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Direct Mail Design Tips: Does Font Matter?

Fabulous direct mail design is not a goal in itself. Your postcard is a vehicle to deliver a specific marketing message to a specific audience. The font you choose plays a key role in how well your message is received.

There’s no reason you can’t have some fun with your postcard fonts, but be very careful. This is no time for subtlety or creative overkill.

There are two types of fonts.

Serif fonts have short lines or other little features that extend from the edges of the letters. They add a decorative touch to dress up the font, but they also make the printed words easier to read by giving each letter a more individual appearance that’s easy to recognize. Times New Roman is a familiar example of a serif font.

San-serif fonts are plain, without any extras. They are usually used for text on websites, because the simple shapes display better electronically. Arial is a common example.

No single font is the “right” typeface for direct mail design that creates a powerful first impression. But when you’re using postcards for marketing you need at-a-glance impact.

A frilly font like Brush Script won’t work well because it’s hard to read.

Pick two.

You want to use more than one font, so you can create contrasts that are visually appealing and help your postcard reader quickly assimilate your message. But if you go overboard, you’ll wind up with design that overwhelms your message instead. Using too many fonts creates a visual mish-mash that is very hard for the eye to follow or the brain to understand. That’s why industry experts always recommend choosing two fonts and sticking with them.

Which two you choose can dramatically change the look and feel of your postcard. Ideally, you want to use fonts that match your branding, but remember that your number one goal is readability.

Choose styles that reflect your type of business and your key message and which will appeal to your target audience. Some fonts automatically evoke an old-fashioned ice cream parlor or an engraved invitation.

Your headline is critical.

You must have a can’t-miss, attention-grabbing headline — big and bold and short, just 3-8 words. Use a sans serif font for this. Consider the fact that some of these font styles are very heavy looking, so they may be too much for your postcard, and they also take up a lot of space. On the other hand, very narrow fonts can look cramped and be tough to read. A middle ground that is eye-catching but “friendly” to the eye is best – something like Helvetica or Optima or Lucida.

Contrast is important for more than fonts.

Color works hand-in-hand with your typeface. Again, your goal is a colorful postcard that stands out in the mailbox, but color is there to draw attention to your primary message. Choose a simple color scheme, using your branded colors, if possible, but make sure there is high contrast between colors.

Size contrast matters, too. Since the eye automatically zooms in on the most obvious postcard elements first, you can use font size to lead your reader around your postcard, informing them instantly of your primary message and then showing them your offer and most important back-up points.

The final step in any direct mail design is printing. Insist on top-quality professional printing for your postcards, because anything less is likely to look “muddy,” ruining your positive first impression and even imparting a negative impression that your business, products or services may be less than stellar, too. With all the time you’ve put into creating a stunning visual design that delivers exactly the right offer to your top prospects, your final product should be crisp and inviting.

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