How to Make a Letterhead
A letterhead is a heading that sits at the top of a professional (and sometimes personal) document. It is unique to the sender and contains information specific to them.
When used for business correspondence, a letterhead usually contains the company name and logo, and contact details such as street address, telephone number, email and website URL.
Letterheads are used for multiple types of professional communication – both internal and external. You may see a letterhead on documents, including:
- Covering letters for proposals and presentations sent to prospective clients
- Quotes and invoices sent to customers
- Job offer and confirmation letters
- Press releases
- Internal company updates
- Personal and character references
- Meeting minutes
- Public notices and letters sent to official bodies
Traditionally used for printed correspondence, letterheads are now common on electronic documents as more and more businesses convert to digital communication.
More than just a reference to a document’s header, the term letterhead can also be used to describe the entire page on which it appears.
This page may incorporate additional elements, such as a footer, borders, background and specific formatting. Your letterhead can be as simple or as extravagant as suits the needs of your business and the nature of your industry.
There are several reasons for having a letterhead, beyond using it as a space to highlight key details:
A letterhead signifies that a document is official, and when designed well, adds an air of professionalism to your communications.
A letterhead that makes use of your brand colors and fonts is instantly recognizable and ensures a consistent identity across all documentation.
The first thing people see when they open your correspondence is your brand, instead of a blank space, which means you’re marketing yourself every time you send a letter.
A plain white background overlaid with paragraphs of text is dull, but when you add a splash of color and a few graphical elements the page, and its contents, become far more engaging.
Essentially, if you’re sending out communications without a letterhead, you’re missing a key opportunity to make your business stand out.
The resources you’ll need to make a letterhead will all depend on how unique and complex you want your design to be.
If you’re going for something truly bespoke with original artwork and custom design elements, you’ll likely need to invest in a graphic designer, or, if you’re the creative type confident in your own design skills, specialist software like Adobe InDesign or similar.
You may opt to use one of the many predesigned templates available online, which you can purchase and customize to suit your own brand identity.
However, for the most cost-effective option, most people will find a program like Microsoft Word or Google Docs sufficient.
In the following section, you’ll learn how to make a letterhead using Microsoft Word, since this is the software most businesses will be familiar with.
To create a basic letterhead in Microsoft Word, follow the steps below. You’ll find most of these are transferable to other word processing programs.
Good letterhead design is about including the most important information, but not so much that the header becomes overcrowded and cluttered.
The key things you’ll want in your letterhead are:
- Company name and logo
- Phone number
You may also want to consider:
Your strapline, if you have one – This may be included in your logo, but, if not, it can be worth adding, especially if your company name doesn’t clearly indicate what you do.
Website URL – Remember, this is a key marketing opportunity, and including your web address is likely to result in increased site traffic.
Social media handles – Again, including these in your letterhead is a good marketing technique, helping you gain more social media followers and drive brand awareness.
Gather all these details together and sketch out their placement on a blank piece of paper. If it looks like there’s too much going on, select the least important detail for your business needs and remove it.
You can also consider moving things like social media handles to a footer if you choose to include one.
You may need to convert your logo and/or any other images into a format compatible with the program.
A .jpg file is the most common, but you may also use a .png or .bmp file.
Launch your program of choice (in this case, Microsoft Word) and open a blank document. Save this straight away with an obvious file name like ‘letterhead template’.
Since you’ll likely use your letterhead for different types of correspondence, it’s useful to have a master version that you can edit to suit.
Navigate to Insert on the toolbar interface and select Header from the menu. This will open up a blank space in which you can create your design.
Now input the text elements of your header. Choose a font that is clear and easy to read, ideally a serif or sans serif typeface. If you have a brand style guide, refer to this to check fonts used elsewhere, such as for the main content of your website. This will create a consistent brand identity.
You’ll also want to experiment with sizing. If your company name is not included in your logo, you’ll want to include it above your address. This should be around two points larger than your contact information.
Next, add in your logo by heading to the Insert tab, selecting Picture and uploading the file from your computer.
The logo should be placed on the opposite side of the page to your text elements – which side each is on depends on the design of your logo, and whether it looks better placed to the left or to the right.
You may need to resize your logo so it aligns well with the text opposite. To do this, hover over its corner and click and drag the cursor in and out to decrease or increase its size.
You may want to add in a block colour background, or insert a colored line across the page below the header to separate it from the main body of content. When experimenting here, stick with your brand colours to keep your letterhead on point.
If you choose to insert a footer, the process is very much the same. Head to Insert and select Footer, then simply insert the text you wish to include as you did in the header.
Again, you can add a block colour background here, but consider the overall design – you don’t want the page to be bottom heavy, as the header should be the most prominent element.
You now have a letterhead template that should be saved in a location everyone who may use it has access to.
You may also create additional templates for specific use. For example, a letterhead template to accompany proposals, complete with specific opening and closing lines.
Making sure these are clearly identifiable ensures everyone in your organization uses the same approach, and that you remain consistently professional in your communication.
The steps above are for a very basic letterhead. However, some businesses will benefit from advanced versions that more accurately reflect the nature of their work, like those in the creative industries, for example.
As mentioned, Adobe InDesign is a good piece of software to use here, as is Illustrator and, to a certain extent, PhotoShop. You could also try Adobe alternatives like QuarkXPress.
These programs give you greater flexibility, allowing you to create complex layouts that are truly original.
In addition to (or as an alternative to a traditional header), you might want to consider the use of:
- Coordinated footers – This is a great way to use otherwise wasted space at the bottom of your page.
- Original artwork – Using a bespoke image or photograph as a background for your header gives your document a contemporary feel.
- Geometric shapes – When used with gradient colors, these can turn an otherwise flat page into a dynamic one that draws the reader in.
- Borders – A border nicely frames the body of a letter and is a good way to add splashes of color without distracting from the main content.
- Columns – Columns are useful for highlighting key details (think a skills list on a personal resume), and add to the aesthetics of a page by extending it vertically.
To really make an impact, adapt your letterhead design for use across other stationary items, like envelopes, business cards and memo pads.
This will create a consistent look for your business that is both professional and memorable.
Letterheads aren’t a business necessity, but they're an asset that makes your correspondence stand out, whether printed or digital.
For just a modest investment of time and effort, you can create a professional and engaging design that sets you apart from your competition.