Designing Mail

Determine who, what, where, how and when

Your first step when designing mail is to determine what type of mail piece you would like to send.  Do you want to send out a letter or a letter with additional pieces inserted into an envelope?  Do you want the letter to be personalized or generic?  Do you want to provide a Business Reply envelope (BRE) or a Courtesy Reply envelope (CRE) for people to send back information to you?  Maybe you want to send out a typical postcard, an oversized postcard or even a self mailer.  Once you have decided on the type of mail piece next you need to decide if sending the piece first class or standard class will suit your needs.  You will need to determine who you will be sending your mail piece to, will you be using a list you have or will you need to purchase a mailing list?  If you are purchasing a mailing list which list will work well for you, a business list, consumer list or occupant/resident list?  Do you want to send to existing customers or potential new customers or both?  Last you need to factor in the time for designing, approval of the design, printing, mail preparation, postal delivery and what date you would like your pieces to arrive in the mailboxes.  Now that you know what you are sending, what class of mail you will be using, and who you will be sending your mail pieces to, it’s time to learn a few things about how to reduce your postage costs.How to reduce postage rates

Postage is determined by many factors.  Is the piece a postcard, letter or flat?  Are you saturating a zip code or carrier route?  Is the mail being delivered into Seattle 980 or 981 zip codes?  Is the piece automation compatible?  All of these factors have an effect on postage rates.  Mailers can effect these factors by 1) learning how to qualify for a postcard, letter or flat mailing 2) learning about designing mail to be automation compatible 3) learning that where your mail is entered at the Post Office can effect your rates 4) preprinting permits to save on metering costs .

Designing self mailers
A self mailer is a piece of mail that is designed to be mailed on its own without the use of an envelope.  There are many ways to design mail but we will focus here on designing mail that is automation compatible (barcoded) because of the favorable postage rates that are associated with this type of mail.   One way to control your postage costs on any mailing is to automate (barcode) the individual mailing pieces.  The post office reduces the per piece postage rate on each piece of mail that qualifies or has been designed for automation processing and contains a  barcode.  The reason for the reduction in postage is because it saves the post office the step of having to send each piece of mail through their optical character readers (OCR’s) to obtain and apply a barcode to each piece.  By using a mailing service that provides this step for you, you can save anywhere from a few pennies to several cents on each piece.  There are also reductions on postage costs for mail when it is simply presorted.  Below are some of the ways to qualify for an automated mailing when designing self mailers.

  • On a single sheet mailer (8 1/2 x 11) use at least a 28# (70# offset) paper weight.
  • When designing the mail piece for folding, have the fold at the bottom of the piece (meaning the recipient cannot open the mail piece at all from below their name and address).  On a trifolded piece there will be a flap at the top of the piece and a fold only at the bottom below the mailing address.  The mailing panel must fall in the middle section the the page.
  • For oversized postcards use a minimum paper thickness of .009 inches.
  • Choose a paper color that is light such as white, off-white, cream or pastel colors.  Make sure there are no paper flecks, shading or other distractions in the paper that will interfere with the barcode readers.  Exception:  you can use labels instead of direct printing to accommodate paper that we cannot direct print onto.   Note:  labels are more costly and have an outdated appearance.
  • Plan to have a two 1″ tabs or wafer seals applied to the upper part of the piece to hold it shut.  Each are placed within 1 inch of the edge of the piece.  Pieces with the fold on top significantly increases postage rates as they are considered non-machineable.
  • Plan to leave enough space for an address block and a barcode on the mailing panel of the piece (approximately 1 1/4″ in height and 3 1/2″ in length).  Also plan on leaving a 1/2″ margin on the right hand side of the mailing piece beyond the barcode (overall address block including this margin 1 1/4″ in height and 4″ in length).
  • Leave a “clear zone” at the bottom right hand corner of the mailing piece measuring 4 3/4″ in length by 5/8″ in height.  Exception: if there isn’t a clear zone, avoid putting important information in this area, the post office will place a label to cover any information and apply a barcode on the label on any pieces that are not barcoded or any pieces where they are having difficulty reading the barcode provided.
  • Design your piece with a permit indicia and save metering charges.  If you don’t have a permit already save yourself the $200.00 setup and $200.00 annual fee and use our permit for free (some special rules apply for non-profits).  Mail N’ Stuff Services maintains a Seattle based permit which qualifies you for additional savings on all of your zip code 980 and zip code 981 mailing pieces.