Saturday, June 29, 2013

Designing Fabulous Sponsor Emails

As a graphic design artist, I love creating special letters with visual interest and delight for my kids, and it comes naturally for me.  While I love creating my own designs, it is time consuming, and isn't something that I can do for making personalized photos for nearly 30 children... at least not on a consistent basis.  However, by utilizing some online photo sites, great photos can be designed in minutes with impressive results.  If you can navigate your sponsor account to write emails and upload photos, then I can guarantee that you can use these tips to design extraordinary photos for your emails!

Not only do I make fun photos for uploading into my emails, but I've also used the designs for making posters for sending to my kids.  Later I will share some poster ideas, but for now I want to share some simple tips for creating fabulous designs for your emails, whether your child is with Compassion or World Vision.  Both of these organizations offer email template forms to choose from, but even so, the choices are limited, and after a number of emails to your child, you begin wondering how to make them look different.  I've found the easiest way is to coordinate the template designs with my own photo to which I have added a great design of its own.

First of all, add a predesigned frame to your picture on a free photo site such as Loonapix.  I totally appreciate the efforts of other graphic designers in making all of these!  They have tons to choose from, and I have found many that work with my photos and email templates.  You can find great seasonal frames, and make sure to check out the "travel" and "other" sectionals as well for some great frames.  There are even some fun cartoon frames in the kids' section that your kids might enjoy, such as this Mickey Mouse design, or the Cinderella princess, or Cars...

If you sponsor with World Vision, the whole photo will upload, no matter what the shape... square, rectangle, or whether portrait or landscape orientation.  This is one nice feature of their templates that I especially appreciate.  Sometimes all that I want to use is a single portrait photo, and it works well with the WV template.  Here is one of my favorite photo frames, the white tiger design in a setting that looks like the Pacific Northwest where I live, minus the white tiger, of course...  (but we do have lots of bald eagles...)

See how the plain white basic letter was instantly made into a letter with great visual interest?!  Now you have an open door to endless possibilities for creating interesting email designs, rather than being limited to the handful of template choices that are offered.  I'm very thankful that they offer a blank template so that I don't have to use one of the designs they offer, as those designs don't work for me for anything I want to do.  Yay for plain white!!

Now for my Compassion emails, with a little bit of planning, I can come up with some really great variations for the email templates. Compassion offers quite a number of different choices already, some of them which are quite nice, but even so, after a number of email letters to my kids, I'm ready for some variety.

There are two things that I have to keep in mind when doing photos for my Compassion emails.  First of all, since I don't have the choice of a plain white background, I need to make my photo design work with one of the templates.  Fortunately there are a few templates which work quite well, and I can make some of the others work for me.  The blue linen template will obviously go with many different designs, such as with this seashell design,

or this tropical scene...

but let me show you how to coordinate with some of the other designs.

For example, picking up on the blues and greens, I used the blue birthday present template, and this letter doesn't have to be anything about birthdays.  I can write about how their recent letter was a very special gift for me.  :o)  The letter now can be about celebration... celebrating an achievement of your child, or celebrating the new letter, or just celebrating him or her!  This template can work for a lot of different photo frame designs in blues and greens, such as this fun tropical fish design...

Or if you do want a birthday themed letter, but want something different, here is a fun party photo frame to use with the birthday presents templates, though I've also used this frame for a celebration theme letter that had nothing to do with birthdays.  I love the way the stripes and circles, pinks and greens all coordinate.  It's like this template was designed for this photo frame!

Coordinate the photo design with the colors of the template, such as the blues, greens, and yellows of this dolphin photo frame.  This makes such a fun looking letter, and with the dolphins and fish of the photo, the very young juvenile template design was upgraded for something that can be used for other age groups, because now the focus is on the dolphin photo frame, and the alligator/zebra design becomes an accent.

This seashore themed photo design would look great in the blue linen template, but it also works well in this dandelion design by picking up on the different colors, and all together, it produces a very pleasing design.

