Author: Jacci Howard Bear
Newsletter Design Clinic: 3Cs
Use Consistency, Conservation, Contrast to Improve Newsletter Design
Have you ever looked at a newsletter — yours or someone else’s — and couldn’t quite put your finger on what was wrong with the newsletter design? Look more closely. Does it appear haphazard, thrown together with each page having a different look? Is it cluttered with multiple fonts, photos, and unnecessary clip art? Do the pages appear gray and monotonous?
The first lesson of good newsletter design is to practice the 3Cs:
In newsletter design, be consistent, cut clutter, and add 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.
Consistency Organizes and Unifies Newsletter Design
Practice Page-to-Page and Issue-to-Issue Consistency
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.
- 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).
Cut the Clutter With Conservation in Newsletter Design
Eliminate Distracting Visual Elements
A common mistake of new desktop publishers is to overload documents with fancy fonts and clip art in the mistaken belief that it adds interest and makes it less boring. No amount of fancy type is going to make boring words any more exciting. So add interest and excitement by editing and rewriting. Use fonts and artwork only to lead the reader through your publication and illustrate your words.
Conserve valuable newsletter real estate by not filling it up with unnecessary and distracting visual elements. Conserve your readers time and eyesight by choosing type for its readability not its ‘gee whizziness.’
How do you cut the clutter and practice conservation in newsletter design?
- Use Fewer Fonts. Use no more than three typefaces.
- Use Frames and Boxes Sparingly. Don’t box every element..
- Ue Less Clip Art. Limit clip art, photos, graphic accents to one or two per page.
Create Contrast in Newsletter Design With Obvious Differences
Opposites Create an Attractive Newsletter Design
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 typestyle, 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.
Achieve contrast through size, alignment, color, shape, and other opposites. Don’t be timid. Type reversed out of a pale blue box has no contrast. Make the box dark blue with that white type and things start to pop. Create contrast by creating obvious differences.
- Type Contrast.
Use a bold sans serif type for headlines and a serif for body text.
- Size Contrast. Make it big, really big. Use an exaggerated drop cap or enlarge a single piece of clip art to make a statement.
- Text vs. White Space Contrast. Set text in columns with an extra wide outside margin. White space provides contrast to the columns of text, especially in newsletters with long articles.