When fundraising design becomes evil

I just got a newsletter that takes poor design to a whole new level — beyond hard-to-read, beyond inappropriate, beyond awkward.

It’s evil.

Yeah, that’s quite a charge to lay on a newsletter. But I think you’ll agree with me.

I can’t show it to you. I don’t want to embarrass anyone. But even if I didn’t care about that, I can’t, because it’s literally unscannable.

It’s printed in five colors: the usual four plus metallic silver.

That’s right, reflective silver ink.

Which could be just fine, but not the way it’s used here.

Reflective silver the background color of every page. And the paper has a smooth coating, which emphasizes the reflectiveness. It’s as if they were trying to make a mirror on a printing press.

Most of the headlines are white. That’s right — white against silver. Virtually invisible. Not hard to read: invisible — unless you angle the paper so it’s reflecting something dark.

Most of the text is black. Not quite invisible, but unreadable — unless you hold the paper so it’s reflecting something light.

I’m pretty confident this newsletter will be largely unread, no matter how determined some of the readers may be. And that means it will accomplish little.

In itself, that’s bad, but not evil.

This crosses into the realm of evil because it exhibits a disdain for its donors. Those who designed (and okayed) this design never thought, “This can’t be read!” They apparently had some unrelated goals in mind.

At the expense of their donors.

I’m quite confident nobody who reads this blog would ever do that.

But bad design can happen to anyone. Especially when we aren’t thinking about donors as we communicate with donors.

We depend on donors to do our work. That’s something not to forget.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.