How to get a newsletter design you actually like

I’ve just finished briefing a designer on the design for a new client’s
newsletter. So I thought I’d share some of the things I do to make sure
I (and my client) get a design everyone likes.

Have a vision

The most important thing to do is have a vision for what you want
the finished product to look like. See it in your mind, maybe sketch it
on paper. See the colors, the size of the headlines, the type of
pictures you want. Once you have created this vision, you will find it
much easier to brief your designer.

Think: “what’s it like?”

When I ask clients about the kind of design they want for their
newsletter, I ask them to name a magazine they think has a great
design. And then I ask them why they like that design. I find it’s a great way to determine exactly what the client likes.

What magazine or newspaper would your newsletter be like?

It’s in the details

The more details you can give to your designer, the more happy you
will be with the result. So describe your vision in as much detail as
you can. Think of the basics, such as:

  • 4-color or black and white?
  • Color scheme (the same as your company’s branding?)
  • Will it be a self-mailer or sent in an envelope?
  • Will you be including your company logo? If so, where?
  • Will there be a space for company “about us” and contact information?
  • Type of masthead (the title at the top of page 1)
  • Space for a tagline or dateline?
  • Fonts you wish to use. Sans-serif fonts often look more modern;
    serifs more traditional (but sans serif can be harder to read for the
    actual text of the articles)
  • How many pictures you wish to use, and how big they should be. Are you using photography or another type of illustration?
  • Will your pictures go to the edge of the page, with a ‘bleed’? This makes a big difference when you come to print it.
  • What article length would you like? Long articles, short articles or a mix of the two?
  • Will there be different article “types”. For example, personal columns, informational articles, bulleted lists…
  • Will there be ‘spreads’? For example, will the middle two pages be treated as one, with content going across the fold?
  • Will you be wanting tinted panels, call-out boxes, or other design elements?

Then think of the more intangible aspects of your newsletter. These
will help your designer get a feel for your readers and what you are
wanting to achieve. Such as:

  • Who is your average/ideal reader?
  • What is their age? What do they do? What are they interested in? What are they wanting from you?
  • What kind of magazine or TV show would your reader like?
  • What kind of ‘feel’ are you looking for? Something trendy or
    something traditional? Something that denotes gravitas or something
    more relaxed and friendly?
  • Send example of other publications you like.

By putting a lot of thought into your design brief, it’s much more
likely you’ll end up with a design that really meets your needs.

Do you have any other ideas for what you should tell your designer?