Make a Great Impression in 600 Pixels

    August 20, 2003

If your newsletter’s in HTML or print, you need a nameplate (the banner that displays the name of your newsletter).

Designing a nameplate is similar to creating a company logo. Typically, you’ll want a design that’s memorable, compact (size-wise), and classic enough to last two or more years.

We’d like to share the five steps we’ve found ideal for creating great nameplates. They’ll save you time and help you produce the nameplate just right for your company newsletter.

Make Time 1. Set aside enough time. Never designed a nameplate before? Then schedule at least seven hours for the project spaced out over at least one full week. Whatever you do, don’t wait until the night before your first issue is supposed to be published to start the design! Remember, nameplates work best when they’re consistent over a span of many, many issues.

Inspire Creativity 2. Gather a creativity kit. Our head designer swears glitter’s a necessary component of any creativity kit, but I’m not convinced. You will need blank paper, scissors, colored pencils or marking pens, and some music (if you work best with background noise). Most people find being outdoors inspiring (especially if you can be near running water), so don’t think you have to create your nameplates at your desk.

Sketch 3. Sketch at least six nameplate designs. You can do them each full size, or you can fold a sheet of paper into smaller boxes (eight is usually a good number). You don’t need to be an artist for this step–you’re mostly concerned with generating placement ideas and general concepts on paper. (You should see the messes I used to make in my design classes!)

Choose 4. Choose the two or three you like best to create rough versions on your computer. Use a graphics program that allows you to use plenty of layers to keep each element separate (like Paint Shop Pro, Corel Draw, or Adobe Illustrator) and save a new copy every time you develop something you think you might like. If you’re not a designer, try to keep it simple– lots of effects and stylized fills can detract from the rest of your newsletter.

Finalize 5. Choose your nameplate and finalize the design. Smooth any rough edges (literally or figuratively). Save the file to the appropriate size, resolution and number of colors for your newsletter (all depend on your needs and medium).

The right nameplate for your newsletter will serve you and your readers well for many years to come. Even better, the repeated exposure to the same nameplate over many issues will build your company’s credibility and trust, so make sure your nameplate is something you really like that suits your newsletter well.

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