Part of the Creative Briefs series of mini-episodes with quick design- and marketing-related tips, this episode talks about making sure your design is mailable. When designing a printed piece that will be mailed, consulting a mailpiece design analyst will help you make sure your design adheres to any necessary postal requirements or qualify for special rates.
- USPS Publication 25 (1.1 MB PDF)
- United States: mailpiece design analysts
- Canada: Machineable Mail Advisor
- UK: Royal Mail Response Services Team
- Australia: article layout approval
In this Creative Brief episode, I talk about something not a lot of print designers know about, but they should: the mailpiece design analyst. Sounds like a scientist, right?
Mailpiece design analysts (that’s what they call them in the Unites States) are specially trained postal employees who can review and answer questions about a print piece you’ve designed to be mailed: an invitation or direct mail package, a postcard, etc. They tell you what to modify on that piece in order to meet postal requirements, especially for automation.
The last thing you want to do is design something, get your client’s approval and then find out their postage is going to be double what they expected.
They may or may not be ok with that.
This is important in situations where your client wants to mail a postcard at the postcard rate, so you’d be making sure your postcard isn’t too large to qualify for that rate. Or maybe they want to mail something with an indicia, and you want to make sure you put it in the right place.
It’s helpful to consult them for any automated mail because that qualifies for a lower postage rate such as reply mail. Think of the envelopes that say “No postage necessary,” the FIM bars, the barcode, permit number, etc. All of those elements require very specific placement on the envelope.
Typically, you e-mail a PDF or an image file of the piece to them, specifying dimensions of the entire piece and of the mail panel or mailing area. They may ask you for other information. If time allows, you could also mail the piece to them for evaluation. They can:
- test the paper you want to use for proper thickness, background color, flexibility, rigidity and barcode print tolerances, and so forth;
- help you with placement of the various elements on a reply mail envelope; and
- tell you at what postage rate your piece would mail.
The USPS has a detailed guide about this called Designing Letter and Reply Mail, publication 25 (1.1 MB PDF). It is very helpful.
I found experts of similar names in other countries:
- In Canada, they are called Machineable Mail Advisors.
- In the UK, they are the Royal Mail Response Services Team.
- In Australia, they appear to call mailpiece design approval “article layout approval.”