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The Colors of Space in Newsletter Design

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In design-speak, all documents have a combination of white space, gray space, and black space, even if they use colored paper and colored headlines. The white space is the paper, the black space is the headlines, and the gray space is the text.

The easiest way to see this for yourself is to prop your newsletter against a wall or other vertical surface and step back until it’s blurry. The headlines should still look dark, but the text should blur to a gray shade (if it’s printed in black ink on white paper). Anywhere without text, headline or illustration should appear white (or the color of the paper).

Figuring out the color of an element of your newsletter is simple enough. But what do you do with these colors? You want to combine them to an ideal level of consistency and contrast for your readers. Some readers may want a more consistent look, while others (generally younger) prefer to read newsletters with a more “exciting” or contrasting look.

Here are two samples that illustrate too much of either quality:


In sample A, you’ll see that while each of the colors is present to some degree, and they are more or less consistent, there’s no contrast. The bottom three quarters of the page is purely gray (though there’s a little white), while the top is nearly fully black.

Result: The eye may get restless because there’s so much gray to read through-it looks unending.


In sample B, there’s a lot of contrast. The color moves abruptly from black to gray (with minimal white throughout). Notice how even the gutter (between the two columns of text) is filled with a black line.

Result: The eye isn’t sure what to focus on first because so much of the newsletter calls for attention.

So, how do you provide an appropriate level of balance? Of course, a lot depends on your readers, but, generally, readers prefer plenty of white space and clear starts and stops. They want the text broken up with both black and white space.

Note: for older readers, make sure there’s plenty of contrast between your colors to provide for easier reading.

Here are some samples of better uses of contrast and consistency:


Sample C utilizes a splash of red, but for the purpose of this color workshop, we see it as black. Notice how the headlines break up the text so the reader isn’t faced with reading an entire page of gray. Also, there’s plenty of white space between each article. The colored sidebar helps draw the reader’s attention to important news and dates.


Sample D has a bit of green in the nameplate, sidebar and headlines, and in this case, the color looks more like a medium gray than black. Sometimes you can get away with less contrast between the headlines, text and white space, but you need to be careful. This page might look a little unexciting to a young audience, but because it’s delivered to people in their mid-forties to retirement age, it strikes a balance that its readers find reassuring (important because it’s designed for the clients of money managers).

In the end, there’s no one balance that’s right for every newsletter. However, one foolproof formula is to provide plenty of white space between articles with a little less between columns (that belong to the same article). A dark typeface (at least 16 pt) should be used for headlines, with a similar, but less dense typeface used for headings. Use a crisp typeface for the body text–one that clearly delineates the space between and around letters–for easiest reading.

If your text looks too dark from a distance, increase the line spacing (or leading). If your text looks too light, decrease the leading. Ideally, it should blend to a medium gray.

Make sure your headlines are very bold–you should be able to read them from a greater distance than you can read the body text from. Also your nameplate should be the most attention-grabbing element on the first page. Make sure it has the weight it needs to attract the eye.

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The Colors of Space in Newsletter Design
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About Jessica Albon
Want more tips on making your newsletter personable? Subscribe to Newsletters in Focus for free tips every two weeks on creating wonderful newsletters. Visit http://www.designdoodles.com/free_newsletter.htm to sign up and receive your free copy of "Do You Make These Six Mistakes in Your Company Newsletter?" WebProNews Writer
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