This post was contributed by Andrew Boardman of Manoverboard, a design and communications firm that focuses on socially responsible businesses and nonprofits.
While we use email for most correspondence these days, we should think of letterhead as the primary vehicle for important correspondence – documents that you want to share, print, archive, and remember. Unlike email, a message sent on letterhead gets read. Correspondence on your letterhead sent as a PDF, Word document, or Google Doc will be noticed. And well designed templates will be doubly noticed.
So, how do you use Google Docs to make (better than) decent looking letterhead? As an exercise, I created three new templates with our corporate identity. All of the following documents have the same basic content, the same structure, and the same Manoverboard branding. All of them took into consideration the most critical elements of good design: typography, grids, legibility, simplicity, and, in this case, usability, as my goal was to make sure that these could be adapted by others (e.g. you). I also kept the number of elements to a minimum.
Corporate, But Not Too Much
The first template is called Corporate. I chose a margin (in inches) of Top 1”, Bottom 1”, Left 1.5”, and Right 1.5”. This gives the document a feeling of openness and friendliness. To assign these margins, go to File > Page Setup…
In terms of typography, I could have used Arial, which is the default font. But Google Docs now lets you choose from dozens of fonts hosted by on their servers and I chose the strangely named “Hind”. Don’t tell anyone. Hind is similar but more interesting than Calibri with its nice color and high x-height but it’s very legible and very friendly.
You can find those additional fonts by going to the Font dropdown and then go to “More fonts” at the bottom. I recommend using the standard line spacing of the font – don’t mess around with that. Google’s designers figured this out for you already.
There are three graphics here – our logo, our logomark, and a blue rule. These help ground the document in a nice triangle shape from the top left to the top right to the bottom left. To add these graphics, I chose the old-school way – after creating them in Photoshop, I saved the images as PNGs and dragged and dropped them from my desktop to the Google Doc. I recommend using PNG graphics because they scale nicely and display well online and in print.
If you want a header and footer (and you should), choose Insert > Header or Insert > Footer and then you can place text and graphics there. Remember that if you have multiple pages of a document, the header and footer will get generally replicated on the subsequent pages.
Cool, But Still Useful
For companies that need something a little different (and who might not write so much), I created a template called Cool. About ½ of the document is white space and branding with the main content in the right column.
I chose to use a simple blue line (or rule) at the top right to separate out the date (small and italicized) from the address (with a bolded name). I chose a font that I had not used previously called “Chivo”. It has some nice weight to it and lots of character with its tails and brackets. I dig it.
The footer of the document contains the company’s address, as well as our general email and a phone number. I also put our Twitter handle in the content because that seemed Cool, which means it’s probably not.
The devil is always in the details. In all of these documents, I chose to superscript the “th” in “39th”. This little touch gives the entire letter a feeling of professionalism and care. To do this, just highlight the text and choose Format > Superscript.
I also put in a (fake) signature. This can be done pretty easily. Just sign a white piece of paper, take a picture with your phone and crop it down. Then save the image to your desktop and choose Insert > Image in Google Docs.
Sweet, But Not Sickly Sweet
The final template is lovingly titled Sweet. We’ve noticed that fonts with serifs (those little lines and points attached to strokes on a character) are coming back. This is a good thing and it’s driven by two uniting forces. First, screen resolution and quality has increased dramatically over the past few years. When I look at my Retina screen on my laptop, I can see detail in fonts, features, and freckles that I cannot on my 27-inch iMac. Second, people are getting tired of Helvetica and their sans serif spin-offs.
For those that want a little serif with their communications, I chose a beautiful typeface called Lora. Lora is warm, quiet and unusual – in other words, a bit Sweet. At the same time, it is not frilly and can work very nicely in business communications, especially for a company that sells high-end consumer products.
I chose to create a wide column for the template using margins of Top 1”, Bottom 1”, Left 1” and Right 3”. This provides lots of white space at right and has the added advantage of creating a nice margin for anyone who puts edits or comments there..
Please feel free to save and use these documents as you like. Make sure to substitute in your own name, organization, identity – and words! If you have any questions or would like to talk about your ongoing or upcoming marketing and communications needs, please feel free to contact Manoverboard any time. Write well and write often.