Several things must be decided when designing a bulletin:
• Page size. The size most commonly used by drug bulletins is A4, but a few use other sizes (e.g. the pocket-sized Drugs Bulletin from Chandigarh, India);
• Number of pages. This will depend on the type of information in the bulletin and the frequency of publication. Many independent bulletins have 2 or 4 pages and contain perhaps 2 to 4 articles, while some are around 80 pages long, and are divided into several different sections (e.g. la revue Prescrire, France: http://www.prescrire.org/; Dialogo sui Farmaci, Italy: http://www.dialogosuifarmaci.it/);
• Choice of paper, including colour and weight (thickness); new or recycled paper. This affects the cost of producing the bulletin;
• Use of colour printing. Colour can be used in many different ways. A single colour can be used to highlight boxes or headings, or to give a tinted background. Adding a single colour will probably not add much to the cost of printing. The choice of colour may be important. For example, yellow is used to colour headings in Spain’s adverse drug reaction bulletin, Butlleti Groc (“Yellow Bulletin”):
All these features when combined and applied in a publication create its identity. Unless you have the necessary knowledge and experience to design a bulletin, it is best to work with a designer. The designer can create a template for the bulletin, defining the number of columns, the width of the columns and page margins. The designer can also develop the style and position of the permanent features, such as the name of the bulletin (the masthead), the date, issue number, page numbers, and contents list, and define the size and type of font to use for the text and for headings. A template makes it possible to know how many words fit into a page, so that the text can be edited to the right length.
There is value in reviewing the style and format of other bulletins before meeting with the designer. This helps you to communicate what you like and do not like in different designs. Readers will become familiar with the bulletin’s appearance and layout, so do not be tempted to change these too often and without good reason.
Case study: Drug Bulletin, Eritrea
Our Drug Bulletin started as a 4-page publication and soon grew to 6 and then 8 pages. Until recently it was produced as a camera-ready print using Microsoft-Word. The logo was drawn using Paintbrush in an old version of Microsoft-Word, while most drawings in the subsequent bulletins were drawn using CorelDraw. The one-colour final camera-ready product was taken to the printing press on an A4 page for conversion into an A3 film. The printers were instructed to print one of the A3 faces in two colours with the remaining faces in one colour. The coloured face when folded gave the first and the last pages two colours. This minimised the production cost while giving the bulletin a better look. We always try to keep the layout of our bulletin simple and consistent in terms or fonts (types and sizes) and in two columns. We use some photos, tables and text boxes to highlight messages.
Recently we have moved to full colour using Adobe PageMaker (and InDesign), Photoshop, Illustrator for our layout. The final product is sent to printing press by CD. We use Microsoft- Word for all editing and proof reading purposes. We still believe that word processors, such as Microsoft-Word alone, can be used successfully for designing and producing a bulletin.
Contributed by Embaye Andom, Drug Bulletin, Eritrea.