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Direct Mail Design Mistakes

The Line Down the Middle of a Postcard:

Many direct mail designs use the line down the middle to help divide the text and the addressing portions of the card. The USPS requires a clear area of 4” from the right side of the print piece, to print the address and barcode. Leave a little extra room for your design and save yourself from problems with the USPS. Just be sure to leave the 4” on the right of the postcard

The Blank Permit Box:

Don’t forget to put the permit information on your mail piece. Many times we see customers start with a blank box and then forget to fill it in with the appropriate permit information. If we are mailing for you, please leave the box and permit info off so we may mail on our permit.

Square Postcards:

A square postcard may look great, but will not meet USPS automation guidelines. Save yourself time and postage and avoid any mail piece that does not have an aspect ratio between 1.3 and 2.5. If you have questions, contact us or the local USPS mail piece design office first for guidance.

UV Coating:

Printers will often add a UV coating or aqueous coating to your mail piece – sometimes without even asking. If you require a coating, be sure to leave it off of the addressing area to avoid printing difficulties.

Attention to the Headline, Image or Message:

A short attention-getting and compelling headline will bring about 20 times the response to a postcard than one with a bad headline or none at all. Combine the headline with the image side and this will then guide the reader to the message side. The image should be easily comprehended, attractive and brightly colored. Be sure that the message on your direct mail design clearly expresses what you’re promoting; otherwise your efforts may be fruitless.

Keeping the Message Simple:

Brevity. Your postcard will most likely receive a one to two second initial glance, so avoid clever dissertations, jargon, or a laundry list of everything you offer. A successful direct mail design is one where a target is able to comprehend your message from that initial glance. Use short sentences with simple language and bullet points that will get the attention of the reader. Promote no more than one key point per card. The postcard should include a call to action, indicating what the reader should do next.

Provide Contact Information:

It sounds like common sense to provide a telephone, cell and fax number, as well as an email and return address, but too many times contact information is forgotten on business direct mail. Be sure to include your company name and logo as well.


Spelling. Correct punctuation. Typographical errors. All of these reflect poorly on the sender, especially if the sender is a business. Even the best writers proofread their work, sometimes over and over again, before sending it to print. It is imperative that you have someone else review your copy. Another person will often catch mistakes that you may overlook.

Use of Quality images and Graphics:

You should always provide high quality and high resolution direct mail designs to the printer of your full color postcards. Amateur designers often create badly composed designs with images that are in low quality, taken from clip-arts galleries online. You never want to use those graphics if they result in fuzzy resolution. So follow the rule and always use the best quality images possible with your postcards.

Use appropriate fonts:

Some companies make the mistake in using the wrong style fonts in their direct mail designswithout considering the theme and composition of the main concept. Remember that there must be coordination between images, backgrounds and text in a typical direct mail design. Otherwise, it will appear very amateurish and “pasted together” without real cohesion, or impact.

Color coordination:

Finally, some designers may lack the creativity to match colors. Most amateurs think that any random color will do. Try using online color matching tools. This should help you coordinate the main colors of your postcard images with the text and your backgrounds as well. Color harmony is important of course as it will directly influence your reader’s reactions.

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