Booklet Design Basics

Binding, creep, and imposition affect the design and structure of your booklet

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Booklets come in many shapes and sizes but are generally smaller than books at approximately 4 to 48 pages, with soft covers and simple saddle-stitched binding. A typical booklet style is a stack of 2 or more sheets of letter-size paper, folded in half. The number of pages is always divisible by 4, such as 4 pages, 8 pages, 12 pages, etc. Of course, you can leave some of those pages blank.

Design Considerations for Booklets

When you set the margins and paginate your booklet, you must allow for creep and imposition.

Creep

Creep occurs with booklets and other publications that use saddle-stitch binding. When pages fold over for stapling, in a thicker publication, the pages closest to the interior extend beyond the pages closest to the exterior. Fold a stack of a dozen sheets of paper to see the phenomenon at work. You must compensate for creep in the design, potentially by planning to trim the outer edge to make it flush.

If creep is noticeable, the copy can be re-positioned toward the center of the spread for those pages in the center of the booklet. When trimmed, all pages will have the same outer margins and no text or images are lost.

Imposition

Imposition refers to arranging pages for printing so that when assembled into a booklet or other publication they come out in the right reading order.

Printing a 5.5-inch-by-8.5-inch booklet on your desktop printer, for example, requires the use of imposition to print the pages onto letter-size sheets of paper that when assembled and folded end-up with the pages in the right order for reading.

Booklet Binding

Saddle stitching — sometimes called saddle stapling or booklet making — is common for small booklets, calendars, pocket-size address books, and some magazines. Binding with saddle-stitching creates booklets that can be opened up flat. These publications use something like a staple or two along the inside fold to keep the sheets together; fancy versions even sometimes use twine threaded through small punctures in the paper.

Saddle stitching differs from perfect binding, which is a glue-based approach. Because of the relative thickness of books versus booklets, it's common to use saddle stitching when the size of the finished product is roughly 48 pages or less. Bigger than that, and you're moving into the perfect binding, which has a different layout and interior-margin considerations.