Direct Mail

USPS Envelope Design Guidelines

By 13 February 2024April 28th, 2024No Comments
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What Are The USPS Envelope Design Guidelines For Effective Business Communication?

The fundamental block of success for effective communication for business organizations is punctuality. Can you blame a customer for late payments if your invoice never reached them on time? And the concerning part is that it doesn't take much to delay your mail communication.

“1 in 5 pieces of mail across the U.S. was delivered late to households and businesses in the first three months of 2021” – CBS NEWS.

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It might surprise you that a significant number of these delivery delays are due to non-compliance with envelope design guidelines. Even placing the delivery address in the wrong position could delay your mail delivery.

However, a simple solution exists to avoid this problem for your business. All you have to do is ensure that you follow the USPS envelope design guidelines. But is it as simple as it sounds? The best way to answer this question is to understand the USPS guidelines comprehensively.

Below we discuss the significant USPS regulations for envelopes and why it is crucial to comply with them for effective business communication.

Standard USPS Envelope Design Guidelines For All Mailpieces

Envelopes come in different shapes and sizes, but certain elements are common for all mailpieces. Regardless of how big or small, your mailpiece is, it always has these common elements. The common factors in a USPS mailpiece design include

  • Clear Space
  • Delivery And Return Address
  • Postage Payment

Clear Space

The purpose of clear space on an envelope is for the necessary details you must attach with the mailer, including

  • Delivery address
  • Postage (postmarks)
  • Endorsements
  • And other mail markings

Every USPS mailpiece design template provides clear space to add the details above to your business mailers.

Delivery and Return Address

Of course, the delivery and return addresses are also standard elements in every postal mail. The delivery address of a mailer specifies the exact location to which the postal carrier must deliver the mail. According to the standard USPS envelope design guidelines, the delivery address should be on the side of the mailpiece bearing postage.

It is worth remembering that periodicals do not display postage so that the address can appear on either side. Using at least 0.080-inch high characters is also advisable, preferably in the sans-serif font for your USPS mailpiece design.

A return address is not mandatory for most mailers. Place the domestic return address on the upper left corner of the mailpiece or addressing area. Suppose you want multiple return addresses on the mailer. In that case, you need to show a unit designator, such as the apartment number.

Postage Payment

Every time your business sends out postal mail, it must pay the required postage. The standards for postage payment may vary depending on the shape, size, and class of the mail. You must also ensure that the postage is visible on the mailpiece's face according to envelope design guidelines.

USPS Envelope Design Guidelines For Letters

The USPS guidelines for envelope design can differ depending on the type of mailer you use. Chances are that most of your business mailers are in the form of regular letters. Let's take a look at the design considerations for your mailers.

Dimensional Standards For Letters

For USPS to consider your business mailer as letter-size mail, its dimensions must fall within the limits mentioned in the table below.

Dimension Minimum (inches) Maximum (inches)
Length 5” 11-1/2″
Height 3-1/2″ 6-1/8″
Thickness 0.007″ 1/4″

Mail Type Maximum Weight (ounces)
Retail Letters 3.5
Automation enveloped letters 3.5
Machinable enveloped letters 3.5

Length and Height of Letters

The length and height of your business letters play a vital role in your USPS envelope design. It can determine your letter's mailability or machinability. It is worth noting that according to the USPS, length is the dimension parallel to the address as read. And height is the dimension perpendicular to the length.

As you can see, placing the delivery address on a letter-size mailpiece decides which side of the mailer is the length and height. In other words, your USPS mailpiece design template determines whether your mailers are nonmailable.

Aspect Ratio

Another essential consideration in USPS Mailpiece design is its aspect ratio. The aspect ratio of your letter-sized mailer is the length of the mailpiece divided by its height.

To ensure that your business mailers are machinable, keep the aspect ratio between 1.3 and 2.5.

The USPS processes machinable mailers much faster than standard mail. As a result, it enhances your mail deliverability.

Address Placement For Letters

Address placement is a crucial aspect of USPS regulations for envelopes. If you do it wrong, your mailer may become nonmailable. Typically, a mailpiece becomes nonmailable in one of the following situations.

