Your business stationery consists of letterhead and accompanying unprinted stock for additional pages, envelopes, mailing and shipping labels, note cards, business cards, and more. Each of these documents should be designed using a consistent layout -- meaning the same consistent "look."

In your written guidelines, show examples of each of these and set standards for how they should and should not be used. For example, you may want to restrict the use of your letterhead for non-business-related correspondence, or you may want to show exactly how letters or reports should be formatted. (We talk about setting up standard document templates below.)

You should address how each printed piece should be used. For example, if you have company note cards, you may want to describe the types of things those should be used for such as invitations to open houses, thank you notes, or other types of client communications.

Creating templates
By creating document templates for things like letters, memos, reports, proposals, and presentations, you can ensure a higher level of consistency for what leaves your office and finds its way to your customers. A template is simply a blank formatted file that has imbedded styles that can be used for each section of the document. For reports or proposals that have many similarly worded sections, standard introductions, or other areas that do not change, you can create a "boilerplate" type document that has these elements already entered correctly.

These documents should be saved as "templates" under the "save" "options" in your software program. By saving them as templates rather than just the regular document, you protect the original document. When you open a template, you get a new untitled document that is based on the original. It is very easy to forget to rename a new document and overwrite the original one if you're not using a template!

Formatted electronic masters
Other standard printed items include fax lead sheets, memos, and office forms. These documents can be set up in either word processing programs, or converted to PDF (Adobe's Portable Document Format) files that maintain the exact formatting you've set up. PDF documents can't be altered without the Adobe Acrobat Software, but can be read and printed with Adobe's free Acrobat Reader Software. This software can be downloaded from the Adobe Web site. If you don't have Adobe Acrobat to create these documents in, check with your software manufacturer or Adobe about exporting documents from your existing programs to the PDF format. It can be as simple as saving the file as a "PDF" or selecting a PDF option under your "print" command.

Create a library of documents
It is often helpful to have an established directory on your network or intranet (if you have one), or simply a diskette or CD-ROM that contains electronic logo files, formatted masters, and document templates for use by you and your employees. If you have a Web site, you can even have an unlinked or "hidden" download page that contains links to these documents for download. By setting it up this way, you can easily keep the documents updated when you update your Web site. To keep visitors from coming to the page, you can set up a password protected page. Your webmaster should be able to do this easily.

Regardless of how you distribute these documents, it is important to make sure you have them set up correctly, and that you and your employees know how to use them. Therefore, within that library it's a good idea to have files explaining "How to use electronic logo files," "How to use document templates," and "How to use document masters." You can even have a copy of your Identity Guidelines available for download.

There is also the option of putting the written guidelines and right on your Web site with links to downloadable documents, templates, and logos.