Another Printing Disasters—and How to Avoid Them story…

The page design makes it clear to the recipient which way is up.

A couple of years ago, the United States Postal Service made changes to Standard Mail mailing panel design rules that frustrate designers and print managers no end. Just trying to parse out what the postal service rules are can be a challenge.

One of the main changes is that the mailing block now has to be in the upper half of the page of a flat. From a design perspective, that’s some awfully choice real estate to give up!

The cover sheet of this Print magazine direct mail piece follows the letter of the law, while masterfully playing with the question, “What is top?” It’s also a great example of aligning content to context.

For mailing purposes, what's up is down!

Notice the mixed direction of the type in the enlarged mailing block below. A pitch for a tempting subscription rate is right-reading to the reader, while the permit and address are right-reading to the USPS. I wonder if there’s a rule that says that the return address has to be right-side-up?

The mailing block was also designed as a Business Reply Card that the reader can just tear away on the perforated lines and mail to subscribe.

Highlighted in yellow: the mail-to address and mailing permit

Disaster Avoidance Tip

Will a solution like this one always work? That will depend entirely on who is doing the approving and how strictly he or she interprets The Rules. A by-the-books stickler might reject this design, while someone more flexible (or harried or overworked) might not.

The last thing you want is for a direct mail piece to be rejected after design, printing, and mailing prep have already been done! Most mail houses have someone on staff who already has a good relationship with the USPS postal regulations person in your town. It is definitely worthwhile for you or your mail house to solicit the input of the approver early in the design process to ensure that your most creative solutions meet USPS requirements.

Learn more about mailing considerations in these two Printing Disasters stories: On Passing Postal Muster and Avoiding Postal Disasters.

© 2011 Nani Paape