What is a Professional Pocket Presentation Folder?
A Definitive Primer

A pocket folder is is type of presentation folder. As such, it is used — especially when customized — mainly to contain and present important documents. The customization, along with the accompanying materials contained within the folder conveys an image of orderliness, preparedness and professionalism for the preparer. Ultimately, the aim is to get a favorable reception, impression and response from the recipient.

As a utilitarian tool, it may be used to store documents in an organized manner.

Pocket folders are most commonly made out of paper; however, other materials or substrates, such as plastics, may be used.

As the nomenclature implies, a pocket folder is both folded (so as to enclose documents), and has pockets (in which documents are to be nestled). That is, however, a general description as there are numerous variants depending on either function or aesthetics, or both. This ranges from a basic one pocket folder to that which is intricately constructed.

To minimize confusion, below are salient points to help you make an informed decision in determining the right pocket folder for your needs.

Presentation Pocket Folders come in a variety of sizes.

The indicated size refers to a folder’s dimensions when folded and closed — not when it is opened. To illustrate, a legal-size folder is specified as 9-1/2” x 14-1/2”  — not 19 x 14-1/2” which is the size of the folder when it is fully opened and laid flat.

The first number is used to indicate a folders width or horizontal measurement, while the second is a folder’s height or vertical measurement.

Items to be placed inside a professional pocket folder shall be the main factor in determining your choice of folder-size. 

For example, if your documents are 8.5 inches x 11 inches (the most commonly used document paper size is, and also known as letter-size), you would use a 9 x 12 folder, which, consequently, happens to be the most widely used folder size.

You will notice that 9 x 12 is just slightly larger than 8.5 x 11. This is, obviously, so that the letter-sized documents (when tucked in and positioned correctly) are completely enveloped — and no portion is visible — within a closed folder.

Another common size is the aforementioned legal-folder (9-1/2 inches x 14-1/2 inches) which can hold legal-sized —8.5 x 14 inches—  documents.

A smaller 6 x 9 inches folder, are perfect for postcards (5 x 7 inches ) and most photographic prints  (5 x 7 inches or 4 x 6 inches).

Undoubtedly, the primary element that shows a folder was custom made for you is the printing, since the design printed on the folder will reflect your organization’s name or logo.

Until about a decade ago, there were wide price-gaps between the number of colors you could print on a folder. It used to be that, to show a single color would be much cheaper compared to printing a colored picture, image or text. These days, with the advances in technology, the cost of printing in full color via the four-color (CMYK) process is much less prohibitive. In most cases, depending on how modern your printer’s presses are, showing a single color and full color would cost the same.

Of course, if a design element absolutely requires a very specific color that cannot be approximated by the four-color process (e.g., neon green), then the price will be much more expensive. 

Then there is the matter of deciding whether to print color or images on one side or both sides of your folder. You will see the terms “one-sided” or “two-sided printing”. Quite often, in reference to the four-color printing process employed, “one-sided” is substituted with 4/0 (four color printing on one side / zero or no printing on the other), and “two-sided printing” replaced with 4/4 (four color printing on one side / four color printing on the other).

This number of sides to print should not be confused with neither the front nor the back of the folder when it is closed.  Instead, the basis for determining “sides” is when an (keep this term in mind for later) unassembled folder is opened and laid flat. This has to do with how a sheet of paper goes through a press.

But the confusion doesn’t end there. Printing on the flaps can be another source of perplexity to the uninitiated. At first glance, when you open a folder, the front and back covers appear to be on one side, and the flaps on another; however, when you look at an unassembled folder (or detached the flaps — and unfold — from an assembled one), you will observe that the front and back covers share the same side with the flaps.

Which is why “one-sided” (4/0) printing provides ink coverage on the front and back covers, as well as the flaps.  While “two-sided” (4/4) printing will have color, images and text everywhere on the folder. 

Even as ink is by far the preferred imprint medium, there are others that do not require it at all. These include foil stamping (application of metallic foil in the shape of a designed image, on the surface of paper), embossing or debossing (raised or recessed relief images on the paper).

If money is no object, and you want to go for intense impact, then all three printing methods — ink, foil, and embossing — can be applied on your folder.

While the most common style is that of a portrait-oriented two-panel (left and right) with a single fold between them, and having one or two flat pockets, folders  can be constructed in a number of different configurations

Some examples of these configurations include the following:

1. Three-panel Gatefold Folder. Consisting of three panels of uniform width, with folds located between each of the panels. There may be pockets on all three panels or just on those specified.

2. Landscape Folder . In this configuration, as opposed to a portrait folder, the width will be greater than the height. This makes for a wide canvas, allowing you to present larger images (both in the folder itself and the items it will hold) that would otherwise be cramped, cut or cropped in a traditional portrait setting. 

3. Capacity Folder. As the term implies, this type of folder offers extra capacity for holding more documents and material, compared to a standard folder. Also called a gusseted folder, the extra capacity is made possible by creating more space inside the pockets. Whereas a standard pocket lays completely flat against the folder panels, a capacity folder’s pockets utilize gussets to create space and a gap between it and a folder’s panel. This is especially useful when the documents or material  to be contained in the folder are quite thick and would appear bulging and unkempt in a standard flat pocket.

4. Stitched Inserts.  A cross between a pocket folder and a multiple-page brochure. Such a hybrid item is produced by affixing (usually by means of staples)  at least one folded piece of paper along the spine (main fold) of a pocket folder. It is, essentially, a book with pockets. This type of folder is particularly useful when there is an overabundance of uniform-information to be conveyed — that you might as well print altogether, en masse — yet have room (in this case, pockets) in which to place dynamic content materials.

The element that makes a folder… a pocket folder.  

Although majority of pocket folders produced are that which have a pocket at the bottom of each panel, there are other options with respect to the number and shape of pockets, as well their position within the folder. 

In general, the term “one pocket” or “single pocket” refers to a pocket located on the right panel of a standard two-panel, one-fold folder. It follows that two pockets mean a pocket on each of the panels. 

The common shape for pockets is that of a trapezoid — a rectangle with one slanted side.

A three panel folder can have corresponding three pockets.

Aside from the conventional pocket located at the bottom — running horizontally —  of a folder’s panel,  pockets can also be placed on the sides (running vertically ) of a folder. 

SHAPE OF POCKETS Because the process of creating a folder pocket involves cutting paper by means of a sharp blade or heat, aside from the standard trapezoid, the profile can be formed in many different shapes, so long as it is not overly complex and can be implemented by the cutting tool. For example, say you are a surfing coach; the top of the pockets can be shaped to resemble rolling waves.

Yet another variant is the capacity or gusseted pocket. Pockets that have depth and more space to hold more documents and material. 

If you plan to include a business card when you distribute your folder, because of its diminutive size, the card will get lost and go unnoticed in the mix of larger documents. Slits on the pocket provide a convenient and prominent way to display your business card. This is achieved by creating two slits (spaced by the width or height of a business card) on the surface of the pocket on which you can insert a corresponding side. If your printer has done it right, the card should fit snuggly and stay in place.

Thought this primer, we have discussed the standard or most commonly applied features, as well as the available options relating to folder printers. It is important to keep in mind that it is generally more economical to produce a folder that are of the most common in terms of specifications and features. Consequently, folders that deviate from said standards will carry a higher price tag.