Simple Formulas

Six Graphic Design Features That Sell

1. One thing dominates the page

When you look at a well-designed page, there is usually one dominant feature to catch your eye. It could be the headline or the picture, but not both. Something has to dominate. And while it might be tempting to throw in a little starburst that says "One Week Only," be careful how you use it. When you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.

2. Minimize typeface variety

Your computer may come with 327 fonts, but that doesn't mean you have to use every one of them. The best designers stick with one, maybe two per piece-plus the logo. A good rule of thumb is to use large, bold type for headlines and, if they're particularly good, prices. Use a smaller, easy-to-read typeface for text.

3. White space

Don't feel compelled to fill every inch of space with copy or pictures. A dense blob of type and pictures can look unattractive and turn readers away. An open and airy design is inviting and friendly.

4. Easy-to-read text

Equally important as the overall design of the page is the design of specific text blocks. If the type is too small or condensed, if the columns are too wide, if the paragraphs are too long, it becomes too much work to read and people won't.

Keep this in mind when creating letters, too. Break up the page by interspersing short paragraphs with long, indenting paragraphs, using bullet points or bold subheads.

5. Use relevant illustrations

The purpose of the illustration is to help draw attention to or dramatize your message. That's not to say that a plumber has to show faucets in his mail or that a dentist has to show teeth. That plumber could, for instance, show Niagara Falls.

6. Clear, visible logo and call-to-action

You got the readers' attention and guided them through enough information. You aroused their interest and desire. Now you have to let your readers know whom to buy it from and how. Don't confuse a clear, visible call-to-action with a big, oversized name, address and phone number. Just make sure a reader can see these elements without having to look for them.

Make it easy on the eye, but hard to ignore.

The design of your mail piece has two jobs to do. One, it has to get attention for your primary offer. Two, it has to help the reader absorb the information that's presented.

Many of the desktop publishing computer programs come with templates to help. In fact, this software has created a generation of artists schooled in graphic design. Local printers usually know artists. The local telephone directory may have some listed. Also consider recruiting a design student from your local high school or college-they may be willing to help and may be reasonably priced.

That said, you should still know what every well-designed mail piece has in common.

  1. One thing dominates the page
  2. Typeface variety is minimal
  3. White space
  4. Easy-to-read text
  5. Relevant illustrations
  6. Clear, visible logo and call-to-action


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Simple Formulas is a series of publications offered by the United States Postal Service and sponsored by Zairmail. Zairmail is an authorized online affiliate of the United States Postal Service.



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