How Graphic Design Secrets Will Boost Your Copywriting Success, Part 2

Last week, we talked about 3 ways you can increase your value as a copywriter by knowing the secrets of direct-marketing design.

You will be able to…

  1. Tailor copy to the format your client wants to use, saving you time and misdirected effort.
  2. Advise your client on the most cost effective design options while maintaining strong, profitable design features.
  3. Make more money!

Mastering direct-marketing graphic design is not difficult. In fact, it is easier to master than any other type of graphic design. But success lies in understanding what separates it from more traditional design.

Here are 3 core secrets of direct-marketing graphic design that will get you well along the path to being a successful copywriter/designer.

  1. Clarity

    Direct marketing has one purpose – to get a response.

    As a copywriter, you already know how important clarity is in your copy. You use simple words, explain complex concepts in simple, easy-to-understand words, and are crystal-clear about benefits and what the prospect will get.

    Present the prospect with anything less, and you're going to lose the sale.

    But clarity is not the standard in most graphic designs today. The majority of designers are more concerned about impressing people with how clever or sophisticated they are and how fancy they can make their designs … with little or no regard for getting the message across.

    This "ego before effectiveness" approach doesn't cut it in direct marketing. If the design interferes in any way with the message, response will fall and you risk failure.

    As a copywriter moving into direct-marketing design, understanding the need for clarity gives you a tremendous advantage. You don't need inspired designs. You need designs that promote the sale.

    So, to come up with a successful design for your promo, you don't have to struggle with "artistic demons." Simply go into your swipe file and borrow ideas from successful packages that are similar to the one you're working on.

  2. Control Your Fonts

    Right now, you probably have over 100 different fonts on your computer. Some fancy. Some plain. Some downright bizarre. When it comes to fonts, the motto of a good direct-marketing designer is this: "Just because you have 'em, doesn't mean you use 'em."

    What you must do to achieve clarity is use the fonts that are easiest to read … which are the most common ones in your font collection.

    For body copy – and for any long stretches of copy – use a serif font. Serif fonts have little flourishes or finishing marks on key points of each letter.

    These little finishing marks give a letter's shape clear definition and help pull the eye from one letter to the next, making them ideal for body copy.

    Good serif fonts include Times, Times New Roman, Garamond, and Courier. While not fancy looking, Courier is extremely readable. It also looks like it was produced on a typewriter, which gives it a personal feel.

    Sans-serif fonts don't have those little flourishes and finishing marks. So, because sans-serif letter shapes are less clearly defined than serif letter shapes, you can't read them as quickly. This also makes reading blocks of text in sans-serif type harder.

    But slowing reading speed can work to your advantage in some circumstances. Where might you want to slow your prospect's reading speed? Headlines, subheads, callouts, and other short runs of special copy. These places are ideal for a sans-serif font like Helvetica or Arial.

    Avoid fonts that call attention to themselves. I have a large number of fonts I use for specialty purposes but never for direct-marketing packages. A weird font like the one used in movie posters for "A Nightmare Before Christmas," for example, is totally out of place in a direct-marketing package and will hurt or kill response.

  3. Readability

    Font choice is just a small part of making your copy easy to read. Let's say you've written 16 strong pages of copy that your client loves. He wants to use all of it … but wants to do it as a 12-page self-mailer.

    You can squeeze 16 pages of copy into 12 pages by dropping the font size to 9 points, using quarter-inch margins, and combining paragraphs.

    You CAN do it, but you'll end up with copy that looks like a phonebook. Guaranteed, your prospect will not read it.

    Avoid using fonts smaller than 11 points. If you know your package is going to an older audience, set it in 12- or 14-point type. Older prospects will not read copy that's too small, and will appreciate copy that's readable without using "cheaters."

    Keep paragraphs short. Long blocks of copy are uninviting. They look like they're hard to read, even if they're not. With too many of them in your copy, your prospect will not read your package.

    Including a good amount of white space in your package – empty space surrounding text and graphic elements – is critical for producing readable copy. One way to do this is to simply increase the size of your margins.

    Design guru and prolific author Roger C. Parker calls white space "… one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. When placed around a page or a text element, white space focuses the reader's eyes on the text and graphics that matter."

Practice applying these three core secrets to the next promo or assignment you work on and you'll see how easy it is to be a direct-marketing copywriter/designer. And how close you are to adding another skill set to your profit stream.

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Published: October 1, 2007

3 Responses to “How Graphic Design Secrets Will Boost Your Copywriting Success, Part 2”

  1. Hi!

    I'm hoping answers are given to questions posted here...

    I'm curious as to why you used a sans-serif font in the body when you suggest in your article that serif font is best for the body?

    I figure there's got to be a reason but I can't figure out what the reason is...

    Thank you so much!


  2. Thank you Will! That's kind of funny if you really think about it. lol, kind of ironic. ;) I very much enjoyed the article as well as the information about selling to women vs. men. My problem is that I sell to a male-dominated industry but often with females working behind the scenes. So I never know if it's going to be a male or female purchasing and the split on every test is almost exactly 50% each gender. Anyhow thank you again!! Diane


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