Use logos, colors and fonts consistently throughout all your documents.
Create a standard design for your forms and other business documents.
Create computer templates for standard documents such as letters, forms and reports.
Design each form and document to have a similar look.
Think about your company for a second…does it have an image? How would you describe it? Professional? Stable? Responsive? Capable?
Okay, now take a moment to look at a few of the documents your company produces—letters, forms, marketing pieces, etc. Check out the logos, fonts, colors. Notice how the information is organized. When you place these documents side by side, do they work together to reinforce your company’s image, or does each document look like it was created by a different person?
Consistency is the Key
Consistency is the key to creating and maintaining a professional image. Each time a client or customer receives something from your company—a proposal, an invoice, a postcard—he or she forms a mental image of the company. When all of your documents share a similar look, they work together to send the message that your company is organized, professional and attentive.
Images Gets Derailed
Most companies start out with an image; they have a logo, business cards, maybe letterhead. In many cases, that’s as far as the image ever gets. A computer on every desk means that day-to-day items such as letters, forms, reports and marketing materials are created in a hurry by different people to meet different needs. Sometimes these documents look great, and sometimes they look awful, but seldom do they look consistent.
How to Build a Consistent Image
Building a consistent, professional image doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little planning and a bit of software savvy, you can modify existing documents (or create new ones) so that they look more professional, are better organized and are easier to use, too.
1. Use Logos Consistently
Whenever possible, use your logo consistently from one document to the next: same size, same orientation (horizontal/vertical), same location on the page. Add your logo to your computer forms, too. Use a good-quality image, not a low-res web image.
If your company doesn’t have a logo, create one. Or think up some ideas, then have a designer create a logo for you. Whether simple or elaborate, a logo helps create a distinct, recognizable identity.
2. Choose a Palette of Fonts & Colors
Choose one or two fonts (typefaces) that complement your logo, then use them for all your documents. In printed documents, “sans serif” fonts are good for headings, with “serif” fonts for body text. Save the trendy or decorative fonts for special uses, such as invitations. Now select two or three colors that work well together (probably your logo colors), and use them consistently throughout your documents.
3. Look at Your Marketing Materials
Your marketing materials—including your web site—play an important role in conveying your company’s image. Even though most marketing pieces are more elaborate than typical business documents, they should all share the same basic fonts and colors. Use graphics and color to add special emphasis to your marketing documents.
4. Create Document “Templates”
Your day-to-day business documents should reinforce the image established in your marketing materials, rather than look like an afterthought. It doesn’t make sense to mail an elegant brochure with a poorly formatted letter or a sloppily typed envelope.
Instead, create a computer “template” (like a master copy) for each of your business documents—letters, memos, even envelopes and labels. In Microsoft Word these templates have the extension .dot or .dotx instead of .doc.
Each template should include everything you need to set up and print the document: fonts, styles, headers/footers and margins preset for each piece of your stationery. Every time you need a new document, you begin with the .dot (or .dotx) template to create a new pre-formatted .doc file.
If you work with a group, store the templates on your network server so every employee can access the same template documents. This way, each person’s finished documents will look the same.
5. Design Forms to Match
Design your letters, reports, fax covers and other forms to look like your other documents. Use the same fonts and logos and a similar layout. Keep information in the same place from one form to the next; this makes it easier to find.
It’s often easier to fill out a form on the computer, and it’s much neater than handwriting. Add checkboxes and pre-filled fields to your computer forms to minimize typing.