Contents Require Immediate Attention

Copywriters estimate that they have only four seconds to get a consumer's attention with direct mail. Hence great care is devoted to the design of the envelope, the crucial outer garment that direct-mail watchdog Denison Hatch likens to "hot pants on a hooker." It may be deliberately oversize or emblazoned with URGENT warnings in bold red letters. It can be laser printed to make a boxholder's name appear handwritten, or stamped with an eye-fetching cancellation mark. "My job," explains Ted Kikoler, a Toronto graphic designer who works primarily for U.S. firms, "is to make people read the words, by hook or...

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