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Chapter 6

Creating a High-Impact Campaign Through Direct Mail Design

Mail carrier puts Direct Mail in a red mailbox in a tropical area.

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One thing that makes Direct Mail stand out from other marketing efforts is its physicality. Unlike the variety of digital ads and emails out there, Direct Mail creates a direct connection that taps into the sensory nature of consumer engagement. Direct Mail offers a unique opportunity for marketers to create stunning designs and showcase their brand story in a tangible way.

Of course, with so many design possibilities, it can be difficult to know what will resonate with your audience and drive action. That’s exactly what this guide is here to help with.

In this chapter, we will explore the ins and outs of Direct Mail design from incorporating beautiful visual effects to compelling headlines. Read on to learn all about the best practices of Direct Mail design to ensure your next Direct Mail Campaign delivers results.

The front and back sides of a Direct Mail Postcard - showing an example food service company with a compelling call to action.

Understanding Direct Mail: A Unique Marketing Channel

The physical nature of Direct Mail gives marketers and designers room, flexibility, and layout options that you can’t get with digital channels. In digital marketing, users will scroll, scan, watch, and then click or tap buttons. It’s how we interact with emails, display ads, pop-ups, etc. But the environment is limited to the device screen you’re looking at.

Direct Mail’s physical qualities of being handled, turned over, opened, etc., give you many ways to design the actual piece. With so many options, however, we recommend some best practices – specific devices, techniques, and tactics – that have been proven to work when designing for this kind of direct-response marketing.

In addition, Direct Mail is the ideal marketing channel for compelling storytelling. Story structures have been proven to be one of the most effective ways to communicate – especially to an acquisition audience unaware of your brand.

Direct Mail Design Best Practices

When it comes to Direct Mail design, there are several best practices you can follow to ensure your mail piece effectively captures attention, communicates your message, and encourages a response. Here are some things that we recommend:

Clear and Concise Message:

Keep your message simple and focused. Clearly communicate the purpose of your mail piece and the benefits or offers you’re providing.

Strong Headline:

Use a compelling headline that grabs attention and entices recipients to read further. Make it short, impactful, and relevant to your audience.

Eye-catching Visuals:

Incorporate high-quality images, graphics, or illustrations that support your message and create visual interest. Use color strategically in your Direct Mail graphic design to highlight important elements.

Readable Typography:

Choose fonts that are legible and easy to read. Use a combination of font sizes and styles to create a visual hierarchy and guide readers through the content.

White Space:

Don’t overcrowd your mailer design. Leave enough white space to provide visual breathing room and make the content more digestible. White space helps important elements stand out.

Clear Call-To-Action (CTA):

Include a clear and prominent CTA that tells recipients what you want them to do. Use action-oriented language and make it easy for recipients to respond, such as providing a phone number or website URL.

Easy to Read Offer

Make sure that the offer is clear and understandable, and designed with high contrast so it’s prominent and one of the first things a user sees when holding the piece. It could be the hook that draws them in to read and engage with the mailer.

Test and Measure

Experiment with different design elements, formats, or offers to see what resonates best with your target audience. Test small batches and measure the response rates to optimize future campaigns.

Because a postcard has two sides, take advantage of each side and design the elements to contrast and complement one another.

Effective Frontside Design

Frontside Design Considerations

While there is no one way to design Direct Mail, there are things to consider when crafting the front of your postcard or mailer. Based on our experiences, your Direct Mail design should cover:


Use a compelling, active-voice statement of no more than 7 words (like an email subject line). Remember that the headline should focus on a benefit of your products or services – something that makes your customer’s life better – and resonate with some kind of emotional quality. Humans respond with emotion over reason, and the headline needs to grab that kind of attention.

Clear & Strong Offer

Make sure that you have something valuable, and use an expiration date to drive urgency. People will immediately look for some kind of offer on any direct-response piece, so don’t hide it. Putting an offer in the upper-right corner also follows the normal “Z” pattern of eye-tracking that’s been proven over time.


Make sure you include your website or phone number. Make sure your prospect doesn’t have to hunt to find out how to reach you.

Call-Out Benefit

Get attention and intrigue the recipient beyond the offer. When prospects are first discovering your brand, you want them to know that there are multiple advantages to choosing you versus a competitor.

Backside Direct Mail Design Considerations

Because mail is often delivered address-side up in the mailbox, your prospect could see this side first. The backside needs to have adequate space for the address and indicia to meet postal requirements, but beyond those guidelines, think about how that side complements the frontside (where you usually have a bigger image), and add more content.

Backside Subheadline:

Reiterate the benefit for the customer. Again, this could be the first copy line the recipient sees. Make sure the benefit is clear and supports the big promise you’re delivering.

Backside Copy:

Tell the story of your business. Don’t just have an image and an offer. Instead, make sure your reader knows that you’re speaking to what’s important to them. You want to show that they believe what you believe, and that there’s a perfect fit between your product and their lifestyle.


Make sure you’re telling the reader exactly what they should do next when they read the card.

Contact Information:

Add a phone number, website, etc. so they know how to reach you.


Make sure this is highlighted on the piece and is simple to understand

Testimonial or Social Proof:

More people buy because of good reviews, so include them in the design

Added Items:

Think about QR codes, opt-in Text Codes, and other interactive elements that help the user engage with the mail and give them a clear next-step that may have more value than just going to your website.
Modern Postcard - Direct Mail Postcard Mailer

Interactive Elements in Direct Mail Design

As we mentioned above, adding interactive items to your design can boost engagement and responses. Some of the best Direct Mail designs we’ve seen recently have successfully used these elements to reach their audience.

While there are a number of options, you may consider elements like:

Scratch-Off Areas

Include scratch-off panels or sections that recipients can interact with to reveal special offers, discounts, or prizes. This adds an element of surprise and gamification.

Pop-Ups or Fold-Outs

Incorporate interactive features like pop-ups or fold-outs that create a three-dimensional effect when the mail piece is opened. This adds a sense of novelty and captures attention.

Tear-Off Coupons or Perforated Elements

Include tear-off coupons or perforated sections that recipients can remove and redeem. This creates a tangible and actionable component.

Interactive QR Codes

Add QR codes that recipients can scan with their smartphones to access exclusive content, videos, landing pages, or special offers. QR codes provide a bridge between print and digital mediums.

Personalized URLs (PURLs)

Include personalized URLs that lead recipients to a customized landing page designed specifically for them. This allows for personalized messaging and tracking of response rates.

When incorporating interactive elements, make sure they are relevant to your audience, align with your brand, and enhance the overall user experience.

With all of these Direct Mail design elements to think about, it can be a big help to work with a Direct Mail Expert who can guide you!

Explore Direct Mail Design Examples

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By Chris Foster, VP New Business Development

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