When developing direct mail, it’s easy to get weighed down by the subject matter or the intention of your campaign. But design plays a large part and a supremely important factor when it comes to design, is typography.
The typography choices you make when creating a campaign can have a huge impact on how your piece is perceived. If your intention is to create a serious, matter-of-fact piece, a playful, whimsical font for example isn’t going to paint the picture you’re hoping to create and vice versa.
Using lettering that contrasts well with your brand is also a must. It’s important to remain on brand whilst still conveying your message correctly.
Here we’re going to take a look at what typography is, and some of the key elements of typography such as typeface, font and kerning as well as what different styles can say about your business. We’ll also delve into what’s been hot in 2017 and what trends to expect going forward into 2018.
What Is Typography?
The basis of typography is the arrangement of letters (type) to create words that are stylised and appealing yet legible at the same time. Until recent years, this was a specialist trade and typesetters would create all sorts of publications and advertisements using ink and movable blocks, each of which would contain a letter within a particular font family. The digitalisation of typography has revolutionised the technique, allowing many new users to practice the art with great effect. Digital printing has also meant that print quality is consistent without the need for lengthy production.
The arrangement of different type involves a number of things; this will mean selecting which typeface you’d like, what size lettering you’d like as well as other variables such as line spacing (leading), letter spacing (tracking) and the adjustment of the space between a pair of letters; (kerning). Below is a list of the key elements of typography:
- Typeface – Typeface is not quite the same thing as a font. It actually refers to a group of characters, letters and numbers that share the same design. Some people will refer to typeface as a font family; examples include Helvetica, Times, and Century which are all typefaces, not fonts – a very common misconception.
- Fonts – A font on the other hand, is a specific style of typeface with a set width, size, and weight. For example, Calibri is a typeface; 9pt Calibri Bold is a font. Typesetters and many within the design community consider a font to be the delivery method of a typeface.
- Line Length – This is in reference to the distance that’s filled by text between the right and left margins in one line.
- Leading – This is the space between baselines (the lines that the letters “sit” on) and is referred to in points.
- Kerning – This term references the space between individual characters or letters. Many fonts come with a default kerning value that is designed to make the space between letters look more natural.
- Tracking – Also known as letter spacing, tracking is used to measure the space equally across a range of different characters. It can affect how dense a passage of text looks.
The Importance of Typography in Direct Mail
When creating a piece of direct mail, it’s easy to brush off the type you choose as a secondary issue, but in real terms, it should be one of the most important. Using typography when creating a mail piece not only helps to convey the message but also affords you the opportunity to really stand out from the crowd.
Typography gives you the chance to incorporate colour into your campaign where you’d otherwise have to use imagery. Essentially, response to colour is driven by psychology and our association with certain emotions. The same goes for the fonts used so it’s important to always consider customer perception as a first port of call.
How to Make Your Direct Mail Campaign Stand Out Using Typography
If a campaign is developed using a font that’s too small or it’s too hard to decipher one word from the next, it will likely affect the response you receive as well as conversions. If a piece of copy is too difficult to read, it’s possible that your intended audience will disregard the piece and will only remember how awkward it was to make sense of.
It’s important to make reading and understanding the information as effortless as possible; a typographically well-formatted piece of copy will ensure that the focus remains on the content and not on the effort required to read it. Opting for simple, clean type and a colour that contrasts well with the background will achieve this.
It’s also vital to consider the text flow. A visual hierarchy will establish which pieces of information are the most important. Typography can help you to create this visual hierarchy by making the most prominent elements stand out through size, colour or style. Great examples of this would be to use bullet points to highlight benefits or using italics or bold type to emphasise key words.
When selecting the type for your campaign, there’s great debate around whether using a Serif or Sans Serif typeface is the right option, but the answer is… both can be used. Traditionally, Serif typefaces would be used for the body of the text and Sans Serif would be used for the headers and sub-headers. If you’d like to learn more about the differences between Serif and Sans Serif typefaces and how to use them for maximum effect, this article from Design Shack will help.
Direct Mail Typography Examples
Like many things in design, there are things that work and things that don’t and typography is no exception. Below are a couple of examples where typography has been effective or fallen short:
Martin Schoeller: Close Up Exhibition
This award winning piece of direct mail which was designed to advertise a photography exhibition is a great example of how colour and typography can work together. The strong colours are vibrant but not overpowering and the main point to be made is highlighted perfectly using a simple Sans Serif font. You can read more on the piece here.
Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition
This campaign was created to promote smoke-free properties to landlords via the use of postcards. While this method could easily work, this piece fell short in many areas of typography. The main issue is the use of poorly spaced condensed font which makes it difficult to read the body of text. You can read more on the piece here.
Typography Trends in 2017/2018
As we step out of 2017 and into 2018, we’ve taken a look at what trends have taken hold in typography over the last year:
Custom Typefaces – One thing that we’ve seen is a rise in companies/brands getting creative and creating their own custom typefaces for their marketing campaigns. Using a custom typeface allows you to develop a unique sense of style, elevating brand perception.
Variable Fonts – Mixing up font sizes, stylings and typefaces can also create a unique style for a direct mail piece. If this is something you’d like to try, just be sure you don’t go too far as it can over-complicate things.
Think Big – Subtlety isn’t always a thing when it comes to typography and many 2017 campaigns have opted for oversized font sizes to get their messages across. Large headings coupled with bold subheadings have been a style favourite over the last year and will likely continue to make a statement going forward.
Handwritten Type – Despite many moving away from physical handwriting in favour of digital text, 2017 has seen a rise in handwritten typefaces. Romantic, whimsical and friendly in styling, they’re a great option for connecting with younger generations on less serious subjects.
Added Personality – The likes of Times New Roman definitely have their place in the business world but if you want to branch out and express your brand, injecting some life into your typeface could be where it’s at. However, you need to know your audience. If target audience is quite strait-laced and formal, traditional fonts will likely do well for your business. However, if your audience is filled with creatives and those that value a little more diversity, go for quirkier fonts that bring a bit of intrigue and personality.
The typeface and font styling you choose for a direct marketing campaign can play an integral part in its success rate. Choosing wisely and knowing your audience will hopefully give you the exact results that you’re looking for as well as affording you the chance to get creative with your brand!