Design Rules for Letterheads

by Leonor Crossley; Updated September 26, 2017

Whether sent electronically or in an envelope via snail mail, a well-designed letterhead is an important marketing piece for any business. While the field of graphic design is always open to creativity, there are a few basic rules to keep in mind for a successful letterhead layout.

Appear Professional

A letterhead’s design should reflect a serious, business-like manner to give the business more clout and integrity. It should appear to the receiver that some thought was put into the overall design. A methodically designed letterhead says the business cares about its image and wants customers to take it seriously.

Keep It Simple

Remember, the main objective of a letterhead is to communicate with a client or customer. Keep the design simple. A layout that is too busy distracts and annoys customers trying to read the message on the page.

Focus on the Logo

A letterhead is also used to further distribute a company logo to increase brand awareness and identity. A big part of marketing for a business is its logo. Make it a main element on the page. Some designs place the logo at the top and repeat it (or a part of it) enlarged and faded in the background for added emphasis.

Leave Writing Space

Don’t take up too much room with graphics or very large text. Leave enough space to type or write a good amount of information with a comfortable margin around it.

Fade All Backgrounds

If placing an image or shape in the background of the writing field of the letterhead, make sure its shade is light enough that any text placed on top is easily read. A background image that is too dark becomes distracting—for both reading and design purposes.

Include Basic Information

Certain elements must be included for the letterhead to be an effective marketing piece. In addition to its name (and logo), the business's contact information must be included: the mailing address, phone number(s), fax number, company website and main e-mail contact. Additional text, such as the names of board members or a company slogan, can be added, but the important information should be easy to spot.

Maintain Balance

Leave at least a 1/4-inch margin around the outer edges of the letterhead, unless using a bleed as part of the design. Type placed too close to the edges looks less professional and makes the overall design look unbalanced. When typing a letter on the computer, make sure the message is centered on the letterhead with even margins around it.

Use Legible Fonts

Since the letterhead is a major communication tool for a business, make sure the fonts used in its design are clean and legible. Be careful designing the important contact information in frilly, cursive type that is difficult to read. A customer should not have to wonder if part of a phone number is a “0” or a “9."

About the Author

Leonor Crossley has been a graphic designer and writer since 1995, with entertainment and other articles written for "Max Magazine" in Jacksonville, NC, and various websites. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, cum laude, from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.