Steven D. Fleshman


I am Founder/Creative Partner of DR2, a direct marketing graphic design consultancy. As a former Creative Director for Capital One, EDS, Seabury & Smith, SQN Communications Design and Coast to Coast Resorts, I have nearly 40 years of direct response marketing and am known for designing direct-mail packages that get opened — plus social media, emails and digital communications that not only get click-throughs, but also donations.

Among my notable challenges and successes have been conceptualizing and designing a Sigmund Freud Lunchbox as the vehicle for a luncheon invitation for prospective clients of a mental healthcare HMO; mailing an award-winning package which included a packet of Old Bay seasoning to promote the use of a direct-mail production facility employing the developmentally disabled; membership mailings for member-only campgrounds across the US and Canada; as well as sea turtle, wolf and honey bee sock designs for an environmental charity.

Lest you think my experience is limited to one-of-a-kind endeavors, my achievements include digital and print creative that resulted in successful campaigns for Human Rights Watch, International Rescue Committee, Americares, Save the Chimps, FINCA, African Wildlife Foundation, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife and White Coat Waste Project, to name a few. I am also a fine art printmaker, specializing in relief and screen printing.

Tell us how and why you became involved in socially responsible communications, any thoughts on why design can be an especially effective tool for this goal, and, if you wish, give us an example of a project of which you are proud.

Many years ago, I was attending a conference for nonprofit fundraisers in Washington, D.C. The keynote speaker was a surgeon and the president of a nonprofit charity that provides life-changing plastic and reconstructive surgery to children with cleft lips and palates,.

The doctor opened his speech by saying that he loved fundraisers because we give someone an opportunity to be a better person, every day. I thought to myself, yes, that’s what I do, I give someone an opportunity to be a better person!

Well of course that’s a lot of self-important baloney. But I do present people with opportunities to provide assistance. I offer them a reason to care and be involved in a cause.

If you ask what project I’m proudest of, I can honestly say that I am proud of each one that successfully brings in donations and some that weren’t monetarily successful — reason being, those failures allow me and the charity to better understand what motivates their donors. Every day I get to work with great clients whose mission I believe in and help them reach their fundraising goals.

Given the confluence of events and challenges our society now faces, does 2021 present any special opportunities, urgencies, obstacles to designing for good?

The current financial reality in this country has made it very hard for good causes to raise money. The pandemic hit a lot of smaller charities hard. Paper availability as well as printing and postage costs make it very difficult for them to compete for the donor’s dollar.

The charities and nonprofits that still mail are the ones making money right now because there is less competition in that mailbox. Simply put, the organizations that get out to the donor can keep the lights on.

Am I biased towards physical mail? No, but know your audience. If they are physical mail-responsive, don’t send them email only. If they are email-responsive, don’t ignore physical mail. You are not as easy to ignore in multiple channels. Most important, be current, be timely and be relevant to your audience.