Even the most talented graphic designer can be prone to postcard design mistakes, especially if the designer in question loses sight of the end goal: to make sales. Despite often being referred to as "artwork," postcard design is indeed a science with certain rules that must be followed in order to achieve an outstanding return on investment.
Every marketer knows that your postcard should have a captivating headline, compelling copy and a motivating call to action all wrapped into a dazzling design. Still, there are many breeches of the science of direct-response marketing - including from some of the most profitable companies on the planet - and even the most subtle mistake can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lost sales. To help you avoid these errors, three of the most prevalent postcard design flaws are detailed below.
Designing to impress
Sometimes designers create designs intended to impress their clients, to show how great their work can be. There's nothing wrong with designing an impressive piece of art, but when the design is the focus the message gets lost. In fact, postcard design has one purpose only: to draw attention to and enhance the postcard message.
Thus, great design can be attractive, and it can scintillate the senses, and it can help brand the company image. But these all play into the goal of promoting the message and subsequently motivating action. A postcard design should never sacrifice headline size, feature/benefit placement or attention-getting colors in the name of art.
Case in point: A postcard designer might shy away from placing a headline or call to action in bright red because they perceive it as tacky in comparison to a shaded crimson hue, which would be more elegant. The problem with this philosophy is that the bright red gets attention - it can't be missed, and therefore the message cannot be missed. If you want to design for the arts, send your work to an art gallery; if you want to design for response, use what has been proven to work. There really are few opportunities for originality.
Postcard design that has too many things going on loses its message. Stick to two or three colors (never more than four). Don't create a photo collage that obscures the text or makes it difficult to make out what is happening in each image. You could use one large background image, two large images or three or four thumbnail images, but putting more than that on a postcard could spell disaster.
The golden rule of postcard design is KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. And a too-busy postcard design is the kiss of death for any marketing campaign.
Forgetting the back
Every graphic designer loves a blank canvas, such as the front of a postcard before you hit the drawing board (or computer, as it is). The back of the postcard, though, is not as often used as it should be. Think about how postcards are delivered: address up so the postman can see where it goes. Guess what? The postman doesn't care about your return on investment, and won't do you the courtesy of flipping your postcard over so you make more of an impression.
Thus, you should start your pitch and postcard design on the back of the postcard, in the area the post office doesn't need. This makes it less likely your postcard will simply be tossed out as junk mail. Give it a try and compare your return on investment to see the benefits for yourself.