When Ugly Works
Sometimes, good direct mail is just downright ugly. On purpose. Maybe the goal is for the piece to look inexpensive and put together on the fly with whatever office supplies are at hand — or not done by a professional graphic designer. It implies frugality and no dime wasted on fancy, artistic, matchy-matchy stationery.
Maybe the ugly package isn't intentional. It doesn't turn out like expected, or compromises were made between concept and execution — or maybe it's created by fans of the naked mole rat (Google the poor creature … ack!).
However it happens, mail that violates a snappy dresser's sense of style can cause some cringing.
I say get over it. Because if it works, who cares?
Some might be horrified by what the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee mailed recently, for example.
It arrived in a white, No. 10 closed-face envelope. "DEMOCRATIC HEADQUARTERS," "JAMES CARVILLE" and "DO NOT TAMPER WITH OR DESTROY" are printed in various point sizes of Courier type in the corner card. Above a faux label design around the addressing, "— AMERICA RESPONDS —" and "Deadline: August 15" are printed in red in a serif font that looks like Palatino. At the bottom right corner of the envelope, in small Courier type, the package is personalized with "DEMOCRATIC SUPPORTER NO.: 000903088" (my actual member ID). A lot is going on for a No. 10, but as a whole I think it all works together.
Inside, a two-sheet, four-page letter continues the fun with fonts. It's nothing more than black ink on white stock, as unfancy as you can get, which is appropriate for a signer like James Carville. The letterhead has "DEMOCRATIC HEADQUARTERS" and "James Carville" in 18-point Courier.
The letter copy is in what looks like 14-point Arial. That's something you don't see every day, but with the larger-than-usual point size, it's quite readable. The letter is dated "Monday, June 20, 2011, 9:15 a.m." and opens with, "Finally, the political outhouse has been knocked over and the Republican Party's lies are hanging in the wind for everyone to see."