When you create a newsletter, you undoubtedly want your design to look professional. Perhaps the most important design tip anyone can offer is: use restraint. When you look at most designs in magazines or other professionally designed pieces, you'll notice that they rarely incorporate outrageous type treatments or bizarre layouts.
One of my favorite design mantras is, "Just because you CAN do something, does not mean you SHOULD." In some cases, unusual type treatments make sense in the context of a design. However, many times they detract from the readability or flow. So whenever you are sitting there thinking, "wow, that's so cool!" stop for a second and put yourself in the reader's shoes. Is the effect going to add to the message? Or is it just going to make the document harder to read and comprehend?
With that in mind, here are a few tried and true tips to think about as you lay out your newsletter.
- Use a layout grid.
A layout grid is just the imaginary lines that define the placement of text on the page. The margins and columns that defines vertical and horizontal text placement make up the grid. Using a layout grid keeps your layout logical and makes you look carefully at what you are doing.
- Use contrasting typefaces for headings.
Use a typeface that contrasts with the body text of your document to make the document more visually interesting. Headings break up the page into smaller sections and make it easier to read. Leave more space above the heading than below it to help set it off from the surrounding text.
- Use a minimum number of type sizes.
Change type sizes for a reason. Use different type sizes and weights to indicate the different page elements such as captions, headings, and pull quotes. Use type size to indicate the hierarchy of importance. Be consistent in your use of typefaces and sizes to keep readers from being confused.
- Size and place graphics appropriately.
Fit graphics into the layout grid. If you break the grid, do it intentionally for emphasis. For example, bleeding a graphic off the edge of the page can create an interesting effect if done properly. Crop photos so that they focus on the important element in the photo.
- Use white space in your design.
Use white space as a part of your design. Negative visual space is as important as the positive. Use a consistent amount of white space at the edge of the page to help the reader focus on the important text. Use white space around headings to help make them stand out. Squint at the design to see the contrasting elements. If the whole thing looks gray, you have not used white space to your advantage.
- Use an appropriate typeface.
Use a typeface that is right for the document you are creating. Think about how the document will be used and what is most important. For example, wedding invitations use different fonts than billboards. If elegance is most important, you might choose script display font, whereas if readability is most important you might choose a bold san-serif font. Think about where, why and how the document will be used.
- Use common sense.
If it looks strange, don't do it. Everyone sees examples of design every day. You know what looks good and what doesn't. For example, lots of "award-winning" design is unreadable. The primary purpose of your document is to communicate an idea. If you find your document pleasing to look at, others probably will too. If no one can read the document, your idea is lost and your design has failed.