Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What works should trump what looks nice

Make it readable

Something about many graphic designers makes them love to write white copy on dark backgrounds.  I tell them 'til I am blue in the face that reverse type is simply not on - older donors struggle to read it at all, and it is harder work for younger donors.  Two factors not good for response.

Even though I accept it can look cool, the answer is 'No Reverse Type'.

I had a great, unprompted bit of feedback from a New Zealand donor when I interviewed her for a fundraising letter last week.  I was interviewing her because she is also a beneficiary of this charity. I will call her Daisy.

The words below are from the transcript of the interview.  I have edited identifying bits out.


Daisy:  Exactly. And so I think, you know, Mum wanted to help by giving blood for research. And I think people are happy to give money to research, because it’s so prevalent with [disease], you know, and it can affect anybody. And that’s why I think in fact, the story that they sent out, I think, was about a two-year-old girl. And the reason why I didn’t read it all, because that was … it was hand­written, which is always a little hard to read if it’s not a clear hand­writing. And they printed it white …

Sean:  Oh, no.

Daisy:  … writing on pale-coloured paper.

Sean:  That’s just … you have no idea how useful that little quote is for me at work. All designers want to do that, and I’m like, “But no one can read it!”

Daisy:  I know. That’s why I didn’t read the story; I read the first paragraph, got the gist that it was a child that had had a stroke, and I thought, “I don’t have the time and I don’t have the energy to try and decipher that.”


Of course, I frequently warn that anecdotes are dangerous but this is an anecdote reinforcing something that has been tested (especially by Jeff Brooks of www.futurefundraisingnow.com).

Please  don't use reverse type in appeals, or advertising, or anything other than a large font headline.

Although it is handy sometimes, for things that you don't really care if the recipient reads.  Though why you would write that I have no idea.


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