Design the perfect letterhead
June 19, 2013 by James
A well-designed letterhead — whether that means elegant, minimalistic or fun — can be a deal breaker in terms of branding. You need an eye-catching letterhead design to take anything printed to the next level, to make it look professional and direct.
Letterheads are a marketing opportunity at their core. They allow you to set your business’ brand, look, and style apart from the rest. Letterheads also make whatever is printed on the page feel more credible, and they say that the words a customer is about to read are backed by the business represented above.
Designing the perfect letterhead isn’t easy though. Even design geniuses can’t create an engaging and unique letterhead in minutes. A letterhead could be the very first impression a customer has of your business, or it could repeatedly reinforce your brand’s identity. Whatever the case, creating the perfect design is crucial to branding your business. The details are important, but so are the overall design, size, and color of your letterhead. It needs to feel trustworthy and memorable.
Simplicity is key
A basic design that incorporates the business’ signature colors placed atop the page will quickly allow a customer to recognize your letterhead. For example, if your website and business cards have a pale-green motif, a pale-green letterhead stands to reinforce that image. Consider a simple shape for your letterhead in your chosen color. If your business specializes in lawn care, place a pale-green lawn with simple grass blade shapes at the top of the page.
Remember that letterheads serve as a support structure to the content you deliver. You do not want a complicated and confusing support structure; you want an efficient one that is simple and easy to understand.
The letterhead design needs to introduce the words that will follow. It needs to display your material without stealing the attention. The letterhead is the icing on the cake — the cake is what matters, but the letterhead makes it enticing. When you add words to your letterhead, keep them as simple as your chosen color and shape. If your letterhead is a block of color at the top of your page, make the lettering the color of the paper beneath the ink.
Most pages with a letterhead up top have a bit of print — displaying contact information — in the lower right corner. This should be in the same color that the primary design up top uses, tying the entire page together. Once you have the shape, color, and text planned, put it on paper and decide how it feels. It should feel perfect, pristine, and a direct representation of your business. If it does not, revise until it does. If you are unsure of something, simplify your letterhead instead of making it more complex.
Emphasize when appropriate
The letterhead is all about communicating what the client needs to know as effectively as possible. When a client finishes reading a sales pitch, for example, he or she should not have to search for your contact information to get in touch. Your contact information should draw their eyes straight to it. First, the client needs to know whom he or she is contacting. Your business’ name should be clearly visible. Next, the client needs to know how to contact you. Phone number, fax number, website address, email address, and mailing address should all be clear.
Despite how it seems, this information is often just as important as your business’ name. It is up to you to decide what the client will need to know. You can put yourself in the client’s shoes and decide what needs to stand out. Dictate the importance of each piece of information and place it accordingly.
Minimize when appropriate
You must consider eliminating superfluous shapes, words, colors, and overall clutter. You do not always need every single detail on your letterhead. If you are primarily a design company and communicate with your customers via fax, email, and your website, you might not need to include your physical address. If, on the other hand, your company is moving away from faxing documents, exclude your fax number.
If an element of your design clutters the page, remove it. For example, if you used a lawn as your letterhead shape, but it feels cluttered, halve the amount of visible grass blades. Alternatively, if you included two colors, try reducing it to one color and see how your letterhead feels. The goal is not to make a flashy poster atop your page. The goal is to make a pleasing frame.
Represent your brand carefully
Effective brand representation is essential in letterhead design. It’s not just about shapes and colors and contact information. The brand logo needs to make its way onto the letterhead too. Decide where the logo looks best – where it stands out but does not steal the show.
The font you select for your letterhead is important as well. If you use Calibri or some other free font available on everyone’s computer, it will not be associated with your brand. What is the point of a custom letterhead if its message, and the letters themselves, are not associated with your brand?
A custom font is key. One that makes a statement about the business and, preferably, one that the entire business uses. Whether this is a handwriting font or something with a more modern appeal, make sure the font a client finds on your letterhead is not the same one in which their child wrote her latest English essay.
Take advantage of paper stock
Your letterheads will go on a signature paper stock, more than likely, and this is yet another chance to boost your business’ design. Selecting a recycled stock with its own light color and texture makes blank space in your letterhead feel more elegant. What would be a filled in design on some letterheads can become a faded design on a textured stock, using the paper’s qualities to add to the appeal. This is a simple and effective strategy to save on ink and make your business appear more collected. The subtlety of this strategy can subconsciously make clients trust your business more than a competitor who failed to use every design element available to them.