Direct Mail

Direct Mail Design Tips

By 27 January 2022No Comments
direct mail design tips

Direct Mail Design Tips

A major part of your direct mail campaign success comes from the direct mail design. It can be the key to getting more responses and conversions. An appealing design that resonates with your readers can persuade them to complete the CTA.

direct mail design tips

The human brain only needs a few seconds to scan through a mail and decide if it’s worthy of reading. Marketers need to make their designs worthy of someone’s time. The design should inform and educate readers along with directing them towards conversion.

Now is the time for marketers to tap their creative sides and set their best foot forward. With increasing competition, you need to design something memorable. But, there are some things you need to take care of. Keep up to your brand standards and do not overcrowd your designs. An effective direct mail design demands lots of planning, considering, experimenting, and proofing.

16 Direct Mail Design Tips that Can Help You Level Up Your Designing Game

In this guide, we will discuss the best direct mail design tips that can help you create an impact on your prospects. We have mentioned the do’s and don’ts of direct mail designing in the form of these tips, and you can perform great by keeping these simple things in mind.

1. Define Your Objectives

Before indulging in the designing part, identify and list your motives. What do you want to achieve by conducting this campaign? What do you want to communicate to your target audience? By defining your objectives, you get a clearer idea of what design elements you should include.

2. Know Your Prospects

Another important thing to do is know your target audience. Understand what your prospects want and include their needs in your mailpiece. If you are unaware of your prospects’ needs and choices, it might be impossible to create an effective direct mail design. Therefore, know them, understand their taste and lifestyle patterns, and design something relevant to them. You should know about the offers your prospects are likely to respond to, the amount of information they need, and the kind of pictures that will resonate with them.

3. Choose a Relevant Direct Mail Format

The type of direct mail you select decides your response rates. Hence, it is important to take some time and think about the direct mail format that best suits your mailing purpose. Clearly, every type gets a different response. Moreover, it also affects your marketing budget majorly.

The mail format decides the amount of content you can fit in. On the one hand, postcards are used for communicating marketing messages in the least amount of words. On the other hand, letters are suitable for explaining something in detail. You can just add to the number of pages if you want to include more information.

In case you want to announce a giveaway or invite prospects to a trade show, postcards are your best choice. They are appealing and attention-grabbing. Plus, they are your most affordable option. But, if you want to explain your products or services to someone in depth along with using personalized content, it is advisable to use letters.

4. Drive Online Traffic

Though direct mail is an offline marketing channel, it doesn’t refrain you from driving traffic to your website and social media pages. Effective direct mail designs also promote your online pages and persuade readers to visit them. Either you can include your website and social media account links or simply add QR codes. It is better to use QR codes as people would prefer scanning a code rather than typing an entire URL manually.

It was not a long time ago when marketers didn’t think it was important to measure campaign results. They would only check their sales volume and determine whether the campaign is working or not. This method is absolutely outdated, and you will be left behind if you don’t record responses. Along with driving online traffic, QR codes are also used to measure campaign performance. If you want to use links, it is recommended to use pURLs. You can use the intended recipients’ names to personalize URLs—for example,

Previously, pURLs and customized landing pages seemed to be expensive for marketers. However, PostGrid’s print and mail API allows you to easily build pURLs and customized landing pages without any added costs.

5. Use Relevant Images

Imagery is the most important part of designing direct mail pieces. It is impactful and can make a huge difference. Relevant imagery that matches the look and feel of your design can boost responses and engagements.

There are two ways to go about choosing images.

First option: It is to buy stock images or use the free ones available on several websites. In this case, you need to preview a thousand images and select the most relevant ones. You can use lifestyle pictures that represent how your prospects can benefit from your products and services. Please note that not all types of companies can use such stock images.

Second option: It is to use your own pictures. Hire a professional photographer and get some high-quality and appealing pictures clicked. Many companies need to go with this second option. For example, you are a fashion designer and want to showcase your work. Here, there is no way you can use stock images. You need to click pictures of something created by yourself to include them in your direct mail items.

Now that we’re talking about images, there are three things you should always remember:

  • Use high-resolution pictures at 1200 dpi or more. Such pictures look professional, pleasing, and are attention-grabbing. On the other hand, using blurred or low-resolution images will only do more bad than good.
  • Avoid overcrowded or busy backgrounds. The background is the region behind all the design elements of your mail item. This region can be a pattern, color, or image. Make sure that the background doesn’t distract the readers from the main message.
  • Never put text on top of an image. It makes it difficult to read and spoils the entire look of your mail. When using images as background, leave some parts blank and replace that with a solid color so that the text stands out.

