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Direct Mail
October 25, 2022

Bare Bones: White Space in Your Direct Mail Design

Stephanie Donelson

When it comes to design in marketing, we often think of big, bold colors, beautiful imagery, and well-placed text and calls-to-action. But there is another element that requires our attention: the bare spots! Also known as white space, it's an important part of any design.

What is white space?

White space is simply the blank or negative space between the other elements of your creative, like copy, CTAs, and images. White space is even the space between the lines of text on this blog post. In fact, that particular type of white space is known as micro white space and is a generally passive form of white space as it’s going to occur naturally.

Now when I add a line break, that’s a form of macro white space or active white space. That line break was done on purpose to add breathing room between elements.

White space is needed to help direct the flow of where recipients should be looking when they scan your mailpiece, whether it’s the micro kind or macro.

Why do you need white space in direct mail?

We need white space in design to make the other elements easier to read or understand. It’s like visiting a website today that has a billion ads and pop-ups–it’s practically impossible to read! Let’s address the other reasons your piece of direct mail needs white space in its design.

It works for limited attention spans

We don’t have long attention spans, and we especially don’t want to give our attention to something that’s overwhelming to look at. Recipients of your direct mail won’t even know what your call-to-action is if it’s too closely surrounded by other text or visuals. 

The use of images and white space draws your attention to the offer, $200 off your purchase. Source: Who's Mailing What!

Emphasizes important elements

Author Karen Martin has been quoted as saying, “When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.” 

The same is true for your direct mail design. If everything is emphasized and screaming for attention, nothing will actually stick with the direct mail recipient. 

Designing for direct mail isn’t like designing for the web where you can add room as you need to as people will just scroll down. Space is limited on postcards or letters, and all of that space shouldn’t be packed with copy or images. 

Using white space effectively intuitively guides recipients’ eyes toward the most important messages.

A very simple, straightforward design. Source: Who's Mailing What!

It keeps things simple

Lastly, white space helps keep your design simple and forces you to simplify your marketing message as much as possible so your target audience actually consumes the content you’re sending them. Instead of trying to fit more text or images into an already small space, you can let your important elements breathe and get the attention they deserve. 

Recommended reading:

How Paper Impacts Color When Printing Direct Mailpieces

A Guide to Modern Postcard Campaigns That Convert

Best Practices for Direct Mail Calls to Action

This mailer from Stitch Fix uses white space well, sticks to one font, uses personalized images, and makes it easy to scan with small lines of text. Source: Who's Mailing What!

Additional direct mail design tips

White space is good for your direct mail design, but it’s not the only tip we’re sharing today. When designing your next marketing mailpiece, keep these things top of mind:

Keep your backgrounds simple: Whether you use a solid color, pattern, or image, the background should not be busy nor complicated to comprehend quickly.

Don’t overlay text on top of images: Think of some of your favorite book covers. Do they have text overlaid on the background images? Probably not as the author wants you to be able to read the title of their book! 

Use one or two typefaces: People tend to flip through the mail, looking for pieces that seem important or catch their attention. You don't want to catch their attention with how impossible your typefaces are to read. Use a legible font that can be scanned and looks uniform with the other elements in your design.

Personalized images: Thanks to variable data printing, you can quickly personalize your direct mail design with images, such as previous purchases, stock images of people that may share traits with them or be at the same stage of life, or even popping in a photo of their geographic location. 

Make it easy (and engaging) to read: Not only should your message be simple and easy to understand, but it should also be personalized.

Get creative with your direct mail with Lob

Ready to design the best direct mail marketing campaign? Then you'll want to use the best direct mail platform available to send your piece. Learn why you should partner with Lob to send it by having a conversation with one of our direct mail experts.