How to protect your brand with Word: An introduction to building Word templates.

12 months ago by

Our Friends at Timplates have shared a few helpful tips for any designers or studios looking to help their clients integrate their branding across Word and PowerPoint.

The article is proudly sponsored by Timplates.

Come along to their free online webinar on 14 June where you’ll delve into the world of Word templates, and how they can help businesses look after the brands you’ve created for them, all in the context of a high-speed Letterhead template demonstration build.


Over ten years ago we put our Pantone books away, updated our version of Office 10 and set ourselves up to
exclusively design and build Word and PowerPoint templates. We weren’t sure if it would work, but it seemed
worth a try.


At first the appeal was to work out how designs could be effectively recreated in Word and PowerPoint. Each
project was like a puzzle, teaching us something new. A lot of templates have crossed our desks since then, but
the learning curve is still there. The enjoyment now comes out of understanding users template requirements and
ensuring the templates we make can most effectively protect your brand.

How does a template fit into a branding suite?


Some of the most common comments we hear in client briefings are: “Can you help us prevent our staff from re-
using previous presentations and documents?”, “how can we stop people getting creative with the colours and
fonts?” or “Last week a file went out with a reference to a previous client – disaster!”. Our solution is to make
templates that are intuitive, look beautiful and that staff want to use.

Women opening Microsoft Word on her laptop

An effective branded template will have the correct corporate colours and fonts and will lead the user through the
process of populating a document or presentation. There are ways to lock templates to prevent users straying
from that path, but we find this leads to frustration, so we prefer to make the experience as pleasant as possible
and encourage people to ‘do the right thing’.


A good template enables staff to successfully use their own brand. Often templating is part of a re-brand project
and we’ll run training sessions in conjunction with the launch to show staff how easy it is to create a beautiful
presentation or report that shows off their new brand. This can be a source of pride and a way for staff to
immerse themselves in their corporate identity.


All of the templates we’ve built have been branded in some form or other. Despite how uncomfortably Microsoft
may seem to sit in a branding studio, a client you’ve just created a new brand for is, at some point, likely to want
to drop their (your!) logo into the top of a report or presentation. Staying one step ahead ensures that not only the
company you’ve just rebranded, but you as a designer, won’t be let down by a bad design application.

The build
Image of Microsoft Word document

So how do you build a template? We’ve tried to standardise this, but it turns out that every template has its own requirements. We’ve found the most effective way to plan a build is from the end backwards. As with a design brief, we try to understand how and where the template will be used and who will use it, which then determines the build pathways we will take. 

For example: a large insurance company with several agents using templates ‘on the road’, will need something that is largely pre-populated, that leads them through the document and is robust enough to work in a range of different environments. A boutique company with just a few staff, all working in one location on current Office 365 subscriptions will be able to use a more complex template with custom fonts, less direction and all the functionality tools that come with Word.

When we’ve worked out what sort of template you need and what it needs to do, the basic building blocks of any template build are:

  • the file format (save as dotx for Word, and potx for PowerPoint)
  • brand fonts and colours, this is done by saving a custom theme from PowerPoint, or Word on a PC
  • Margins, page layouts and type styles
  • Sample content, including instructional copy, preferably not Lorem Ipsum as that creates a sea of spelling mistakes with auto correct.

The roll-out


The build is only part of the process. Not only does template distribution impact how a template is built, it also effects how easily they can be used. The most effective method is to make templates accessible on everyone’s computers, so people can start a document afresh. For larger companies this will require an effective IT department to manage. Accessing templates from a shared drive or online document management system is a simple method of distribution but requires users to download the templates, so it’s susceptible to the original issue of being over-saved. There are also third-party software solutions that provide enhanced user access.

The follow up


Finally, the handover. No matter how fabulous and simple a template is, people use Word differently and even advanced users may be unaware of some Word features. A short handover with key stakeholders is often enough to cover off requirements.
The experiment we started all those years ago has proven to be successful. We now have a close-knit studio of like-minded template designers and builders. The connection between branding and templating has become more obvious to us with each template we build, and we know that the more you learn, the more you realise there is to find out.


For more details about how to build a simple Word template, join our online workshop happening on 14 June.

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