10 Common Mistakes in Mail Piece Design

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

What they are and how to avoid them

Millions of dollars are spent on mail to customers and prospects each year. Yet nearly 6.6 billion mail pieces were undeliverable in 2016* and most of it was avoidable. In addition, a significant portion of delivered pieces did not take advantage of available discounted rates. That begs the question… why pay for mail that doesn’t reach its destination or costs more than necessary?

You can avoid most of these costs by understanding the USPS mail design requirements. Some deliverability issues can also be avoided through address correction but that’s a topic for another post.

Fact...
If you don’t follow the USPS’ mail design requirements, you’ll either pay more for postage or your mail will not be delivered.

 

Because understanding USPS requirements will keep you from throwing away your mailing dollars, we prepared a summary to help you avoid common pitfalls. For those who want to dig into the nitty gritty, you can read a detailed USPS report here.

  1. Not meeting minimum mailing dimensions
    Minimum size of any mail piece is 3.5″ x 5″. Anything smaller is considered unmailable by the Post Office.
  2.  

  3. Dark/Black background color on mail pieces
    Dark and black backgrounds should not be used because addresses and barcodes can’t be read by USPS automation equipment. Even dark borders or edges can affect processing and are
    not recommended for mail pieces.
  4.  

  5. Screening/Imaging
    Show-through from the envelope lining (e.g., a security tint) or from an insert that is visible in the addressing area can impact whether barcodes can be read by automation
    equipment.
  6.  

  7. Placement of return address on Letters and Flats
    The return address on a letter-size piece should not appear in the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) Read Area, but be placed above 2-3/4” from the bottom of the mail piece (green area on the example) and extend no more than half the length of the envelope.
  8.  
     

  9. Text or graphics in the Barcode Clear Zone
    The Barcode Clear Zone extends 4-3/4” from the right edge and 5/8” from the bottom edge of the envelope. This is where the USPS places its automation barcode. There should be no printed numbers, text or graphics in this area to interfere with scanning equipment.
  10.  

  11. Postcard design
    Postcards must fall within the following dimensions:

    • Minimum: 3.5″ x 5″
    • Maximum: 4.5″ x 6″

    Vertical and horizontal formatting requirements apply. More details

  12.  

  13. Insert shift
    The complete address and/or barcode must be fully displayed at all times, even if contents shift. There must be a minimum of 1/8″ space on either side of the barcode and address within a window.
    There are a number of requirements/restrictions on placement of the barcode in an address.
    More details
  14.  

  15. Folded self-mailer construction
    Self-mailers are just that – they are self-contained and mail without an envelope. Gatefolds, Accordion and Z-fold are non-machineable and qualify for discounted pricing.
    Additional guidelines for self-mailers are outlined in the detailed information or in the USPS DMM, Section 201.3.14,
    which can be viewed on the USPS Website.


Two additional mistakes are difficult to summarize briefly in the space of this blog:

  • 9. Address placement on Flats
  •  

  • 10.Requesting uniquely assigned Business Reply Mail (BRM)Zip+4 codes

You can find information on these two topics in the complete report.

Becoming familiar with the design requirements of the USPS is vital to ensuring your mail can be delivered and automation discounts are applied. Having the right equipment and processing tools to meet mailing standards is critical. Check out our addressers, mail machines, folder/inserters and document processing options for more information.

If you need help, contact us at 303-761-0681 or the USPS MDA Support Center at 855-593-6093.

*USPS UAA Rollup 1998-2016