Folding Style: Accordion
Subcategory: Shaped Accordions
Level: Intermediate
Uses: Promotion, Marketing Collateral, Events, Holiday, Creative Direct Mail

We live in a world of rectangular print materials for lots of good reasons. Hey, I love rectangles—but sometimes you need to break the mold completely. The Circular Accordion Fold is a breath of fresh air, both for the designer who chooses to use it, and for the lucky person who receives it.

The Circular Accordion is an accordion fold with circular, zig-zagging panels. From a design perspective, the perimeter shape is a lot of fun to work with, creating a complete circle when closed, and presenting as a series of interconnected circles when opened. This is what the dieline looks like:

Circular Accordion
Print marketing: creative direct mail

You can treat each panel individually, or make a singular message or graphic across all of the panels on each side, since the front side and the back side are entirely different spreads (i.e. no art from the cover crosses over onto the back, and vice versa). However, it’s important to note that the cover lives on layout side one, and the back cover is on layout side two. Watch the videos to get a feel for how it works.

This folding style can have as few as three panels, but more commonly has five—however there is no hard and fast rule on panel count for this format. If you decide to customize and change the panel count by adding or removing panels, you’ll want to mock it up to determine what happens to the cover and back cover. For this format, odd panel counts tend to work better, because there’s a little production trick on the cover and back cover that optically completes the circle, and the end panels must be in opposing directions for it to work.

If you choose an even number of panels, you’ll have a flat spot on the left side of the cover when the accordion brochure is folded, which is fine if that’s what you’re looking for. To me, it’s all about deliberate design decisions, rather than surprises. If you are fine with a flat spot, so am I.

The Circular Accordion 3 Ways

So, this is a great format, but how can you use the Circular Accordion in different marketing scenarios? I anticipated your question, and here are three uniquely different real-world creative ways to use the Circular Accordion:

For Event Promotion:

Design: ADG Creative /

This sample was an insert in a swirling, circus-themed event accordion invitation that arrived in a box. This piece carried all of the event details and was placed inside a dome-shaped carrier, along with a bag of pink cotton candy. The paper choice is 100 lb uncoated cover, which feels like the perfect choice for this vintage-style design.

To see the complete marketing package, watch the Fold of the Week episode.

For Marketing Materials:

Design: Catherine Madden /

Now let’s change the mood completely with a witty and clever self-promotional piece by visual storyteller Catherine Madden. It’s called “The Art of the Sh*tty First Draft,” and it features humorous illustrations and refreshingly frank dialogue about the challenges of writing your first draft of copy (I think many of us can relate to this concept). I love how the back is wallpapered with illustrations and no words. The sample is printed on an 80 lb matte coated cover stock, which gives it a clean and contemporary look and feel.

For Holiday Greetings:

Design: Amanda Lenz /

Here’s the same format, one more time, designed and modified for the holidays. Talented illustrator Amanda Lenz covers this Circular Accordion in whimsical holiday illustrations, adding die cuts on the eyes of the animals on some of the panels to create interest. When closed, the show-through illustrations form the “eyes” of the animals. Brilliant! The result is eye-catching (pun intended) and fun. This holiday greeting was printed on an 80 lb matte coated cover stock, and mailed in a square, navy blue envelope.

If you’d like to learn more about this sample, check out the Fold of the Week episode.

Love it? Make Your Own Circular Accordion

So, now that you’ve seen a few creative ways to use this folded mailer for print marketing, are you itching to make your own custom direct mail? Good! Design and print your own Circular Accordion here—you can download the template for free and get instant pricing, too.