Essentials of Designing a Perfect Newsletter

Author: | Posted in Inspiration 7 Comments

As the name says, newsletter is an essential tool of business communication alongside brochure, flyer and business card etc. A newsletter is more like a corporate bulletin that acts as a good source of information about the happenings in an organization. The target readers of a newsletter are company employees as well as its existing and potential clients. However, this post focuses on the importance of how a newsletter should look and which things should it contain the best.

The main objective of the newsletter is to attract readers and only a well-designed newsletter will draw readers to itself. Your newsletter design is important like the cover design of a book. No matter how perfect the elements of your newsletter are, if your newsletter design is not good enough, almost no one will be attracted to read it. Marketing with newsletters and print postcards is a great way to keep in touch with current customers.

There are different design elements in a newsletter and all work together to give it a distinctive, unified look and help make the newsletter easy to read and full of useful information. Following are some basic essentials of a newsletter that will help first-time newsletter designing as well as a refresher or the veterans.

The Essentials

A newsletter is comprised of different complex segments of text and design. These different segments are called the essentials of newsletter and without theses essentials, the newsletter is termed as incomplete and in comprehensive.

The Title

Everything in the world of communication has a name. This name is the identity and defining factor of that object. As the name says, the title (or nameplate) is the fore-most part of the newsletter design. The title is a compound element that contains not only the name of the newsletter document but also other things directly associated to it. The title is usually found on the front page of the document which is the most significant place in the whole newsletter.

The title doesn’t necessarily have to be at the top of the front page, rather it can also be placed along the side, in the middle or at the bottom of the page. The title is often confused with the masthead which is a total misconception. Being a compound element, the title comprises of the name, the subtitle, the origin of the newsletter and the date. Lets discuss each one of this separately.

Name

the name, as mentioned earlier is the most important part of any document. It basically showcases the whole content of the newsletter and also plays a part in influencing the onlooker to pick it up and read it. One has to be very shrewd while naming the newsletter. I would advise you to have a professional copywriter by your side for the part related to text. ‘Newsletter’ or ‘Update’ is a tired title to go for the name of the newsletter. As your copywriter or do it yourself but think of something else… something intriguing.

Subtitle

The subtitle is there to explain more about the title or the name. It is more like a rationale for the intriguing name of the newsletter. Unlike the title the subtitle is more explanatory rather than creative. For instance, the newsletter Caring Connections has the subtitle ‘News for Child Care Providers’.  Subtitles also help clarify who the target audience of this newsletter is.

Source

It should be perfectly clear where the newsletter is coming from. Who is putting it out and what is the address? Address and subscription information can be saved for the masthead. But always include who is responsible for the newsletter in the nameplate.

Date

Date is another important element of the newsletter design. The date should show as what is the periodical of the document as some authors also like to keep track of volume numbers for ease in binding later. The nameplate should be very carefully done and designed. Also keep the client in the loop throughout the designing process in general and title designing process in particular, to avoid any misunderstanding or mistakes.

The Source

Third most important thing is the origin or source where the newsletter is coming from. The origin says about the company, institute or organization who is putting out the newsletter. It is advised to always include who is responsible for the newsletter in the nameplate.

Masthead

The practice of putting a masthead in your newsletter varied from organization to organization. Some companies do not prefer to place this element in their newsletter, reason being usually the size or content of the newsletter or if newsletter is written and put together by one person. However, ask your client if they want a masthead in their newsletter or not.

If there are several contributors of the content or if the newsletter can only be obtained through subscription, masthead is a ‘must’. It is important to be consistent about the placement of the masthead. Either you put it at the bottom of page two or on the back of a four-page newsletter, always put it in the same place for each issue of your newsletter. A typical masthead includes content like: authors and contributors, address, phone numbers and place of origin of the newsletter, date and volume number, subscription information and information about postal regulations, if needed.

Text

Text is an essential component of newsletter so it is imperative to design it appropriately. With the advent of computer technology, typography has been made easiest in today’s world. However, in case of newsletter designing, it is better to stick with a font similar to what you see in newspapers or magazines. There is a simple advice to those who have word processing capabilities with their computer that by all means use a letter quality printer. Because of its poor readability, it is not suggestive to go for an obvious dot pattern.

Another aspect associated with typography is the division of columns. Make a decision about how many columns there should be in a newsletter page and how wide these columns should be. Designers always have the liberty to choose the column number and width as per their expertise; however, one choice is to have one column go clearly across the page. This kind of style is being used by some well-designed and expensive multi-national newsletters of the world.

Also, remember that the wider the line or sentence, the bigger the typeface has to be, in order to have a clear reading. Also, when it comes to margins, be sure to leave ample margins on both sides as the readers’ eyes do not like to travel far from the margin.

Headlines

The most important element of a newsletter is its headlines. The key to attract your readers in the body copy is the headline. Designers need to keep the headlines larger and bolder in type. In the case of newsletter design you should take example from newspaper headlines. In a newspaper, the most important stories have the biggest headlines so you just need to follow the same style with your newsletter as well.

Departments

Most newsletters have departments. It makes them easier to produce and read. To be effective, the departments need to appear in the same place and have the same format from issue to issue. A department can be as simple as a table of contents boxed to lure readers to turn your pages or a calendar of upcoming dates. An employee newsletter for an oil company has a question-and-answer department appropriately called “The Pipeline.”

