Pushing the Envelope
When you think of a museum, do you think of stodgy, Greco-Roman columns housing celebrated relics from the past or sleek, white buildings with art nouveau inside? Each kind usually comes with not only a different legacy, but also a different donor base.
A recent Art Institute of Chicago mailing strikes a refreshing balance between the sanctity of the museum’s fundraising appeal and a modern, graphic design aesthetic. The mailer comes in a traditional-looking 6˝ x 9˝ envelope, labeled only with the Institute’s return address, and inside is a gate-folded main component on heavy white cardstock, a reply postcard on the same stock and a BRE. When you unfold the main card, there are two side panels, each showcasing one of two funds for donors to choose from, and a letter from the president and director in the center panel (Archive code #602-173381-0803).
“I think our audience needed a bit of a wake-up,” says Briana Fabbri, assistant director of member acquisition. “We were sending out very plain packages, with practically no color and no imagery, and having the good design is more representative of what our audience expects of the Art Institute. They expect us to be a sophisticated, visually beautiful institution and to produce materials that reflect that,” she explains.
The first time the Art Institute of Chicago had promoted both its annual fund and the new presidential acquisition and exhibition fund in one direct mail piece was in November 2007, but in a more traditional format. “We used cream-colored paper instead of stark white; the layout was a bit more conventional; and it was a sort of big, creative brochure that folded out and not a gate-fold card,” Fabbri says. Fabbri worked with her colleague Catherine Fink, senior associate director of member acquisition, and they brought in Stacy Sweat, principal of Stacy Sweat Designs, to revise the November effort.