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Tips for Branded MS Word Documents

Tips for Branded MS Word Documents

To maintain brand consistency across all your communications it is essential you have a set of water-tight, consistent Word documents and templates for your users. But once you have distributed them, how do you ensure your carefully crafted templates are used consistently and your users don’t start making things up as they go along!

Well, by thinking of every eventuality — make it easy for them to use your brand font by having the right one set as default — change the theme colours to your brand colour palette — these are just a few examples!


1. Page size

Before you do anything, set the page size to your desired print size and orientation and consider creating templates for all intended sizes — A4, A5, A3, landscape and portrait for example.

2. Language

Another tip before you set up your template — cut out the mix of English US and English UK spellings by setting the default language to your desired language for all new documents. Select Tools > Language, find and select *your language*, THEN click the ‘Default’ button. Now all your documents will use the correct spelling when autocorrect steps in and when spellchecking.

3. Margins

Are the documents intended for screen only? Or will they be printed, punched and filed away? Change the left margin for the document’s intended use. Use the same right, top and bottom margins for all your templates to maintain consistency.

4. Colour

For brand colour palette consistency in your templates and documents use RGB values or Hex colour references in Word. These should be in your brand guidelines. If not ask your designer or agency for them. There are options to use CMYK or HSB values but I’ve found them to be inconsistent.

I find it useful to make a one page pdf of a company’s brand colour palette from their brand guidelines and keep a short cut to it for easy reference (remember to replace if your brand guidelines are updated). Additionally, you can save all your brand colours into the empty swatch spaces in Word for future use to save retyping all the values each time.

Have you ever placed an image into Word that is made up of a colour from your brand palette and wondered why it doesn’t quite match the very same colour you have created in Word? Well… it’s a bit technical — but this is why!

First let me explain that colour image files use different colour modes depending on their purpose. The two common ones are RGB for screen, i.e. made of light — Red, Green and Blue, and CMYK for print — named after the 4 inks that make up a colour image — Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black or Keyline. Word can not import CMYK image files, only RGB or greyscale ones.

So this is the scenario, a jpg or png file, a logo for example, will be provided to you. This logo was created from CMYK vector artwork, in Adobe Illustrator probably. The original artwork will contain CMYK values that use your brand colour palette and is best used for print. The artwork will then be exported as an RGB file and supplied to you for Microsoft Office or screen use. But, when the colours are changed from CMYK to RGB it is extremely unlikely they will match the RGB values in your brand guidelines exactly. Vector artwork in RGB should be set up using the RGB values specified in the brand guidelines and then exported as RGB jpg or png files. This will then avoid colour mismatch when the RGB file is placed in Word alongside your text and objects using the same colour.

To demonstrate this, in the image below the logo on the right was exported as an RGB png file from CMYK Illustrator artwork, resulting in a mis-match of colour. The logo on the left was exported from RGB Illustrator artwork and matches the square box created in Word perfectly. Some colours are worse than others so this particularly consistency problem will not always be apparent, other times it will stick out like a sore thumb!

Another colour tip — take advantage of Office’s theme colours — you can customise these and make them your brand colour palette. To do this create a new theme colour in PowerPoint and save it. This colour theme is then available in Word when you create a new document from your template by choosing ‘New from template’. Your saved colour theme will be available to choose from the top of the colour list. You could even go as far as distributing this theme throughout your organisation to ensure all new documents by all users use the correct brand colours.

5. Fonts

Ensure you use the correct font from your brand guidelines. A universal font, such as Arial or Calibri, is usually recommended as it is available on all computers using Office apps. Ensure all headings and other styles use this font only.

You can even set the default font to your brand font by selecting Format > Font, choose your desired font THEN click the ‘Default’ button. This will change the global template on your computer so all new documents will now use this font for all styles. You can then distribute this ‘Normal’ template throughout your organisation to ensure all new documents by all users use the correct font.

You can even edit the styles, add boilerplate text, and change any other settings required as standard for your brand. To locate and edit the Normal template navigate to Preferences > File Locations > User templates.