6. Personalize Your Direct Mail Design

With the help of Variable Data Printing (VDP), marketers can now personalize every mail item. VDP allows marketers to design personalized direct mail specific to individual recipients.

Changing your direct mail design and copy based on the recipient increases mailing relevancy and can drive conversions. Personalized mail is more eye-catching and attention-grabbing than general mail items. Your recipients are likely to read personalized mail more carefully and appreciate your gesture enough to respond.

For instance, a restaurant can add a personalized map that shows the route from the reader’s house to their franchise. Similarly, a car insurance provider can include the first name of the recipients along with their car’s name.

7. Consider the Size, Shape, and Weight Guidelines

Before getting started with the designing part, it is better to note down the size, weight, and shape of your mail. If you cannot adapt your direct mail design according to the standard specifications, it might cost you a lot. For example, USPS charges higher postal charges for sending square-shaped postcards and envelopes. Hence, you need to consider the USPS guidelines before designing anything.

Coming to your mail size, you cannot start creating artwork without knowing the exact bleed marks and dimensions. Moreover, the size of your mail also determines its visibility in the mailbox. Larger sizes get more attention than regular-sized ones. But, they also cost more.

The popular size dimensions for postcards are

  • 4.25″ x 6″
  • 6″ x 9″
  • 6″ x 11″
  • 9″ x 12″

For letters, monarch

  • #10
  • #12
  • #14

These are the best options.

Along with saving on postage, you also need to design excellent artwork. You cannot miss out on good designs just because they don’t fit in with the standard dimensions or shape. To avoid such situations, use automated direct mail solutions like PostGrid that allow marketers to design their mail items flexibly along with helping them keep their postal costs low.

Always stick to your brand standards. Keep your logo, tagline, tone of writing, style, and other such aspects consistent with your brand. You need to make your brand memorable and distinguish it from your competitors.

8. Use the White Space Effectively

In design terms, “white space” is not necessarily white in color. Rather, it indicates the negative or blank space that is left between images and texts. There are several different types of white space. The small gaps between the various design elements of an artwork are referred to as micro white space.

On the other hand, wider and larger gaps are called macro white space. Considering the usefulness of white space, there are more types. The active white space is the area that designers actively use to emphasize something, whereas passive white space is found naturally between lines and words and cannot be used for anything.

By using different kinds of white space, designers can guide readers, add emphasis, and improve comprehension. There has to be enough white space in a direct mail design not to make it look cluttered. A direct mail design agency can guide you on how to use white space effectively. Otherwise, you can use PostGrid’s in-built templates to design speedily and efficiently.

9. Don’t Add Too Much Content

Your direct mail item need not provide information on every single thing about your brand. It is not a know-it-all. Rather it is a means to take your prospects further down their customer journey. By including QR codes on your mailpiece, you can direct recipients to visit your website and read about your brand. They are a great option to convey more information in less space.

Moreover, keep your copy short and simple. Direct mail postcard design tips state that your copy should be as concise as possible. Add a heading and a few sentences after. Include the other important aspects like the offer, CTA, and contact details. If you are sending out letters, it is best if you stick with one page only.

Make your copy to the point and simple to understand. Avoid long sentences and complicated words. One of the direct mail design best practices is only to include what’s necessary. Open with a heading and add subheadings. You can state the benefits in short bullet points. Next, include your offer and a CTA along with your contact information. Don’t forget to add trackable features to record responses.

10. Plan Your Fonts Strategically

Fonts also play an essential role in your designs. Don’t use more than two font types as it can confuse readers and make them not want to read your mail at all. Remember that your intended recipients are busy people who are likely to spend just a few seconds or minutes going through your mail. Make it worth that while.

It might be tempting to use various font types, but it is smart to only use Sans Serif fonts like Arial. They look uniform and are simpler to read.

The next thing to consider is text readability. Don’t make your words too big or too small. Use the right font size that goes along with your message. Typically, the headline should have the largest font size, followed by the subheadings and the other elements. Though your offer and CTA are supposed to be printed in a medium-size font, make them stand out from the rest of the elements.

11. Colors Matter

There are two types of colors to choose from for an effective direct mail design. The first type comes from your brand logo. The other type comes from the emotions that each color conveys. For example, the color pink is often associated with feminine products.

Let us understand the emotions and feelings associated with different colors below:

  • Pink: Feminism, Love
  • Green: Health, Prosperity, Growth
  • Blue: Trust, Calm, Harmony
  • Red: Passion, Excitement
  • Orange: Creativity, Adventure
  • Brown: Elegance, Comfort
  • Black: Mystery, Sophistication
  • Purple: Royalty, Luxury
  • Yellow: Fun, Happiness
  • White: Goodness, Peace

You can either stick with your logo color as the base and design your entire artwork around it or experiment with different colors based on your message. You can also use a combination of both these choices.

