Stepped Accordion Fold: Create Enviable Marketing Brochures
| Posted on 5/17/21

Stepped Accordion Fold: Create Enviable Marketing Brochures

Brochures, advertisements, pamphlets… Whatever you call them, your marketing assets say a lot about your products and services. But they also need to reflect the professionalism of your company. A designer product from Foldfactory, the Stepped Accordion fold does both with panels that zig and zag as they tell your story. Add an edge to your collateral by following our design tips and learn why Foldfactory founder Trish Witkowski loves this fold.

Stepped accordion fold


Striking a Chord

Part of Smartpress’ exclusive Designer Folds collection, the Stepped Accordion unfolds easily to reveal panel after panel of your content. A custom fold with custom options, this creative collateral forms a stepped border when folded, allowing you to easily organize your content and recipients to pick and choose where to open it.


Stretching to over 28 inches wide on durable 80# cover stock, Stepped Accordions give you lots of space to work with, whether you’re printing event programs, promotional pamphlets or brand guides for your business.

For Lauralee Végvári, brand designer at Black Button Distilling, ample real estate was crucial when designing advertising brochures for distributors, potential partners and branded presentation packages.


“[It] provided plenty of space for imagery and messaging in a compact product. The fact that it was different from the usual tri-fold or gate fold was also appealing,” she said. “Very crisp, clean colors printed on quality paper make this a useful sales piece that is not ignored.”

Four accordion fold brochures for a high school standing next to each other.

Three stepped accordion brochures unfolded with a bright yellow, red and blue design.

Make Marketing Music

Online printing with Smartpress means you get to design your accordion fold with premium paper stocks, black or full-color ink and protective UV coatings.


Even more convenient? You can mail your Stepped Accordions in matching envelopes and we’ll print return addresses for you. As a full-service online printer, Smartpress also makes it easy to personalize your envelopes with variable data printing and ensures your mailers reach the right recipients with list acquisition and list processing via Custom Quote.


Design Tip: Want to use a Stepped Accordion to show a timeline or project progress? Use our online printing services to print double-sided so every step gets the spotlight.

Multiple folded and unfolded stepped accordion marketing brochures lined up in rows.


Q&A for Creative Composition

Ready to start designing? Get all the tips and tricks from the first name in folds, Foldfactory founder Trish Witkowski. We chatted with her about what makes the Stepped Accordion special, how to print strategically and which folded cousin puts a clever spin on the format.



What do you like most about the Stepped Accordion fold?
Trish Witkowski: “What I like the most is that it’s really quite simple. Take a classic accordion fold and shift the placement of the scores so that the zigzagging panels create a stepped effect. It’s both brilliant and practical. You get the style and flexibility of an accordion, combined with the organizational benefit of a stepped format.”


What makes this fold truly unique and noteworthy?
“The visual texture of the steps makes the Stepped Accordion unique, but what I think makes it noteworthy is its linear nature. The panels can be viewed two at a time in smaller spreads and as one long layout when opened. It’s basically a long rectangle. Your content can connect from left to right in a linear flow, which makes it easy to organize, design and envision a layout. It’s also easy for the recipient to read and process the content.”

What are some ideas for how to best utilize the Stepped Accordion?
“The Stepped Accordion is endlessly versatile. In its most common form, [it’s] outstanding for informational brochures where the steps are labeled with categories and each tab carries a section of information.


“However, I’ve seen contrasting imagery and texture wrapping blank tabs to provoke curiosity and interest. I’ve seen oversized typography cropping off the edges of the tabs and playful experiments with tab depth.”

It’s easy to mock up because it’s just a rectangle with uniquely placed scores.”




What advice do you have for people designing print for the Stepped Accordion?
“This format will help you determine how to organize your information. It’s intuitive, which is a real benefit, and each side can be designed independently of the other. It’s also easy to mock up because it’s just a rectangle with uniquely placed scores.


“With that said, I would never design a Stepped Accordion without printing a mini version to trim and fold to check placement of content and user experience. Also, be meticulous with placement of text on the tabs. Even a minor misalignment will magnify itself because the tabs are the visual focus.

“If you want to have color breaks at the folds, make sure you extend your color box a hair past the fold guide to ensure you don’t have a sliver of color from the next panel showing on the edge of your tab – this is to accommodate for the width of the score and subtle variations in machine folding.”


Anything else you’d like to add about this fold?
“The Stepped Accordion is a great way to step into experimenting with unique formats for print marketing. You really can’t go wrong with it. Everyone is drawn to the unique stepped profile and the ease of navigating content. [It’s] intuitive to design, easy to mock up and standard in size and proportion.”

Wrapped stepped accordion




The Wrapped Stepped Accordion takes a different approach to this design. How should you choose one versus the other?
“The Stepped Accordion is the perfect entry point to unique format design. Consider the Wrapped Stepped Accordion to be more of an intermediate format. It has an impressive but complex centered step configuration (stepping left and right) and utilizes two of the panels as cover panels. Unlike the Stepped Accordion, both sides of the piece must be considered at all times when designing.


“An additional benefit of the Wrapped Stepped Accordion is that it can mail without an envelope. The Stepped Accordion would need an envelope to mail, [so be] strategic. How will the brochure get to the recipient? What do you want the viewer experience to be? What is the content journey of the brochure?”

What do you like most about the Wrapped Stepped Accordion fold?
“The Wrapped Stepped Accordion keeps its steps a secret, cloaked behind the wrap of a cover, and offers more of a surprise when opened. In contrast, the Stepped Accordion’s steps serve as part of the cover view.


“It’s really a design decision: do you show the steps or reveal them upon opening? There’s no right or wrong answer. As the designer, it’s up to you to decide which approach works for your content and your desired experience.”


Hint: Get more folds:


Black Button Distillery Stepped Accordion Designed Exclusively for Black Button Distilling
Academe of the Oaks Stepped Accordion Designed by Sarah Lawrence
Wrapped Stepped Accordion Design by Andrew King | Andrew King Art

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