There’s something timeless and elegant about using a custom-designed letterhead for your business (or personal) correspondence.
Even if you never write letters by hand (the ultimate in personalization), even a typed letter looks more thoughtful and intentional when topped with a striking letterhead design. For businesses, a letterhead that features your branding gives you one more way to impress clients and make your company more memorable. The nice thing about creating a letterhead is that it can be applied to more than just letters: digital documents, emails, newsletters, invoices, thank-you notes, and more can all benefit from a well-designed letterhead.
Not sure where to start in designing a letterhead for yourself? Check out the design tips and effective examples below to get those creative juices flowing.
01. Play Up Your Branding
Yes, you can (and probably should) include a logo on your letterhead, especially if it’s for a business. But think about other ways that you can creatively integrate your branding. Here, Shane Helm uses portions of the logo’s main icon on both the letterhead and the business card. This smart move does double duty — the company’s colors are featured on the pieces as a visually interesting design element, and the brand imagery is emphasized in a way that doesn’t seem forced or repetitive.
02. Keep It Simple
Even though you do want to emphasize your brand, as the previous tip suggests, you don’t want to do it in such a way that it distracts from the content of the document. Jonny Delap keeps his personal letterhead clean (but still high-impact) by sticking to one or two accent colors (here, a nice combo of light grayish-blue and dark navy) and a spacious layout.
03. Use Space Well
Traditionally, letterhead designs are placed at the top of the page, but by no means is that a hard-and-fast rule. This design by Andrew Littmann makes great use of all four sides of the paper to fit in extra information like contact info, location, and even the company tagline. And this is a nice touch: note how he used the shape of the logomark to create a repeating pattern on the left edge of the page and the bottom of the envelope — a subtle way to reinforce the branding.
04. Embellish It
If you really want your letterhead to stand out, find a printer than can accommodate some special printing effects. This design by Jennifer Lucey-Brzoza features both full-bleed (edge-to-edge, no margins) printing and what looks like metallic ink for a distinctive look.
05. Focus on Typography
For a classic look, try a design that primarily features typography, like this letterhead from Alex Rinker. It highlights a nice mix of typefaces — from a bold, shadowed sans serif to a vintage-style script — turning necessary information into an attractive design feature.
06. Use Meaningful Imagery
This design makes creative use of positive and negative space (in this case, through silhouettes) to include imagery that says something about the brand and is relevant to the intended audience (presumably adventure-seeking types). The high-contrast red and white color scheme makes this design by Damian Hernandez even more eye-catching.
07. Don’t Neglect the Reverse Side
If you’re mailing out physical letters, including something the back side, even just a solid color or a pattern, gives the design extra polish and pizzazz. If you look closely, you’ll see that the pattern here on Matt Yow’s letterhead cleverly incorporates shapes that are similar to the logomark on the front side.
08. Try a Badge or Crest
For a personalized graphic to build your letterhead around, a badge or crest is a fun option, especially for personal stationery. You can include images or icons that represent your personality or interests. But these types of graphics can also work well for businesses, as in this design by AJ Brockman.
09. Scale Up
Another way to get the most for your branding buck is to scale up some element of your logo or other another recognizable graphic to use like a pattern or abstract artistic element. This works especially well with items that have geometric or linear qualities. Here, Mohd Almousa takes his client’s logo and enlarges it considerably, creating a dramatic background for the company’s stationary.
10. Sign It Off
Using your signature as part of your letterhead design gives it a distinctive and highly personalized look and is appropriate for either personal stationery or a business that incorporates your name, like this design from Belinda Love Lee. Since your signature is one-of-a-kind, this is an easy way to ensure that you have a letterhead design you won’t see anywhere else.
11. Add a Stamp
Custom rubber stamps are inexpensive to order and can give your letterhead (or business card or envelopes or any other paper asset) a tailor-made, branded look that adds a bit of handmade flair. In this design by Bryan Kidd, the stamp doubles as a nice pop of color.
12. Pick an Accent Color
Choosing one identifying color as an accent to brighten up a black-and-white design can change the whole mood of a letterhead. Here, a minty turquoise gives J.D. Reeves’ design a fresh, modern vibe.
13. Pay Attention to the Paper
The quality of the paper you choose for your letters can make a big difference in the impression they make. There’s something luxurious about the feel of a thick, textured piece of paper. If you want to emphasize that your brand is high-end or artisan, a quality cotton cardstock will help reinforce those brand traits. Mauricio Cremer went one step further for this design, opting for letterpress printing.
14. Borrow Like an Artist
Artists are known for borrowing ideas and riffing off each other’s work; it’s part of the creative process. So if you’re having trouble coming up with an interesting design for your letterhead, try looking to famous artists and art movements for inspiration. Here, Michael Molloy channels Mondrian with his use of grid structures and blocks of primary colors.
15. Switch It Up
Have an established brand identity but want to keep things fresh? Try switching up your color scheme once in a while. Damian Kidd has enhanced a simple and clean typographic logo with a range of vibrant color choices for this business stationery set.
16. Maximize Your Logo
The more people see your logo, the more brand recognition you’ll get. But you don’t want to overdo it. Oven Design Workshop finds a nice balance by adapting the logo as a decorative element in the corner of the letterhead design and giving it a whole other treatment for the back of the paper.
17. Wrap It Up
Enclosing the information you want to include on your letterhead in a shape or frame, like this ribbon design by Tim McGrath, makes everything look neat and organized. Plus, it’s a snap to resize the whole thing and place it on any other type of printed or online resource.
18. Repeat Colors and Shapes
This design from Chris Eichberger features two shades of orange and creative repetition of the diagonal lines in the logo to create a cohesive and visually interesting letterhead and business card set.
19. Turn Up the Contrast
Black and white, navy and blue cream — they’re classic color combinations that are timeless and professional, and they work on any style of letterhead. Here, Seth Addison’s design ups the impact by pairing high-contrast colors with an elegantly simple logo.
20. Use a Watermark
Including a watermark as part of your letterhead design is a subtle way to draw attention to your brand without taking up valuable space on the document. As in this piece by Mattia Forza, a watermark is transparent enough that you can write or print on top of it.
A thoughtfully crafted letterhead design can be an effective tool to boost your brand and simply make a good impression on the people you’re communicating with. Most of the examples above stand out due to one thing they have in common:
They make creative use of branding elements like logos, icons, and color schemes. They find fresh ways to use these features to create a coordinated look that often spans across multiple print pieces like business cards and envelopes.
And you can do the same. Using these designs as inspiration, you’re already well on your way to a professional or personal letterhead that makes you or your business look good.