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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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