than a long roll or standard gatefold, consider a double gate. Unlike a standard gatefold with two panels folding into the center, a double gate folds in twice for a rolled effect, revealing in opposite directions from the middle, rather than a single direction like a roll fold. Gate folds require a special folder attachment and can be more costly than roll folds.

Cheap tips
Some cheap trimming tricks can add extra punch to your finished piece. A simple four-page brochure looks far more interesting with a short cover.

You can do the same thing with the fold-in panel of a letter fold to add interest. Or, try flipping a short fold so that it pulls downward rather than lifting upward.

Finally, one of my favorite tricks is to take a broadside fold and trim the corner at an angle for a graphic teaser—It looks like a die cut, but it’s actually just an angled trim.

To really boost the "wow" factor, try a swinger fold. The swinger fold uses a simple score and die to create movement and a directional shift. Pulling the panels in opposite directions sets the die cut in motion and flips it over.

Swinger folds are a lot of fun, but they’re not necessarily cheap and they do impose certain restrictions, so proceed with caution.

More folding info
For more information on the folding styles featured in this article and to dowload folding compensation diagrams, see

Trish Witkowski is president of the Finishing Experts Group, Inc. and creative director for a marketing communications firm in Baltimore. She is the author of "FOLD: The Professional’s Guide to Folding." E-mail her at