Project: Professional Document Design


In professional writing, what you say is just as important as how you say it.  In other words, the design of a professional document has an immeasurable effect on how an audience receives and responds to its content.  After understanding the principles of document design, professional writers can use design to set tone and mood, influence understanding, highlight important points, and increase the overall usability and professionalism of a document.   


During this project cycle, you will learn and practice principles of document design.  Then, you will use your skills to develop a set of documents specifically designed for a client 



The Context


You:  Imagine that you are an independent professional writing consultant.  You have been hired by a client to design a set of documents for their organization. 


Your Client:  Your client must be a real business, company, non-profit, or other organization (sports, club, social, religious, etc.)  This real client may be established, or it may be a business “idea” that you or someone you know has.  You may choose whatever business or organization you wish, but be sure that you have a very clear idea of what your client values, their business or services, their audience, membership, employees, etc. 


You are advised against choosing a client with an established visual identity or document set. If you are thinking of a business or organization with a great logo, visual identity, and document set, it may be very difficult for you to think of improvements and changes to incorporate into your redesign.  For that reason, it is best to choose a client who has no visual identity. 


You do not need to actually speak to a client; you only need to know their general purpose and audience. For example, you might know of an independent (not a chain) beauty salon, a family owned restaurant, or a place of worship. If you’ve visited the place of “business,” you are likely to understand the businesses purpose and target audience.




For this project, you must compose a set of 7 items/documents for your client.   Your aim is to create an appropriate visual identity for your client and design documents that adhere to the standards of that visual identity.


1) style guide – you must compose and design a 1 to 2 page (8 x 11 size) style guide for your client that outlines and identifies constituent elements (perhaps including primary, secondary, tertiary fonts, typography, colors, symbols, etc.)


Note: while you do not have to develop a logo per se, you are encouraged to develop something simple. Stylized logotypes are often a simple choice because they use the business name, and acronym, or simply a letter as the basis for the logo.


2) letterhead


3) business card – 2” by 3.5” standard size


4) direct mail advertisement – This document should be a potential or existing client/member direct mailing.  This direct mail should provide an introduction to your organization or business, sell a product or service, or advertise a meeting.  Be sure to include all appropriate contact information.  Generally, half page size is appropriate and you may use both sides if you choose.


5) informational brochure – This document should be a bi- or tri-fold brochure that provides detailed information about your organization, business, or non-profit targeted to potential clients or members.  The purpose is to provide information about the organization, including any relevant details that a potential client or member needs to know.  Consider including details about the organization’s purpose, membership, location, activities, products or services, contact information, frequently asked questions, etc. Alternately, you may design a brochure that advertises a special event for the business or organization.


6)  client’s choice – Select an appropriate “other” document for your client, based on their needs.  For example, if your client is a restaurant, you may want to design a few menu pages.   If your client is in the service industry, you might design another brochure with a list of services, prices, and perhaps short descriptions.  Depending on your client, consider a newsletter, donation or membership form, or website front page.


7)  memo - You should write a memo (no more than two pages) that discusses the design choices that you’ve made in composing and designing the documents.  Some ideas: Discuss the design elements that were particularly important in your documents (color, alignment, font, etc.), discuss how you’ve given your client a coherent, meaningful visual identity, etc. 


Additionally, in your memo, please briefly explain how you developed your logo or stylized logotype. Please mention software -- particularly software other than Word -- and very briefly explain how you "built" your logo (inspired by existing logo, designed in layers, used gradients, etc.). Also, please be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge of software applications in class, if asked.




Additional Guidelines & Notes:


·       Any templates you use may not have any formatting besides cut or fold lines. In other words, the template may not have preformatted columns, text boxes, spacing or anything else that might be considered a design element. The Avery business card template listed below, under the “resources” heading, is an example of a permitted template. Because this is a design assignment, use anyone else’s formatting is considered plagiarism.

·       You may use the software other than Microsoft Word or LibreOffice/OpenOffice to design a logotype or to design your documents.  Permitted software includes Photoshop, Publisher, Illustrator, GIMP, Scribus,, or Inkscape. (If you’d like to use a program not listed here, please let me know so that I can check out.)  You may not use any of the templates included with the programs or any templates available online. Please see the acceptable templates here. Additionally, please note that you may be asked to turn in proprietary or specialized file types and/or demonstrate your knowledge of these programs.

·       Also know It that specialized understanding of software is not required to get a good grade on this project. In fact, I found that sometimes, designers with lots of skill in Photoshop, for example, have a tendency to overdesign their logotypes or documents.

·       If you want to incorporate images into your documents, you must use legal images. While lots of sites offer “free” images, they often come with disclaimers that the images are not allowed to be used in for-profit ventures. If your client is for-profit, you will not be able to use these images. To repeat, you may not use random images you found online -- they must be legal. Be prepared to present your source.

·       While you are encouraged to browse online resources about visual identity and branding, look at examples, and yes, take a look at some templates, you may not plagiarize any of the materials that you find. You can certainly see what you like and dislike, and even use existing designs as inspiration, but you may not re-create the design and call it your own. You must create your own designs. If you aren’t sure about whether you might be relying on an existing resource too much, please ask!



Project 3 Resources


You are strongly encouraged to read and browse first. There are a number of resources online that describe visual identity and branding. Additionally, lots of these resources analyze existing brands and discuss target audience, effectiveness, and other important elements.


There are a few good resources linked at



Tentative Grading Criteria / Rubric



Guidelines for Project Submission


Due Monday, October 25th. Submission guidelines TBA.