ur son Jacob is a high school junior; therefore, he’s getting lots of direct mail pieces from colleges and universities all over the U.S. Many of these pieces come from schools we’ve visited (and to which he’s considering applying), although he’s clearly in some database (College Board, perhaps?) that’s generating tons of mail from lots of other schools.
I love looking at these pieces. He only seems interested in stuff from schools at the top of his list. To be honest, J’s not interested in mail in general. He’s getting his information elsewhere (web sites, peers, counselors, Facebook). I know many parents whose children have a different reaction – they do take the time to look at this kind of mail.
Still, I look. Two pieces caught my eye recently, and though they’re very different, I think they’re terrific in their own right: one for its message; one for its design.
The postcard from Brown University caught my eye for its message. It’s a simple, 5 ½” x 8 ½” full-color postcard. One side was a full-bleed campus photo with an inch-wide horizontal banner running across the middle. “COME SEE WHAT’S NEW AT BROWN” was the only copy on this side, plus the university logo. So right away, you knew what this card was all about. NEW things.
On the mailing side was the content: four bulleted paragraphs of very small type describing – yup – what’s new at Brown: 1) website for the Office of College Admissions, 2) creative arts center, 3) social media accounts, and 4) four athletic facilities.
I like the postcard’s focus very much. However, I think that for a postcard, it’s too copy heavy, and the second color (a lovely, springy-green shade that’s a screen tint) is too light when used in the body copy. This color is used for the URLs in the copy as well as for Twitter and Facebook addresses. There’s not enough contrast between the pale green and the white of the paper. There’s also a QR code tucked into the corner of the body copy. I’d have liked a little instruction with this code (“Scan this code”). The URL's is not a special landing page, either; it’s the admissions page on their site. (While I was on this page I noticed they recently posted admissions for the class of 2016: Brown accepted 9.6% of the applicants out of nearly 29,000. Oh, those Ivies!)
The other piece I liked for its design came from Tufts University. This 8” x 8” square beauty was a brochure about their upcoming summer session. The design is outstanding, as is the print quality. It has a sunny yellow cover, with a spot varnish simulating the sun’s rays. The cover in particular is gorgeous (kudos to the Tufts Print and Marketing Communications staff, who gets credited on the back cover).
The inside pages of the 12-pager use color, different typefaces, and photography very intelligently, very creatively. Lots of leading between lines of copy, coupled with different sans serif typefaces of different weights makes this fun to look at – and enticing to read. The designer used type treatment & a great color palette to emphasize phrases. It really works. It’s a visual acknowledgment to the fact that readers are more likely to scan for key words rather than read everything. So phrases like “individual attention, “intense and challenging,” and “work at the college level” jump right off the page at you. The university’s URL (http://ase.tufts.edu/summer) is printed in nice, big type on every spread. What a gorgeous design this is. What a smart piece.
This time in Jacob’s life is generating tons of direct mail for me to peruse and critique. Some mail inspires and impresses – like these two pieces. Into my sample drawer they go. Use a postcard for one simple purpose – to share what’s new, perhaps? Create a luscious brochure in a delightful square shape with a stunning cover design, and make your type do double duty (convey content and catch the eye).
I’ve had a mini-education in print publications from Brown and Tufts. I’ll be sorry to see all of this mail come to an end in a year!
© 2012 Margie Dana. All rights reserved. You’re free to forward this email. However, no part of this column may be reprinted without permission from the author