Salt Lake Mailing & Printing Blog

Type Guidelines for Direct Mail

The type on a direct mail piece should work with the design and layout to draw attention to the message. Whether you are announcing a sale, raising awareness about a social issue, or announcing an event, everything on the piece should focus on helping the reader understand the message and act on it.

First, a few definitions. Copy refers to the words themselves. Type refers to the look of those words. Font refers to a particular collection of letters and symbols that are styled similarly. A certain number of fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, Comic Sans, etc.) come standard on most computers and there are literally tens of thousands of additional fonts available for free or purchase.

The choice of fonts, type treatments, and type color can have a big impact on the overall effectiveness of a direct mail piece. The purpose of type is to communicate information and in order to do that, it has to be readable. Whether or not it looks good is secondary to whether or not it can be read.

Headlines and body copy should be treated differently. Sometimes you want to call attention to certain words or phrases, like in a headline or a call to action. These sections should attract attention through color, size, and weight.

On the other hand, the main purpose of body copy should be readability. You want to make it as easy to read as possible so the customer can quickly understand your message. Below are some guidelines for helping make body copy readable (the first list) and avoiding treatments that make it hard to read (the second list).

Body copy should be:

  • a serif font (like Times New Roman)
  • black or dark colored
  • regular weight or italicized
  • left or full justified
  • 9-12 point size

Avoid body copy that is:

  • reversed (light colored type on a dark background)
  • bright or vibrant colors
  • bold
  • all caps

It is important to make sure the font, type style, and color match the message in the words. The look of the type should reinforce the message of the words themselves and reflect the personality of the brand or company.

The font choice can affect both the readability of the text and work with the images to set the mood. Familiar fonts are easier and quicker to read. Unusual or irregular fonts draw the readers attention, which can help them think more about the words or can make it harder to understand. Unique fonts are good for headlines, but not body copy should use standard fonts.

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