Mail merge on steroids
That is how I usually describe variable data printing, or VDP. Most of us are familiar with merging a text document, most often simply address and salutation information. With VDP you can personalize everything on a mail piece, from the basic name and address to photos to entire panels. Have you ever received a mailing from a convenience store with an offer for a product you usually buy? It could be coincidence, but it is more likely to be careful matching of your customer ID to your purchases.
I have used this technique in highly complex fundraising pieces and in simpler class reunion invitations. Let me walk you through a reunion save-the-date card.
Our fictional school, State U, has a wonderful archive of historical photos as well as an excellent collection of yearbooks. Let's pull a list of alumni with reunions in 2014 (classes ending in 4 and 9). We know we'll need their names and addresses as well as class years and probably salutations. [To keep this example manageable, our sample spreadsheet only has four records in it; your mileage will vary.]
Now let's gather our image assets. We will use a single historical image on the front of each card, something relevant to each class. On the back we will have personalized copy "signed" by the reunion chair and a photo of the addressee. All the front photos need to be cropped to the same size as do all the head shots.
The postcard is oversized (5 x
7) so it will stand out from bills in the recipients' mailboxes. We
will use the school font (Baskerville) and colors (blue and white). We
are keeping it simple, since it will be followed up by a class flyer
with specific schedule and registration information.
The master layout includes frames for the photos and all the copy, both static and variable. To make it easier to see, all the variable images and copy are magenta in the examples shown here.
Once we have all the photos located, sized, cropped and named, it's time to back to the spreadsheet and note the appropriate file names on each record. This part can be tedious, but the results are worth it. Here is our sample data:
Now we are ready to turn everything over to our print shop to create the finished pieces. (Note: you can do data merges yourself using InDesign, but for large projects I would recommend finding a printer who handles this kind of work.)