Good Newsletter Design Helps Your Marketing

By Jeff Rubin
The Newsletter Guy

The best writing can be undone by poor design. Your company newsletter doesn't have to look like a slick, four-color magazine, but it should utilize basic design techniques to make it readable.

There are newsletter design seminars offered year-round in cities throughout the United States. Attend one and you'll get an excellent return on a one-day investment.

In the meantime, follow these basic newsletter design rules:

TYPE: A good newsletter must be easy on the eyes. Too many typefaces are difficult to read. Use one typeface for headlines, one for text and perhaps a third for photo captions. That fancy typeface you like may look classy on the sample sheet in the print shop, but may be so hard to read when set in long columns that your newsletter loses its effectiveness. Typefaces, or fonts, have personalities. Choose one that complements the personality of your business.

LAYOUT: Learn how to make a layout and how to make your copy fit the layout, such as by changing the leading (the space between lines of text).

DESIGN: Have a good mix of photographs, artwork and stories. Nothing is more boring than reading column after column of text. Focus your readers' attention with creative graphic elements, such as clip art, photos, boxes, and screen tints. But don't use too many of them, or else the readers' eyes won't know where to look first.

SOFTWARE: Learn how to use one of the popular page layout programs available for Macintosh and PCs. The most widely used are PageMaker, Quark Xpress and In Design.

PHOTOGRAPHY: A well-written, attractively designed newsletter can be sabotaged by poor photography. Polaroid snapshots are often the rule for internally produced newsletters because they are so easily available. The downside is they often appear washed out when printed. Learn how to use a simple, fully-automatic 35mm camera, or even better, a digital camera with three megapixels or more, and take a basic photo course to learn about composition.

INK: Stay away from colored inks for text; newsletter articles look best in black or dark blue ink. Use a second or third spot color sparingly for screen tints, large drop caps at the beginning of an article, page numbers, and any other graphic that is repeated throughout the newsletter. Excessive use of color is distracting to readers. Color should be used only to complement text.

PAPER: Print your newsletter on an easy-to-read paper — white, off-white, light gray, beige, etc. Avoid red, green, blue, yellow, orange, etc., paper. Not only are newsletters on colored paper hard to read, they don't photocopy or fax well. Glossy, matte or uncoated finishes are acceptable.


REPRINT POLICY: This article may be reprinted in your publication, company newsletter, etc., provided that you give a by-line (by Jeff Rubin) and print the following credit exactly as written. Please send a tear sheet or electronic copy:

Jeff Rubin, a former newspaper reporter and editor and instructor at The Learning Annex in San Francisco, is The Newsletter Guy, owner of the Pinole, California-based newsletter publishing firm of the same name ( He's written and designed more than 1,600 company newsletters since starting his business in 1981. He may be reached via e-mail at or by phone at (510) 724-9507.


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