This design also illustrates the second factor to keep in mind:  the photos are restricted to a particular ratio size, so most photos get cropped somewhere on the top or bottom to fit this size.

The photo design I used here worked very easily, but others will usually have some part of the main design trimmed off.  For example, this world travel design started out like this...

but I had to choose whether to trim off the top or the bottom to make it fit the photo rectangle on the template.  I'm very pleased with the finished look, however, combining it with the beige world map template.  This is where the rather plain, boring email design works to our advantage as the backdrop for all kinds of interesting photo frames, and together they look great!  :o)

Along with planning for the photo to crop, we also need to plan for the positioning of the person's face in the photo frame, as sometimes these get cropped again when placing into the email template. My head fit in the Mickey Mouse design shown at the beginning, but when I put it into the email template, I chose to crop the top of my head rather than cropping Mickey and Goofy's feet. Sometimes I've had to go back to Loonapix and reposition my picture so that it would fit better with the final cropping in the email.

The yellow circles template is one of my favorites, and works well for many different photo designs in reds, yellows, or golds, such as the gorgeous poppies here...

...or for autumn themed letters where you don't want to be limited to just the fall leaves template design.  I love these variations on autumn photo designs, such as the musical autumn design...

...or the autumn girl on the swing.  Here the green map template is used for another alternative to the yellow circles or the autumn leaves.

Here is another simple favorite, coordinating the yellow dandelions with the yellow daisies in the photo frame, and all picking up on the delightful little white daisies in the grass of the original photo...

I've used this dragonfly template quite a bit, and it's one of my favorites.  Here I can coordinate it with a rather dynamic "on the lake" photo frame, which creates an emphasis on the action of the photo rather than my face, and also picks up on the lily pads of both the photo frame and the Monet painting I was working on.

Or I could use the sweet spring birds template (another favorite!) to use with the pink Paris photo frame.

Winter emails can be a bit tricky sometimes when it's past Christmas and you only want a winter themed letter.  Here are a few nice options, starting with the snowflake template (which is fabulous, in my opinion!)  It sets off any colorful winter design nicely, such as this winter forest design...

And while the snowflake template works well for many, if not most designs, the blue linen template is also a great choice.  Look through the Christmas, New Years, and Winter designs to find ones that are for winter in general, such as this one of kids and snowman...

And finally, one more tip... only use one photo frame design per email letter.  One or two other regular photos can be added if they coordinate, but definitely don't add other designed photo frames. Keep it simple!

Well, that should get you started in exploring the delightful possibilities for your email letters.  And don't forget to surprise your kids by doing this with their own pictures and adding them to some of your emails... they will love it!



  1. I love it!I'm gonna try some of these!!And can I say, I love the little pink star things whenever I move my mouse!:)

    1. Yay! That makes me happy... enjoy making your special photos/emails... :o)

  2. These are simply beautiful Deb! I would like to showcase your ideas in a future post, using a couple of thumbnail images pointing my readers to here. Is that ok?

    Also... aren't you lady from OC who has seen great results from narration? I was thinking about you just recently - of course I didn't realise it was you until I saw your pic. I'd love to do a post about that sometime, too. Have you posted about narration on your blog?

    I'm enjoying making pink swirly patterns with my mouse too. :)

    1. Thanks so much And yes, I'm the one who wrote on OC about helping my kids to learn to narrate in their letters. I'll be writing a blog post about it soon! And yes, that's fine to showcase some of my ideas and link them back here. <3

  3. Hi Deb, this is the link. I couldn't choose which one I liked the most (they're all fabulous! :) ) so bundled a few together into the one graphic. Hope that's ok.

    1. Thanks for sharing my ideas... I hope that they will inspire many other sponsors!

  4. Wow. I saw your design ideas via Paper Gifts for Estefany. Thanks so much for sharing. These are very inspiring and I will some out.