Emailer Design: The Lower Merion Historical Society


Archival Assets recently made our big move to Narberth, a lovely borough in just north of Merion Station. Shortly before the move, we spoke with the Lower Merion Historical Society and their president, Jerry Francis, about updating their monthly e-blasts.

The Lower Merion Historical Society, based in Bala Cynwyd, has dedicated their practice to the preservation of their history and the education of their community. Their main building, a beautiful four-story manor, rests on a school campus and serves the community as a stronghold of archival resources. They have their hands in all sorts of historical projects, from hosting memorial services to fundraising events. Even though they are surrounded by history, their age shouldn’t be reflected in their outreach.

From the start, one thing was very clear; the emailer needed to be cleaned up quite bit in terms of format. It was clumpy, cramped, and almost unreadable in some applications. It simply didn’t reflect who they were; they are an acclaimed society, being named 2nd best in all of Pennsylvania. It wasn’t the content that was hurting them; it was the layout.

I started looking over their old design, mapping out how the information would be presented.

As a designer, I knew that the historical society needed something fresh, but their style still needed to nod in appreciation of history. I was looking for something clean, yet familiar enough for the people who subscribed to these e-blasts. For them, history is front and center, followed by the stories of Lower Merion and its place within that history, and what they are doing to treasure that history. I needed a design that would balance out their need for visual content and expansive text.

I went towards keeping a simple and clean format that could easily be repeated each month. They don’t need something creatively ambitious or design forward – but, it should still look good!

As a first iteration, I kept all of the original content and changed the style. I added a mellow cream color that matched their banner, which I removed with intent to redesign and replace. I also separated all of the content by topic and used more modern and characteristic fonts, such as Roboto, which is universally supported online. I also wanted to put an emphasis on photography at the top to grab the attention of readers – while it’s a royalty free image right now, my hopes are that it would be filled with photographs from Lower Merion’s incredible archives. 

While I was not there for the initial meeting with Jerry and our Archival Assets team, I did end up speaking with Jerry over the phone to talk about different assets of design. He was very pleased with what he saw, but he brought up a valid point; these emailers are made by volunteers, not designers. So, the template would have to be even easier to use than what I had originally planned.

This was also my first introduction to the service, Vertical Response. I had only ever used MailChimp and ConstantContact, so I was curious of how I would have to design around the system. Before moving forward with the system, I wanted to tweak the designs a bit more; I fixed up the spacing and the formatting of any and all photographs. I also went into their website at and pulled a new color scheme directly from the colors that already existed on the website. I added their banner back, which I learned had one of the oldest buildings in Lower Merion on it – something that definitely shouldn’t be replaced!

Jerry was excited about the new design, and so I immediately translated the format into VerticalResponse. Because of the formatting, I noticed that some titles and backs of images would need the cream background, so I exported them all from to original InDesign file and made them into independent images with a cream background. It’s so much easier having one big image that five little ones!

I also had to change the body text font to Open Sans (a similar style to Roboto) so that VerticalResponse could support it. The great thing about Open Sans is that it’s responsive and web-supported (Roboto is too!). The headers for the section are also static, so that they (aside from the monthly one and save the date) can be used multiple times.  

Upon talking with Jerry and visiting the building, I decided that it would be great if I actually began to volunteer with them! After spending so much time working with them and getting to know them, I was really eager to join their team and help out!

The Lower Merion Historical Society now has an updated emailer, and more importantly, a template that can be used again and again, standing the tests and trials of time. They’re ready to share this new modern looks with members, readers, and history buffs alike!

If you’re interested in an updated emailer design of your own, or any of our other design services, get in touch with Archival Assests!

Bill Cramer