Signature colors build a brand image and are also responsible for increasing brand recognition. For instance, we remember the colors red and black as soon as we think of the brand Coca-Cola. A thoughtful color combination for your direct mail design can do wonders.

12. Include an Upfront Offer and CTA

Before planning the font size and spot for your offer and CTA, consider what offer and CTA you are going to include. Keep them short and upfront, but highlight them in bold to draw attention. If you are offering a 10% discount on the recipients’ next order, take care to inform them that they need to use the code mentioned in order to avail of the discount.

Don’t include CTAs that are too difficult to complete. Make it simple and quick. Including an offer that corresponds to CTA is perhaps your safest and best bet. For example, you can ask people to sign up on your website and use the coupon code sent to your email address to get a discount. It is a good example of how you can ask people to do something in exchange for something. Locate your offer and CTA at a spot that is clearly visible.

13. Try Special Finishing

To make your design truly wow your readers, you require special finishing. It makes your items’ appearance and texture eye-catching. You can choose from various options.

  • Glossy: Glossy finishes are shiny and add an extra layer of protection over your mail item. Glossy postcards are quite popular.
  • Soft Touch: The soft-touch finishing makes your colors look more sophisticated and polished. It creates a velvety and soft texture for recipients to feel.
  • Satin: It is similar to gloss but with less light. It is also durable and makes your colors appear sharp.

14. Envelopes Can Be Creative Too

One way to make sure that your readers open your mail item and look inside is to catch their attention right from the outside. Make your envelopes creative. You can give your readers an idea of what is there inside along with intriguing them to open and read your mail. Adding a wise and creative headline on the outside to lure recipients is a good starting point.

Placing a thoughtful, well-designed, and top-performing mail item inside a bland envelope will do you no good. Your recipients might consider it spam and throw it away. Hence, your envelopes should give them a peek of your mail contents. Since envelopes are the first thing to be seen, make a good first impression.

15. Proof Your Direct Mail Design Before Printing

When you are all done with designing, make sure to proof the creative before sending it to the printer. You need to be a hundred percent sure that everything is in place.

Since you have already seen your direct mail design several times during planning, designing, and proofreading processes, it might be difficult for you to catch any errors and remain objective. Hence, show it to your employees, coworkers, and third parties to examine your artwork critically, and provide useful and honest feedback. See what they like and dislike about your design, and make the necessary changes accordingly.

There are many things to cross-check before printing. Misspellings and grammatical mistakes are easy to notice and correct. The complicated part is to consider other things. Your message should be clear and concise, and your design should be well-flowing. Your colors should match the fonts used, and everything should look appealing altogether. Review your contact details, tracking information, and the offer. Take care that your images don’t clash with one another.

Some questions to consider while proofing your design are:

  • Is the main message that you are trying to convey coming across clearly?
  • Is there anything that can confuse the readers?
  • Does the design make sense?

Finalize your designs and send them to the printer only after you are positive about these questions.

16. Experiment, Test, Evolve

You cannot always send out the same postcards during every campaign just because you know it works. Everything gets outdated quickly, and you need to keep up with the current market trends as well as your customers’ preferences. Hence, designers should keep experimenting with their designs. You never know which design can garner the most number of responses.

To check or verify whether a direct mail design can be successful, you need to test it. You can start by creating two different designs for the same mailpiece with only slight changes between them. The changed element could be your offer, a color, or simply the headline. After that, divide your audience in half. Send the first version of your design to the first half and the second version to the other half. See which version gets more responses. Similarly, you can test more than two designs simultaneously.

When you conduct such A/B testing, you can observe what your customers prefer and what they don’t. Use this knowledge to adapt and improve your campaigns. With PostGrid, it is super simple to create different versions of the same design and conduct small-scale testing campaigns. By efficient testing, you can learn how to design direct mail effectively and make the best out of it.

One important thing that you need to do during the testing phase is to mail an item to yourself. You need to see how your mailpiece looks after completing the entire mailing cycle. It is important to make sure that your postcards or letters are as perfect after reaching the recipients as they were when first printed.


By following these direct mail design tips and knowing how to design a direct mail campaign, marketers can form the base of a successful campaign. Everybody adores a good design; you simply have to create something adorable, and these tips can help you do just that.

PostGrid’s print and mail solutions can help you design attractive mail items that take all these things into consideration. You can explore all the in-built templates and select one that fits your needs perfectly.

Want to see how automated direct mail can help you conduct highly successful direct mail campaigns?

Ready to Get Started?

Start transforming and automating your offline communications with PostGrid