The Length Of The Mailer Is Less Than 5″

Suppose you use a 4″ x 6″ letter-sized envelope for sending your business mailer. Now, assume that you placed the delivery address parallel to the 4″ side making it the length of your business mailer.

In this case, the length of the mailer does not meet the minimum requirement of 5″. Here, the mailer physically meets the minimum dimensions. But according to USPS regulations for envelopes, it is nonmailable.

The Height Of The Mailer Is Less Than 3 1/2″

The same logic we discussed above for the minimum length of your business maile also applies to the mailer's height. In other words, if the side perpendicular to the delivery address is less than 3 1/2″, your letter-size mailpiece is nonmailable.

The Aspect Ratio of The Mailer Is Not Between 1.3 and 2.5

According to the USPS envelope design guidelines, the aspect ratio (length divided by height) must be between 1.3 and 2.5. If your letter-size business mailpiece has an aspect ratio outside this value, say 0.69 or 4.20, it automatically becomes nonmachinable.

USPS Envelope Design Guidelines For Address Placement On Letter-Size Mailpieces

Did you know that USPS has a name for the space where you write the delivery address in a letter-size mailpiece? It is called Optical Character Reader or, in short, OCR. According to the USPS envelope design guidelines, the dimensional position of the OCR should be as follows.

  • The left border of the OCR should be 1/2″ away from the left edge of the piece.
  • The right border of the OCR should be 1/2″ away from the right edge of the piece. However, USPS recommends 3/4″ due to lead edge fold over.
  • The top border of the OCR should be 2-3/4″ from the bottom edge of the piece.
  • The bottom border of the OCR should be 5/8″ from the bottom edge of the piece.

You must ensure that the delivery address is always within the OCR read area. The postal service provider can quickly read the mail address and apply the appropriate routing barcode. Hence, in a way, the envelope design guidelines enable you to speed up direct mail delivery.

USPS Envelope Design Guidelines For Return Address Placement On Letter-Size Mailpieces

The return address on your business mailer lets the postal service know where to return the mail if they can't deliver it. Like the delivery address, you also have USPS envelope design guidelines on where to place the return address.

Typically the return address is provided on the upper-left corner of the address side of the mailpiece. In other words, you can place the return address in the upper-left corner of the addressing area. According to the envelope design guidelines, the placement of the return address should be as follows.

  • The left border of the return address area should be 1/2″ away from the left edge of the piece.
  • The top of the return address area should be 6″ from the bottom edge of the mailpiece.

Also Read: How To Write International Address

USPS Envelope Design Guidelines For Machinable and Automation Letters

Machinable and automated letters are the most preferred way of sending business letters. Business organizations can use mail automation tools like PostGrid to send machinable letters. CASS-certified systems like PostGrid automatically follow the USPS envelope design guidelines to ensure speedy delivery of your mailers.

Dimensional Standards For Letters For Machinable and Automation Letters

Your business mailpiece must meet the following dimensional requirements for the USPS to classify it as a machineable and automated letter.

Dimension Minimum (inches) Maximum (inches)
Length 5” 11-1/2″
Height 3-1/2″ 6-1/8″
Thickness 0.007″ for mailers < 6″ x 4-1/4″

0.007″ for mailers > or = 6″ x 4-1/4″

1/4″ 

 

Mail Type Maximum Weight (ounces)
Machinable enveloped letters 3.5
Automation enveloped letters 3.5
Booklets and folded self-mailers 3

Heavy Letter Mail

Sometimes your mailer may weigh more than 3 ounces, and this type of mailer is called Heavy Letter Mail. The envelope design guidelines require that you use sealed envelopes. Furthermore, it should contain any stiff enclosure and have an Intelligent Mail barcode (IMB) for address routing.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio of machinable and automation letters is the same as that of the letter-size envelopes we discussed earlier. According to the envelope design guidelines, the length of the mailpiece divided by height must be between 1.3 and 2.5. Similarly, the length and height requirement of the machinable and automation letters is the same as that of the letter-size mailers we discussed above.

