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How to use art in direct response
By Craig Huey
Most artists can’t do direct response art. Many direct response campaigns have been crippled or destroyed because the artist has violated critical rules that have been proven successful over time.
Many will admire or compliment the great-looking design of your ad or mail piece. But it's essential to realize that it is the copy that does the selling, not the beautiful design. Attractive design never sold anything, unless accompanied by good copy.
Copy is “King.” And the designer’s job is to make the King presentable. The designer can’t let the King go anywhere without people noticing him, thinking well of him and wanting to get to know him.
With few exceptions, copy must always be given visual preeminence. When other visual or graphic elements dominate, regardless of how beautiful they are, they serve only as a distraction.
With that said, here are a few guidelines for the proper design of powerful direct response advertising.
Always use serif type for body copy (never use italic type for chunks of body copy).
Times Roman is the standard typeface for easy reading. It is the most basic, simple, readable typeface that exists.
However, when used in large point sizes, Times is boring and uninviting. So, you'll usually want to select a different typestyle for headlines and subheads.
Other typestyles that have most of the positive features of Times Roman, including large x-height, but with a more inviting appearance when used at headline sizes, include Garamond, Palatino, Clearface and Galliard.
The only time you should consider using sans serif type is when creating headlines and subheads. Examples of sans serif headline typestyles are Helvetica Black, Futura Extra-bold or Franklin Gothic Heavy.
Headline and subhead rules
Headlines and subheads can be set in either serif or sans serif. Sans serif often appears more masculine and is appropriate for many promotions targeting a primarily male audience.
Do not put your headline in ALL CAPS. All caps are too hard to read. Use initial caps only for quicker reading.
From the headline, we move into…
Type size for body copy
Again, for optimum readability, you want to use 10- or 11-point type size.
12-point is larger than necessary, but can be used for emphasis or in the rare cases that extra space is available.
9-point is the minimum. It is usable, and sometimes necessary.
Often, you'll be able to begin a section in 10- or
8-point type is too small for paragraphed body copy, though it has been used, with some success, on very wordy space ads. It can be good for captions, addresses and other nonbody copy uses.
Once you’ve chosen a typestyle and type size, you can begin thinking about…
Body copy column format
When setting up your body copy, you need to be aware of the 5 rules for best results:
In addition to these 5 rules, you also should be aware of…
Things to avoid in body copy format
Use of color
There is one main rule for the use of color: Use warm colors; avoid cold colors.
You probably don’t need to use a four-color process, unless color photography is necessary to sell a product that must be shown in color. Using four colors usually doesn’t increase response enough to offset the extra expense. There are exceptions, such as food products, jewelry and fashion. Two or three colors is usually optimum. One of these will always be black for body copy.
Use of photography
When using photographs, use black and white or duotone. (Four color is usually used only when necessary to show the product in color, or on extremely large printing runs).
Pictures of people catch more attention than almost any other subject. Try to show a product with a person, or even a hand, in the shot holding the product.
Outlined photos (those with backgrounds knocked out) often capture more attention than a traditional rectangle frame.
Use photos to draw attention to the copy, not from the copy. Every photo should have a caption. The photo and the caption should stimulate interest in the copy adjacent to them.
Once you’ve designed your ad, you need to begin thinking about your…
Order form or response device
Just remember these 3 rules:
Finally, here are some other tips on…
Overall page appearance—making eye flow easy
Busy isn’t necessarily bad. Give your reader a lot to feast his or her eyes on. There is usually a lot of copy and very little room. Be willing to sacrifice white space in order to have room for readable body copy and attention-getting headlines.
When to follow these rules
An old design axiom is that “form follows function.” The function of art, in direct marketing, is always to generate a response. So, each design decision, including a decision to break a rule, must have increased response as its purpose. Try to defend every design decision based on the criteria.