Inside Creative: 5 Tips from a Direct Mail Designer

Thoughtful design can transform a standard communication into a compelling visual that draws attention and drives action.  BCG Connect Designers collaborate with academic institutions and nonprofit organizations from all over the country, creating a wide range of print and digital communications.

We asked our Design Team to share some tips and suggestions for producing powerful content.  And while every project is different, they were eager to share some fundamental principles that guide them in their daily creative work.

Keep things simple. Creative letters.1. Keep things simple.

Today’s tools and channels for communication make it easier to produce and publish content than ever before.  Consequently, it’s more difficult to break through the noise with a message that captures your audience’s attention.  When designing a project, it’s a good idea to keep things simple.  Simplify your concept, your copy, and your visuals.  Be intentional with your visual choices and amplify the headlines so yo­ur core message stands out.

White space is a good thing. Creative design tip.2. White space is a good thing.

Building off the previous bullet, a strong design helps you illustrate your point.  Often, white space (or negative space) helps guide the viewer’s eye and prevent visual overload.  It’s natural to want to inform the audience with as much valuable information as possible, however, a cluttered design may in fact have the opposite effect.

Overuse of bold text may distract from the core message.3. When everything is bold, nothing is bold.

Just as white space can help a reader navigate the page and draw attention to what’s important, bolded text and headlines can do the same thing…when used appropriately.  Overuse of bold text may clutter the design and distract from the core message of your piece.  Emphasize one or two main points and remain consistent with your calls to action.

A creative concept can drive a multichannel campaign.4. Let the idea drive.

Every project has a goal.  Creative ideas often come from finding a new way to accomplish that goal.  Consider what inspired you to pursue your project because that’s often a great place to start! Maybe you received a compliment or testimonial from a constituent and would love to expand on that story.  Perhaps you are commemorating a milestone or want to bring some extra attention to an upcoming event.  Share the backstory with your creative team so they can strategize print format and design ideas that can help a small idea grow into a far-reaching, creative campaign.

Level up a traditional appeal or direct mail format with modern designs and tools like QR Codes.5. Level up the traditional.

The letter appeal remains a popular tool for driving engagement in direct mail fundraising.  And even though a letter has a more traditional reputation (than say its electronic counterpart), there are many clever ways to draw attention and drive engagement with creative design and personalization. Varying your images and calls-to-action by segment, customizing the letter design with visual elements, and adding color and font variations are just a few ways to change things up.

Whichever format you select, however, consider how your donors prefer to give.  Many organizations enable digital gift processing by including a QR code to scan.  How does that QR code fit into the design?  Alternatively, how do you accommodate the preferences of those still paying by check?  You don’t necessarily need a one-size-fits-all solution.  Planning the layout, format, and function of your design is a great way to take your traditional appeal to another level.