Charts and graphs

Charts and graphs can be a way to boil down complicated information, so they are naturals for the quick read format of a newsletter. The secret to doing charts and graphs well is to make them readily understandable. Have all the information right there and not buried in the text so the reader will not have to move back and forth. This can be so confusing that the reader will give up.

Graphics and photographs

Filling up the newsletter with text only makes it boring and dull. However, graphics and photographs can add interest to your newsletter and help draw in the reader. However, that does not mean you should put every photograph you find. The picture you use should communicate and blend in with your message otherwise there is no point in using them.

If you have enough resources and budget than hire a professional photographer to take pictures for you. It is not necessary to go after big photographer you can do it for relatively little money. The impact of good, crisp photographs should not be underestimated as they can do wonders for your newsletter.

Color

Consider two things with color in a newsletter. One is the color of paper in combination with the color of ink. The other is: Should you introduce a second color of ink, also known as spot color? The most readable combination of colors is black ink on white paper. So if you vary from that, stay as close to white with your paper as you can and as close to black with your ink as you can. The darker the paper and the less black the ink, the more you compromise the readability of your newsletter.

Black and white are the best colors to use if you have photographs in your newsletter, too. Looking at blue or green people in photographs can be quite disconcerting. Spot color can add distinction to your newsletter. One other color in addition to black can brighten up its pages. Two colors beyond black can add even more excitement. However, the cost goes up with each additional color.

And unless you are a trained artist, using two colors can be an overwhelming challenge. The ideal combination for most newsletters is black on white with one spot color. The main rule to guide you in using spot color is restraint. The price is the same whether you use a lot of it or a little of it. But it’s best to use only a little.

Some suggested places to use spot color:

  • In the nameplate
    Some people have their nameplates printed in quantity using a color. Then they duplicate their newsletter onto those pre-printed sheets with the equipment in their offices. They find this saves money.
  • In large initial letters
    One common design technique, popular now, is to make the first letter of an article extra large.
  • In pull quotes
    These are short provocative quotes pulled out from the article and set in a slightly larger type. They help break up a long article.
  • In bars across the tops of pages.
  • In charts and graphs

Don’t use the spot color in your headlines. This would be an example of overuse that takes away from the newsletter’s effectiveness. Putting together a newsletter can be a gratifying experience. Readers like newsletters. They appreciate getting timely information in an easy-to-read manner. Once a routine is established, putting together a newsletter can be done in a relatively short period of time. But like anything, to be done well, a newsletter takes dedication to excellence. With commitment and these tips, you are on your way to making a difference in people’s lives with your newsletter.

The Right Format

The most common newsletter formats are HTML, plain text, and PDF. Depending on the topic of your newsletter and the group of your targeted readers, you should choose the right format. When you want to design a newsletter, it’s essential that you decide on the right format for it. Here’s a complete and very helpful article about how you can discover the perfect newsletter format.

Learn from Your Favorite Newsletters Designs

Why reinvent the wheel from zero when you can learn from others and save yourself a lot of time? There are many great professional looking newsletters out there that have already found the perfect newsletter design templates, and now YOU can learn from them. Simply check out some popular and famous newsletters in your field and pay attention to their layout. When you find a one that looks professional and reader-friendly, simply save it to use it later as a design idea.

Don’t Use Too Much Graphic

The most important part of your newsletter is the valuable content that you provide in it, not your newsletter graphic design. Your content is THE only reason people read your newsletter, right? So even though it’s good to create a nice design by using professional graphics, it’s still important that they don’t distract your readers’ attention from the content.

The first lesson of good newsletter design is to practice the 3Cs:

  • Consistency
  • Conservation (Clutter-busting)
  • Contrast

As with any design, these are not hard and fast rules. There is rarely only one way to do something. But follow these guidelines and you can turn a bad or so-so newsletter design into a more eye-pleasing publication. No newsletter can survive without good content but our aim in the Newsletter Design Clinic is to present your content in an attractive, effective package.

A newsletter doesn’t have to be boring. It can have little surprises pop up. But consistency aids the reader by organizing your words and eliminating distracting clutter. Consistency unifies the many different elements — headlines, text, clip art, photos, captions, short stories, long stories, fillers, etc. — and doesn’t distract the reader from the message.

So what would be inconsistent newsletter design?

  • Different margins on each page.
  • A different typestyle for every headline.
  • Not using the same basic layout on each page or changing the ‘look’ every issue.
  • Clip art and graphics that don’t relate to the newsletter contents.

How do you maintain consistency in newsletter design?

  • Design around a grid. Grids help keep elements in the same place from page to page.
  • Use templates and styles. Templates, like grids, help keep elements in the same place from one newsletter issue to the next.
  • Use repeating elements (examples. the same header on each inside page; the same end sign on all articles; the same standing header for all recurring columns).
  • Once you’ve found consistency and eliminated clutter, it is contrast that provides the visual interest for your newsletter. The key is to create true contrast not conflict.
  • A headline set in the same typeface as the body text has no contrast. Make the headline 2 points larger and it just looks timid – not sure if it’s a headline or not. Make it bold, make it double the point size of the body text, change the type style, and you have contrast. Now it looks like a headline. Now it grabs your attention, says read me, and entices you to read the rest of the story.

The Final Words…

Coming with a professional newsletter is indeed a gratifying experience. Readers not only like to read newsletters but they also give feedback from time to time. Information packed in a professional and easily readable manner always scores well among masses.
However, the only rule which applies here is the dedication to excel. I am pretty sure that with the help of these tips and your commitment, you can carve your way to make a difference in people’s lives with your newsletter design.

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