Are you worried that your white papers aren’t getting the attention they deserve?
In the business world, a white paper means an in-depth informational report that explains a complex concept or provides a persuasive solution to a problem. White papers can be extremely valuable documents to educate your stakeholders and prospective customers–when they’re interesting enough to actually read.
Unfortunately, designing a white paper can seem like a lot to take on if you’re not much of a designer. That’s why it’s good to start with a with a white paper template. Not only will you save resources by doing it yourself, but you’ll also gain the confidence of being able to create engaging, highly informative reports yourself. Not a bad skill to have!
Here are 10 white paper examples and design tips to set you on the right path.
White papers tend to pack a ton of information within their pages. But in reality, many people aren’t going to take the time to read the whole paper word for word.
Try highlighting a few key takeaways that will get them excited about reading your white paper. Or outline exactly what they will trade their time to learn about.
As you can see in this white paper example, there’s a whole section that highlights the key takeaways in the report. Because it’s right on the front page, it’s hard to miss, which is a nice touch.
2. Use bright color accents to create a hierarchy of information
Color isn’t just for decoration. A boldly colored header can make the beginning of a new section clear, while a bright arrow can direct the eye to an important point.
Look for places where you can add pops of color to your page design. Bold colors are one of this year’s biggest design trends and adding them can make your design look fresh and up to date.
In this white paper example, bold colors make the cover eye-catching, while the color accents throughout the pages categorize and emphasize information.
3. Make your page numbers stand out so your white paper is easy to scan
There’s a good chance readers are going to want to skip ahead to specific sections of your white paper that interest them. That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure that your page numbers are easy to read.
You can make your page numbers pop by using a colored block as a background, and by using a bold font. Plus, using decorative fonts for small accents like this will give your white paper a unique design edge.
Take a look at the page numbers in this white paper:
4. Pick high-quality photos with a consistent style
Try not to reach for the first cheesy stock photo you see–they’re not fooling anyone. Photo, icons, and illustrations can play an important role in how effectively our white paper communicate your information.
Don’t just use images for decoration. Instead, use photos to illustrate important concepts, to make information easier to understand, and to convey a mood. For example, this white paper uses bright, colorful photos to engage and excite readers:
5. Pull key quotes and make them stand out
This is a tactic you see used a lot in magazines and news publications. Pull particularly impactful and persuasive quotes and make them stand out from the rest of the text.
You can emphasize quotes by using a bigger font, or a different font from the rest of your body text. Not only will this draw readers’ eyes to the quotes, it also gives your page design more visual variation. This white paper example even uses a different color to really help them stand out:
Creating a white paper that’s easy to get through is incredibly important. Too many people forget this core principle and end up creating something that reads like a college textbook. No one wants to read that…just ask any college student.
An easy way to bring attention to points is to use an icon, like in the white paper example above. The colorful ink stands out against the neutral background. This is an easy way to direct the reader’s eyes.
This white paper example uses icons as bullet points that illustrate each section, as you can see above!
7. Use a neutral color scheme for a sleek and modern white paper design
A lot of white papers introduce new technology or explain tech-based solutions to problems. A white paper design with a sleek, modern and minimalist feel will likely appeal to tech enthusiasts.
Pick a neutral background color like white or beige. Then, pick an accent color and create a color scheme using shades of that color.
You could also opt to simply stick to grey tones, like in this white paper example:
8. Use creative illustrations that reflect the theme of your white paper
Does your white paper cover seasonal strategies? Have you used a creative motif throughout your white paper to make it more engaging (for example, a fishing motif to “hook” new customers)?
Incorporate that theme into your white paper design! Look for icons that illustrate your theme and pick a color scheme that readers will associate with the season, industry, or products.
For example, this holiday design guide uses festive icons and a recognizable holoday color scheme for a fun and thematic design:
9. Use a variety of charts and graphs to communicate data clearly
It’s easy to want to fall back on standard bar graphs and pie charts. But looking at too many of the same types of graphs can make you go cross-eyed.
Vary the types of data visualizations you use based on the type of information. For example, use maps for geographical information, or use pictograms to compare population sizes. You could also use infographics to summarize important sections.
Whatever data visualization you choose, just make sure it’s a type that will make your data easier to understand, not more confusing.
10. Dedicate pages to particularly important points
The primary goal of your white paper should be to educate readers. But you also want to strike a balance between being informative and entertaining.
If there is a central point that you want readers to remember, you may want to dedicate an entire page to that one point and an accompanying image to help drive the message home.
Pages like this should be used sparingly. That being said, they can deliver some real impact to readers.
Take this white paper that dedicates a page to an evocative quote and photo:
11. Open your white paper with a boldly colored glossary
Like any design project, it’s important to start off on the right foot. You can do this by creating a glossary for your white paper. Think of it as a map that outlines exactly what your white paper will cover.
In this example, you can see that the designers used a bold color to bring attention to the glossary. This ensures that it will be seen by a reader, and actually used to navigate the content. If you make your white paper design engaging, a lot more people are going to want to read it.
