Rainbow Valley Ranch (external link) is a not-for-profit organization that supports individuals labeled with developmental disabilities who have chosen Christian Science as their way of life.
I wear several different hats in putting together the RVR newsletter: in addition to doing the design and layout, I also develop the theme for each issue, write the introduction and occasionally other articles, solicit and edit additional content from other people involved in the organization, and take photos at events and activities that I attend as a volunteer chaperone.
New masthead and editorial bar
Previous issues of the newsletter sometimes included a name and at other times used a quotation or theme as a title. The new name “Reflections” was chosen to express the dual meaning of reflected light and ideas being thought about and shared, and is now used consistently.
An expanded editorial bar includes contact information for RVR such as email, phone, and social media links, as well as staff and board member names.
Giving the masthead and editorial bar a consistent appearance and location in the newsletter helped create visual unity from one issue of the newsletter to the next and made it easier for readers to reliably find basic info about the organization.
New layout, fonts, and colors
Designed a new flexible layout built on a grid to organize and optimize the placement of text and images.
New fonts were to chosen to be readable and look professional.
Articles typically spanned 2–3 columns to make the lines a comfortable length for reading.
Used white space to create natural separation between articles, rather than surrounding text with lines and borders, to give the newsletter a less cluttered and more open appearance and allowing the reader’s eye to more easily travel across the page.
Increased the visual impact of the newsletter with large photos that help balance the articles and other text areas.
Minimized the application of colored backgrounds to text areas. Although the newsletter is printed in color, the high contrast between black text on a white background is easier to read. A white background also uses less ink and lets the color photos take center stage.
Color was used primarily as accents, in the masthead and logo, drop caps, pull quotes, and recurring info.
Content that inspires and engages
RVR is an organization built on the loving interaction between people, and nothing shows this better than photos.
The goal of all the content created for and included in the newsletter is to strengthen the network of support that RVR is to many people. Articles that share the specific activities and concrete steps that RVR is taking to support individuals working through the claims of developmental disabilities give readers a reason to be involved, to make a donation, or to share the newsletter with others who would benefit from knowing or supporting RVR.
The newsletter is an expression of gratitude, an opportunity to acknowledge and publicly thank the people and groups who help RVR make a difference. This gratitude has a ripple effect, strengthening the relationship between RVR and its donors and supporters, and also encouraging others to be involved.
When the president and board members give talks or introduce RVR to new people and groups, the newsletter is a natural leave behind. Including a list of services and mentioning that RVR is a not-for-profit organization are especially useful for first-time readers, and a good reference and reminder for returning readers.