Letterhead basics

Letterhead is one of those basic tools that I outlined in a post several days ago grouped closely with business cards. I didn’t include letterhead in the business card post because the post was already too long, so here is a short bit about this often overlooked brand management tool.

Many organizations settle for plain white paper (usually 2olb. bond) with their logo slapped dead center at the top. Others may actually move it to one side and put their contact info along the top or along the bottom. Then they set the margins wide right and wide left so they don’t have to use a second sheet of paper for an average letter.

That’s so shortsighted, in my humble opinion.

There are a number of strategies to help your letterhead – like your business card – tell your story when you’re not around, including the following:

Use interesting paper – If you want to stand out, make people notice you’re there, don’t use standard 20- or 24-pound bond white paper: save that paper for the copiers. Make it heavier, add some fiber content or choose a light colored stock. And who says it has to be 8 1/2 x 11; try cutting the sheet just a little smaller (this lets you get a bleed using a standard letter-sized sheet). The designers at my firm have been creating interesting business papers using rounded corners (we’ve even used a paper that comes pre-cut with rounded corners right from the mill) for an interesting, friendly, casual look.

Make the logo large or small – A tiny logo centered at the top of the page can give the piece a classy, contemporary look. Some logos, when printed large and screened back make a great looking watermark. We’ve even been experimenting with printing the logo on the back of the page so that it shows through like a watermark on the front, creating a little more WOW along the way.A large flood of color on the back adds visual weight.

Related items – Don’t forget to order a supply of blank stock of the same kind for second sheets. Don’t forget to order matching or coordinating envelopes to make the package more purposeful. And for a low-cost, high-impact alternative to printed envelopes, create a classy self-adhesive seal and use it to close the envelope like an old fashioned wax seal (just use the “labels and envelopes” feature in Word to create a simple but classic return address on the front of the envelope). While you’re at it, why not create a related note card or undersized sheet to complement your communication with a short handwritten note?

Set it up right – Don’t forget the stuff that’s going to go on the letterhead: the type. Think about the fonts that should be used and leave generous margins so the letter can breathe. If used judiciously, you might want to place other interesting things – such as quotes, facts, even random product shots – in the margins to help tell your story.

And once you’ve created a fantastic piece of letterhead, don’t forget to create a style guide that shows others how to use the letterhead, including approved fonts, margins and signature styles. There’s nothing worse than an elegant piece of letterhead featuring comic sans type and half-inch margins.

Next up: website basics

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