Try using a full-page color fill (like in this white paper example) for your glossary. Otherwise, readers may miss it when quickly flipping through the pages.
Visualizing information or data isn’t limited to just graphs added throughout your white paper. Sometimes a classic table will get the job done, like in this example.
As you can see, the designers used a table to organize key points and takeaways from each main section.
On this page, it helps to bring attention to the key takeaways. Even if they said the same thing in the conclusion paragraph to the left, this information will stick out in the reader’s memory
And the people skimming through your content will be drawn directly to these simple visualizations. Mainly, because they stick out like a sore thumb!
13. Feature a hard to miss Call To Action
Adding a call to action (CTA) to your blog posts is almost a no-brainer these days. It’s very easy to add a link, and it doesn’t take much to get someone to click on that link. Also, there’s not a lot of friction that would prevent them from proceeding to a landing page or offer.
Now, on something like a white paper or ebook, it can be a bit difficult to include CTAs in a way that feels natural. And there can be a ton of friction with these types of content…so some people just omit them completely.
However, a call to action is a great way to activate your readers at the end of a white paper. This CTA doesn’t have to be a direct link or button, like in the example above. But it should point them towards an easy web page to visit or email address to reach out to.
14. Conclude your white paper with a little bit of info about your company
At Venngage, we add a footer with our logo on every infographic we create for our site. So if someone wants to learn more about our company, they can easily find it. This tactic is like a subtle call to action for the most interested people.
You can use this approach, like they did in the white paper template above. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy–your motto, like below, will work just fine.
If you’re planning on sharing this far and wide, that information could have a huge impact as well. And by the time it has been forwarded around, people are going to have no clue where it came from.
So use this section to remind them.
15. Vary the color, fonts, and styles of your headers
You can create a hierarchy by using a different font or color for your headers and sub-headers. This also helps give your page design more variety.
In this example, they use different fonts and colors for each level of header. This helps make the distinction between main and sub-headers more noticeable.
Your main design goal should be to create a white paper that’s engaging to readers and easy to navigate. When you are working with this much text, it’s important to make it easy to skim through.
16. Create a simple but striking cover for your white paper
A great white paper cover intrigues readers without overwhelming them. It piques their interest but doesn’t reveal too much about the information within.
This white paper combines an artfully shot background photo with a simple title box. The design has a calm tone that reflects the feel of a tea business.
17. Emphasize important numbers using visuals
When putting together your white paper, there are probably some key numbers you want to highlight. Design your pages to put the emphasis on those numbers you don’t want readers to miss.
One easy way to do this is to feature those numbers in big, bold text. Like this white paper example that presents some key site metrics in big green text:
Unlike one-page reports where you have to fit a lot of information into a small space, white paper allow for more freedom to spread information out. That will allow you to create page designs with plenty of white space.
In the design world, white space is the empty space around design elements on the page. Leaving some room for your text and images to breathe will help your design look less cluttered.
Check out how this example uses plenty of white space on nearly every page. The result is an organized and modern white paper design.
19. Break chapters or sections into separate columns
Dividing your page into columns is a good way to organize your information and save space on the page. For example, in the white paper above, the Overview and the beginning of Chapter 1 are organized neatly into their own columns.
This makes it easy to jump from one point to the next, without getting lost.
20. Include an eye-catching header image
Another simple way to make your content easy to navigate is to use a header image for each section, like in the white paper template above. An image breaks up the text at the beginning of each section, signaling a topic change.
Think of how boring a white paper would be with no images to break up the text and illustrate ideas. No one would make it past the first couple of sections!
21. Include a question on the front page
Speaking directly to your readers can really grab their attention. Asking a question can get them to want to actually read your white paper.
In this white paper example, a simple question to the reader introduces what the report will cover. The designers even bolded it so it was the first thing readers would see!
Now they could have just said “We are going to cover Topic X” on the cover. But that doesn’t place their white paper in the perspective of the person it’s meant to help–the reader.
On the other hand, when you address a common problem people in your niche face, that will pique their interest.
22. Vary your page layouts to keep readers engaged
When people look at the same thing over and over again, it can cause visual fatigue. Their eyes glaze over and their attention drifts.
Varying your page layout will help keep readers engaged by going against their expectation. When the eyes have something new to look at, it’s easier to stay engaged.
This white paper template uses a few different page layouts. One page may have a featured image, another a large quote, and the next only including written content. This layout makes the white paper feel fresh and interesting.
23. Include a bio about the author in the white paper
Publishing a white paper can be a great way to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry. That’s why you don’t want to forget to include an author bio!
Take this white paper example that includes the author bio at the beginning. The bio is great because it can explain why people should trust you about this topic. What’s more, the photo will make the whole thing a lot more personable. Instead of looking like it was published by a faceless corporation.
Use these white paper examples to create a design that reflects your brand
Use these white paper examples as springboards for your own unique and brand-appropriate designs. Think about who your audience is and what their expectations will be. Then create a white paper design that will position your brand as the perfect response to their questions.
You might also be interested in some of these helpful design guides: