A white paper can serve as a powerful lead-generation tactic. This content marketing approach allows businesses to practice industry thought leadership by offering expert-approved content for current or prospective customers. 

But what about the way they look? A cohesive look and feel are what give brands personality, yes, but also accountability. Think of Coca-Cola or Apple– these brands are instantly recognizable, and that familiarity builds trust with the customer. The point is that maintaining consistency is crucial. That consistency then translates beyond just the look of the brand, and it sets the bar for the level of quality. If you were to take every page from your layout and put them next to each other, would they all make sense together? Your pages should follow a consistent design story. 

Cover Page

If you’ve been asked to design a cover page, start by brainstorming ideas that encapsulate the white paper topic and think about how these ideas can work within your brand guidelines. Your cover can serve as a starting point for the design direction your white paper takes. Think about the additional assets that will be used in this campaign. If you know you’ll be running ads, can the direction you took for the cover be implemented through the layout, accompanying ads, or landing page? It should be evident that each asset of the white paper campaign is part of an entire package. 

Interior Layout

Your introduction text is your opportunity to have fun with the layout. This sets the reader up, so treat its design the same way! You might let this text take a different shape than the body text. Maybe it lays against a colored background while the rest of your text is against white. Whatever you decide, you want to emphasize to the reader that this part is the beginning, so let it excite readers for what’s coming. People often judge a book by its cover, but your readers might judge your white paper by its first interior page. 

Content creation platform, Foleon, notes that human attention spans are only shortening, so we need to grab the reader’s attention faster than ever. Think about yourself when you scroll social media, visit a website, or read a magazine—If you’re bored with what you see, you’re moving on.

The part after your introduction, the “meat of your hamburger,” contains the most crucial piece of the white paper. This text deserves a different design treatment than the introduction text. You don’t want to distract the reader from the content, but you don’t want a boring layout. One cool thing about design is that it can encourage people to keep reading. It can reiterate the meaning of your content and keep the story flowing visually.

  • Separate text whenever possible and break down paragraphs into smaller paragraphs to add emphasis. You might find a single sentence in a section that seems essential or sums up the paragraph nicely – make that sentence stand out from its neighboring text. Remove it from the paragraph, enlarge the font, and embolden its words.
  • Put any numerical content that can be easily visualized in a graph. Not only is this easier on the eyes, but it can also help readers understand your point. Keep in mind throughout your designing process that one of your goals as the designer is to enhance the reader’s experience. 

Iconography and Photography

Adding images, icons, or anything alike effectively breaks up text for a more digestible read. Be selective about imagery or iconography—too much can look unprofessional, while too little can look empty. You don’t want your white paper pages to look like things were just thrown in to fill space, even if that’s exactly what you’re doing. 

The Conclusion 

Treat this section of the paper similarly to the introduction section. Most white papers have a call-to-action statement at this point of your white paper. If you want your reader to take the next step in your marketing funnel, you’ll want to make this part really eye-catching. Maybe the colors, shapes, or other design elements in your introduction are repeated here. How can you reiterate your designs used throughout the paper here as a close? This is your last chance to get the reader to act, so think about how you can make this final page a memorable visual experience. 


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