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When people ask me about Mailpiece Design, the main question is always, what will the Postal Service allow? I always say that the Postal Service wants a white #10 envelope with the return address high in the upper left corner, the postage in the upper right corner, and the delivery address right in the middle of the envelope.

by David Girard Mail Piece Design Analyst

The rest of the envelope is yours. Our machines are looking for that address in the blink of an eye so it needs to be clear to whom you want the mailpiece delivered. Don’t have any other complete addresses on the piece that could be read as the delivery address. But pictures, taglines, graphics and logos are all okay. They simply appear as “noise” to our equipment because they are not addresses.

I’m sure everyone notices the ubiquitous barcode that’s in the lower right corner of most mail. It is how the Postal Service sorts your mail. We read the address and apply a barcode that reflects that address. To be able to read that address, I did say that black print on a white background is best but dark print on a light background works too.

A mailpiece does not have to be an envelope. It can also be a folded, self- mailer formed of one or more sheets of paper folded together and sealed to make a mailpiece. Bi-folds, tri-folds, quarter-folds and oblongs are all folded self-mailer options. I have seen some pretty creative folded designs.

Booklet style pieces are also popular where the pages are held together by a defined spine either as the bottom edge or lead edge of the mailpiece. And simple card designs, whether they are true postcards or oversized cardstock pieces, are an option as well.

MAIL PIECE DESIGN What will the Postal Service allow?

But while that is the ideal mailpiece for us, it is not ideal for getting that message to stand out in a crowd and we understand that. So let’s talk about what you can do in today’s mail.

The Postal Service is a delivery company and we are the best in the world at delivering your message to a target audience. The main thing we need on any mailpiece is a delivery address. Not to get too technical but on a letter-size piece, that delivery address needs to be at least ½ inch from the right and left edges of the piece, more than 5/8 of an inch from the bottom edge and at least 1/8 inch away from any other surrounding text or graphics.

We also like the address to be no more than 2 ¾ inches from the bottom edge. If you use a stamp, it must be in the upper right corner of the piece and we prefer that a return address be as high in the upper left corner as you can get it. That’s it, that is what we need.

16 | Rhode Island Creative Magazine Layout Design by Lillian Ferranti

The Postal Service has a piece of equipment called the “Envelope Reflectance Meter,” which allows us to check any color combinations you can come up with for compatibility with our optical character reading equipment. Our equipment cannot read reverse print, so white print on a dark background doesn’t work.

Deep red, dark green and black envelopes are also not good. Even with a white “knockout” for the address, we will not be able to read the barcode we applied. That is when you get those white labels we apply in the lower right which allow us to see the reapplied barcode.

We know you have many marketing choices, but according to the Epsilon Channel Preference Study, 73% of consumers prefer direct mail for brand communications because they can read it at their convenience. Direct Mail tops all other media for delivering the highest ROI for B2C marketing, 31% for acquisition and 38% for retention, as reported by Target Marketing. Other sources cite the mail as driving a response rate 30 times that of email. And we continue to offer promotions offering discounts on mail including Mail Drives Mobile promotions that demonstrate how direct mail can combine with mobile technology to facilitate purchases through the use a mobile barcode or QR code on a mailpiece using a mobile device.

You can call 855-593-6093 to talk directly to a mailpiece design analyst or email your proposed design to MDA@ We will provide an analysis of your design telling you what you can do to increase the deliverability of your mailpiece while still trying to help maintain the unique characteristics of your design.

You can also meet and discuss designs in our offices if there is an MDA near you. We are here to help you get that message delivered so you are getting the most from today’s mail.

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