Choosing the right typeface for your direct mail

A brief history of typography in the West

It all really took off in the 15th century with movable type printing, and there are now several typefaces based on those used by early printers. In the following centuries there were many contributors developing new typefaces – which were named after them -beginning with Claude Garamond. Typography became much more popular in the 18th century with the invention of litho printing.

In the last couple of decades, free fonts have become available to everyone. Alternatively, graphic designers can create custom typefaces specific to your brand. 

Perfect copy, but which typeface?

You may have finally decided that your direct mail copy is word perfect, after proof-reading and proof-reading again, and again. Think about what you are wishing to communicate. Your choice of typeface should reinforce and be consistent with your message. The appropriate typeface will help to persuade your readers, and using the same typeface for all your direct mail marketing will help to gain the trust of your recipients, in a similar way to your brand’s logo and brand colors.  

What do they think?

It is worth spending time printing out samples of your message, using several different font styles with different spacing, heights, weights and sizes. They can look quite different on screen and on paper. Hand them out to your colleagues to get their feedback on which create similar emotions, and convey the same personality as your message.  

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

It is a good idea to look at direct mail packs that you have received. See what works well, looks good, and is easy to read. There are certain typefaces that are used time and time again – because they work. 

Brave and bold

If for whatever reason, you wish to use more than one style of typeface, the general rule is to go for contrast rather than similarity. You may want a big, bold, decorative typeface for your headings or sub-headings. Your readers will notice these first. Make them leap out of the page, and entice your recipients to continue reading. 

Your main text should not be overpowered by your choice of typeface. It’s all about ensuring that it is easy to read, and engaging for your chosen recipients. If in doubt, choose a typeface that has generous spacing and height. If you are preparing a direct mail letter, don’t fall into the trap of setting your text to full justification, it is not easy to read, as it doesn’t look natural.  

Mini, mega, mocha?

Make sure that your page isn’t crammed full. Make sure it all flows, with sufficient space between each line – make sure it is easy on the eye. Visualize your printed copy as a piece of art – stand back and either admire or criticize. Then do it again, but through the eyes of your recipients. It is often said that it would be boring if we were all the same. That is why we are overwhelmed with so many options on a daily basis,to cater for everyone. We walk into a coffee shop, and may just want to order a simple coffee – not so simple – do we want mini, mega or mocha? So it really comes down to personal choice, but try to appeal to the masses. 

Be brave and dare to be different, so long as your choice of typeface doesn’t conflict with the feeling behind your message. 

Easy on the eye

A cold caller’s accent can determine your first impression of the sales call. The caller could be telling you about an offer that you really shouldn’t refuse but, if you are put off by their irritating accent, this could influence your decision, as the call is not easy on the ear. It is just as important to choose the best typeface to suit your direct mail marketing or fundraising, to reflect your brand or charity. It should be appealing to your readers, and easy on the eye. 

One man’s search for a lost typeface

Place as much importance in choosing the right typeface as you do for all other aspects of your marketing. I’m not suggesting that you invest as much time as Robert Green did in this wonderful article about his search for the lost Dove’s type; however I strongly recommend that you take the time to read how his passion and obsession shine as he unearths the hidden treasure. 


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