6. Headers and Footers

For repeated information use the Header and Footer function, e.g. logos, rules, page numbers, section headings, etc. Use the exact same footer wherever possible for all your templates for consistency.

Use the Header and Footer tab in Word for greater control; you can create a different first page to create a cover for the document and each section, change the margins, link or unlink the section to the previous — handy if you have a different header but the same footer as the previous section. Remember to place the cursor in the header for the header options and footer for footer options — they are independent of each other.

7. Styles

Use styles for EVERY format change. Give them consistent, simple names so they are easy for the user to navigate through in the Ribbon or Formatting Palette.

Use paragraph styles for headings and whole paragraph formatting. Use character styles for individual word formatting, e.g. bold-up a word and make it red. If you create a style for every conceivable format occurrence in your template you will avoid users adding or creating their own styles leading to inconsistency in your assets. For example, it’s very useful to create a bulleted paragraph style with custom image or colour and symbol.

Styles can indicate change of font, point size, case, colour, paragraph, tab, indent, border, bullet type, numbered list type, line spacing. You can even create a default table style with your brand colours and then create paragraph and character styles for the table text.

In addition, you now have access to auto Table of Contents creation as the TOC uses Styles. No more messing about with page numbers the TOC automatically creates them AND updates them.

Additional tip, if your style uses white text do not use the Theme colour white, or it will show as white in the Ribbon and Formatting Palette preview, i.e. invisible! Create the colour white as a new colour instead and the style will now show as black in the preview.

Styles are THE most important feature of Word for achieving consistency across your comms. Give clear instructions in the template telling the user which style to use and where.

8. Alignment

Go to Format > Picture > Layout, click ‘Advanced’ for absolute control over where your objects sit on the page — ensure your icons, logos, text boxes, etc, sit in exactly the same place if they are repeated throughout your document for consistency. To create a consistent top margin — ensure all the elements and text are positioned in the same place at the top of each page throughout the document instead of floating up and down.

9. Sizing

Logo use — use the size appropriate for the document size — refer to your brand guidelines. If not supplied, I would advise asking your agency or designer for a set of jpgs and png files sized for A5, A4 and A3 use so you don’t have to work out how much to scale the file by.

Imagery — use the same proportions for all your images. By using the same ratio your images will not look randomly placed on the page. Go to Format > Format Picture > Size and Crop to position the image that shows it off to its best. Alternatively, if you have placed imagery into the template for example use, you can right click on the image and choose ‘Change Picture’, then go back to Crop and adjust the offset x and y values for the best position within the picture frame.

10. Appearance

Stay as close to your brand guidelines for designed literature as possible.

Ask your designer or agency for a suite of additional image elements for your templates — intricate lines, logo devices, icons, etc.

Refer to your brand guidelines for layout devices when designing a page with imagery, call out boxes and text, for a case study page for example.

Use the same ‘Space above and below’ measurements for paragraphs that your designed literature uses, use the same heading styles too.

If there is an element of typography that is consistent across all the templates and you need to create more impact than the default font will give you, ask your designer to create this using the corporate font and drop it into the header or footer of your template as a jpg or png.

Hopefully these tips will go a little way to making your comms complement your suite of designed assets instead of being the poor cousin!

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Akin Babatunde is the CEO of Globaltech, a friendly world class company offering innovative and cost-effective solutions to start-up, small and medium scale businesses in the following areas - Online Advertising, Internet Marketing, Graphic Designs/Printing/Corporate Stationery Designs/Publishing, Writing/Editing Services, Webdesign and Web development. Akin is the author of the book "THE INTERNET: a town square for the global village.

About Akin Babatunde

Akin Babatunde is the CEO of Globaltech, a friendly world class company offering innovative and cost-effective solutions to start-up, small and medium scale businesses in the following areas - Online Advertising, Internet Marketing, Graphic Designs/Printing/Corporate Stationery Designs/Publishing, Writing/Editing Services, Webdesign and Web development. Akin is the author of the book "THE INTERNET: a town square for the global village.

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