in Direct Mail
With this issue, we address a novel approach to newsletters we are starting to see: Namely, the postcard newsletter. The rationale is compelling: The miniaturized format fits nicely with a culture that doesn't have a lot of time to read, yet is hungry for information. In approaching the challenge, we decided to take a two-page spread from a traditional newsletter, whittle it down and redesign it for the medium at hand.
Copy and Fonts
Sharpen your pencils. We were initially skeptical that we could copy edit to fit this requirement, while leaving enough meat in the content to make it a worthwhile read. With some effort, we were able to edit the articles into concise, but still informative, versions of the originals, resulting in a cover story that's 235 words, and a reverse story that's 195 words. These are good overall estimates of word count requirements for this type of piece. Keep the headlines short and use them to draw in the reader. Overall, maximize the information while minimizing the prose required to convey it. Scroll down for a full-size jpg of the result and you can decide for yourself how we did.
Font choice is critical. Of course it makes sense to select a condensed typeface for your postcard newsletter's design. We found the challenge to be selecting a face where the stroke of the letters was thick enough to keep the piece legible at relatively small point sizes; most of the condensed fonts we looked like had a vertical stroke width that was too narrow, in our opinion. We settled on Humanist 521 Condensed from Bitstream, finding that it had a narrow enough overall design to allow for a few critical extra words in the copy, yet a wide enough vertical stroke to keep the typeface legible at a small size. It also has a strong bold face version, which provides a great opportunity to call attention to important information.
Relevant content. Assume you have two primary content blocks: The postcard's front and the left side of the back. In this case, our fictional design studio's audience might be buyers of creative and print services and we chose an environmental theme for the postcard newsletter's issue content. Using it as an example of copy strategy, the primary article speaks to the reader at a personal level, while the second article has a more business-to-business angle from the point of view of recycled paper specification. The larger point, keep the copy relevant to the reader and provide the reader with topic matter that is interesting to them.
Images and Graphics
Pictures vs. words. Let's face it, images can convey a strong sense of an article's theme or overall point, yet in this case, real estate on the postcard is scarce. We opted to go with a background image at full opacity for the NamePlate area, with it faded to an opacity of 30% as a background to the story. The result is a powerful image evoking the green theme, while not adversely impacting the editorial's length.
Name plate. The name plate provides the reader with the newsletter's name and information about its publisher. Don't overlook this important element, since it can give context to what may be an unfamiliar format for a newsletter from the reader's perspective. We created a name plate with the name "Quacker Yack" that plays nicely with the fictional design studio's name, Duckbill Design. A well-designed name plate can really make your postcard feel like a newsletter and is an important component of the overall piece.
Call To Action Sales Message
Leave room for the pitch, but keep it brief. Newsletters are primarily an information vehicle, yet provide a powerful opportunity to establish your firm's expertise while positioning your products and services. That said, there's nothing wrong with a brief, direct appeal to the reader to consider a purchase of your product or service. We incorporated the pitch into the name plate area, with a reversed out message on the left side of the cover pitching this studio's ability to create and produce a postcard newsletter. The piece itself lends credibility to their fictional qualifications, and the sales message just drives the point home.
Bells And Whistles
Personalize short runs. We opted to personalize the headline on the front cover, providing a simple yet effective way to harness today's technology to speak more directly to the reader. This strategy of course requires a digital print workflow, which is great for small- to medium-sized runs. For larger runs where conventional offset makes more sense, we would have omitted this detail.