Visually Appealing Direct Mail

With all of the election mail this year, we have been overexposed to many mailers with too much going on. Yes, images are necessary, as is text, but when you oversaturate a large mailer, it turns into only noise — and noise goes in the trash. So I would like us all to consider: How can we get our message across while using blank space to our advantage?

beach and tropical seaWhy are we afraid of blank space in our direct mail? More and more of the mail I receive is crowded with text and images. I am overwhelmed visually, and I am willing to bet that most people are. With all of the election mail this year, we have really been overexposed to many mailers with too much going on. Yes, images are necessary, as is text, but when you oversaturate a large mailer, it turns into only noise — and noise goes in the trash. So I would like us all to consider: How can we get our message across while using blank space to our advantage?

Rather than call it blank space, I prefer to think of it as the space in-between, because really that’s what it is. It’s between images, between copy and between your call-to-action. It opens up our mind as a peaceful place between thoughts. It’s calming and refreshing to have that in-between space for a breath, as preparation for what is to come next. Our brains need that little downtime to organize and digest what we see.

Here’s how to create the space in-between:

Images

Select one or two images for the mailer. When sizing them, make them large enough for comprehension while allowing for space between the image and the copy.

Copy

Do not put copy over the images. Use bullet points and bolding to draw attention to your concise copy. Mailers are not letters — do not get too wordy. Allow for space between lines and use an open font instead of a compressed one.

CalltoAction

This needs to be in its own area with plenty of space around it to stand out. Get right to the point: What do your customers/prospects need to do? Make sure to tell them.

Color

The color(s) you choose for your mail piece is very important. You need them to work together with your copy and images to convey your message. Don’t go crazy with a ton of colors — pick a theme and have that guide your choices. When trying to create blank space you can use color, but keep it mild so when it is combined with open-spaced copy you are not overwhelming the visual senses.

The whole point of your mailer is to get people to respond. When you turn people off with too many images, too much copy or over-the-top colors, your mailer is ineffective.

With digital marketing always in our faces flashing images and endless pop-ups, it is refreshing to get mail pieces that are not scattered all over the place, but focused on one clear message. These mail pieces get acted upon. Create these pieces for your next campaign.

In no way am I saying that your mail piece needs to be boring — in fact I believe the opposite. You need to grab attention in a good way. By adding space between your attention-grabbing images and focused copy, you are able to draw attention to the right areas of your mailer. No one is getting lost or confused by what they see.

Still not swayed? Sample a test piece with added space against your current piece to see what works better for you.

You want people to remember your message and act on it. Have you had really successful direct mail? What has worked really well for you?

Space — The Final Frontier 

Space. It’s extremely valuable — in offices, in homes, on the subway and bus, and sometimes even in relationships. But when it comes to design, space is critical. Or should I say your use of space. All creative and marketing managers should be aware of my top three space rules.

Space. It’s extremely valuable — in offices, in homes, on the subway and bus, and sometimes in relationships. But when it comes to design, space is critical.

Or should I say your use of space. All creative and marketing managers should be aware of my top three space rules:

1. Too Close to Edges

This is my number one space rule. It’s the first thing I look at when reviewing layouts. How close does the type and art come to the edge of the page? If they are too close:

  • The piece will feel crowded.
  • People will feel overwhelmed.
  • The type will feel hard to read.
  • People will move on to the next item they are reviewing.

Based on the size of your marketing piece, I’d have at least a  3/8” or 1/2” minimum border around the page. See the samples below.

2. Not Close Enough to the Edge

No, this is not a contradiction of my first rule. On certain items, especially letters, you need to go closer to the edge. Most copy is set flush left/rag right. Sometimes the rag on the right side gives the appearance of too much space. Or you need to fit more text on the page or letter. Set your right side border less than your left side. For example, on a letter set the left margin at 1” and the right margin at 3/4”. Because of the copy rag on the right, the appearance of the border will better match the left border space. See the samples below.

3. Space Between Lines

Also called leading, space between lines is the most important spacing on any marketing piece. Too little space and your letter, brochure, flyer or email will seem dense and difficult to read. I always try to have at least 1pt leading. But on a letter I might have 3pt or 4pt leading. The extra space helps our eyes follow the lines of text. On the other hand, too much leading can make the copy feel like it’s falling apart. Leading is a very subtle element. I’ve had projects in which adding a 1/2 pt made a huge difference in the readability. The challenge is to get the right balance between the size of the copy, the line length and the leading. See the samples below.

Space examplesThe Bottom Line

These are my three top space elements that I’ll look at no matter what the design style. In future posts I’ll give you my next space considerations.

I’ve found through the years a lack of space is usually way more of a problem then too much space. But space is an element that can be used in many different ways, and no design rules are set in stone.

So now you have permission to be spacey — never be afraid to use space.