How the Web Makes Direct Mail Better for Fundraising
The answer is that every form of information delivery has changed — and everyone’s design assumptions along with it. Surprisingly, the relative age of the technology doesn’t matter; Apple’s year-old iPad appeals as much to seniors as to younger demographics. Both equally enjoy the ease of use, rapid learning curve and app-based interface.** Therefore, designers can expect the definition of what’s legible to change as a result, and this will affect how we design for print, yet again.
New media learns from old media, too
Good designers identify the virtues and limitations inherent in every medium, and then work to extend the former and overcome the latter. Well-designed direct mail, although deprived of clickable links and dazzling multimedia, retains its own unique advantage in delivering a warm, tactile reality. For now, it still expresses authenticity and tangible intimacy better than the cool surface of a screen.
So it shouldn’t be unexpected that Web designers have been using the Internet’s improving speed and stability to incorporate what they can of print’s qualities. Expect subtlety. There will be increasing emphasis on legibility, reassuring textures and the printed quirks of a writer’s individuality*** — none of which are necessary, unless you realize that donors want not just information, but a person’s voice, telling a story meant wholly for them.
As the Web continues to disrupt old models, dismantling scale economies and rewarding those of personal engagement, marketing effectively across multiple channels means satisfying donors’ demands for more tailored and fully integrated experiences. Understood as a key component for building trust and gaining support, direct mail — when well-designed — also serves to reinforce the brand's essential character at every touchpoint.
* How immediate? How about 50 milliseconds. That’s a blink of a human eye, quite literally.
** Technology makes things possible; design makes things lovable.
*** Such as a fondness for footnotes. Sadly, no one reads footnotes.