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Secrets of designing a newsletter that will get read (27 Jun 09)

17 layout principles to bear in mind when designing or improving a newsletter

Stuff that nobody reads is a waste of time and money – yet an amazing number of newsletters communicate badly.

One problem is that computers have made us all armchair designers - we can’t resist using the softwares that come with them.

Another half is that designers forget what their job is - to first get people’s attention and then to keep it by making it easy to read their newsletter.

And as the great typographical authority Stanley Morison wrote over 80 years ago, “Any disposition of type that gets between the reader and the meaning is wrong.”

If you follow the simple tips that follow and be very wary of designers who make things pretty for the sake of it, you stand an infinitely better chance of your newsletter being read.

Here a few things you should know – all simple to understand and follow, with one essential first step.

  1. Look at popular newspapers. If they got it wrong they would go out of business. You’ll notice that they follow most of the following rules.
  2. Don’t use acres of reversed out copy or put copy onto a strongly coloured or varied backgrounds. It’s very hard to read.
  3. Print to a format no larger than a tabloid newspaper and ideally smaller.
  4. Make it large enough to enable good sized photos to be used. One big photograph is probably better than several smaller ones. Pictures with faces attract most attention
  5. The paper you use should be matt rather than glossy. A surprising number of people have trouble reading on glossy paper, especially in artificial light.
  6. Use colour wherever you can, especially for pictures.
  7. Make the newsletter look friendly with lots of photos and captions. (Never have a picture without a caption).
  8. The job of the headline is to grab the reader’s attention. So make it large, bold and the main centre of attraction. If you are using colour for the headline use warm colours like

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    Comment by Ed Mid-Western Regional Council — 28 Mar 12 at 02:58:53

    All good advice.

    Here are a couple of other tips:

    • Resist the temptation to use a lot of different type faces in the same publication. Stick to one or two type faces and be sparing in your use of bold and italic versions of those faces.

    • Use a serif type face for the body of your newsletter. Numerous studies have shown that serif type is easier to read than sans-serif type for large blocks of printed text, despite the fact that some magazine designers use sans-serif because they consider it "cleaner". It's better to reserve sans-serif for headlines, captions and other uses where the amount of text is limited.

    • Avoid long paragraphs. Breaking text up into paragraphs of no more than three or four sentences each improves readability and helps keep the page from looking greay and forbidding.

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