Wraps and Closures

Regarding wraps and closures for the mailpiece, the USPS envelope design guidelines have some strict NO-NOs. It is worth noting that your company's automation-compatible letter-size mailpiece should NOT be

  • Poly-wrapped
  • Polybagged
  • Shrinkwrapped

Besides the wrappings listed above, you must avoid the following closures for your business machinable and automation letters.

  • Clasps
  • Strings
  • Buttons
  • Other similar closure devices

The rule of thumb you can follow here is to avoid anything that has protrusions. These envelope design guidelines are necessary because such bumps can damage mail or mail processing equipment.

Staples and Saddle Stitching

According to USPS envelope guidelines designers, you can use staples or saddle stitching on the spine of booklet-type mailpieces. The guideline also states that the pins or stitching must parallel the spine or bound edge. Furthermore, you must ensure that the seam is tight and secure. Finally, you should ensure that there are no protrusions that can damage the mail or mail processing equipment.

Rigid and Odd-shaped Items

Another essential aspect you should know about your USPS mailpiece design is the inclusion of rigid or odd-shaped items. USPS prohibits mailing solid objects such as pens, pencils, keys, etc., inside your mail envelope. So, if you plan to send such items as part of your marketing mail, you should reconsider it.

However, the postal service does offer you reasonable flexibility with the items you can mail.

For example, things like credit cards and odd-shaped items like coins and tokens are permissible in the mail. But, you must affix these items firmly and wrap the mail's content to allow automated processing.

Attachments on Automated Letter-Size Mailpieces

The USPS regulations for envelopes allow you to include attachments with your mailers meeting automation standards. You can even have mail attachments for barcoded carrier route letters. And the best part is that you are still eligible for automation letter prices. Some mail attachments you may consider for your business mailer are

  • Label
  • Sticker
  • Perforated pocket
  • Release card

Go through the USPS guidelines for envelope design. You can find that you need to use perforated pockets or permanent stickers. The sticker should be less than 0.007″ thick, and the perforated bag should not be repositionable.

Letter-Size Envelopes With Attached Release Cards

The envelope design guidelines state that enveloped letters should use (at least) a 60-pound book-grade paper. Furthermore, the thickness of the paper should be no more than 1/8″.

And in case you are using a window envelope, ensure that it only has one closed panel address window. The size of the address window should be no larger than 1-1/2″ x 4-1/4″.

Letter-Size Envelopes With Perforated Pockets

According to the USPS envelope design guidelines, you may affix perforated pockets to the non-addressed side of envelopes. Here also, you should have only one closed panel address window. Additionally, you must ensure that you place perforated bags 1″ closer to the window's trailing edge.

USPS Envelope Design Guidelines For Nonmachinable Letters

Nonmachineable letters can be polybagged, poly-wrapped, or enclosed in any plastic material. The outer surface of the non-machinable letters uses a nonpaper material. Having windows or attachments does not make it nonmachinable.

USPS Envelope Design Guidelines For Sending Odd-Shaped Items

USPS does not allow you to use letter-size or flat-size envelopes to carry odd-shaped items. Hence, you should reconsider including marketing gifts like pens, key chains, or other odd-shaped items in letter-size or flat-size paper envelopes.

However, the USPS regulations for envelopes allow you to send them if you wrap them inside the contents of the envelope. Doing so will enable you to ensure a more uniform shape for your mailpiece, avoid protrusions and prevent damage during mail processing.

On the other hand, if you don't wrap the oddly-shaped items, the envelope can burst, potentially damaging USPS employees and its processing equipment. However, the envelope design guidelines also state that mailers may be subject to a nonmachinable surcharge for First-Class Mail letters.

USPS Envelope Design Guidelines For Window Envelopes

Window envelopes are one of the most common envelopes used in business communications. However, displaying the full address through the window might be tricky. According to USPS envelope design guidelines, the details visible through the window should include

  • Intelligent Mail barcode
  • Markings
  • Endorsements

Additionally, you must ensure that the window envelopes you use in business communications meet the barcoding standards for letters. Besides this, the window envelopes must meet the following criteria according to the USPS envelope design guidelines.

  • You must print the address and Intelligent Mail barcode on white or very light color paper.
  • Keep at least 1/8″ clear space between the address block and the address window's top, bottom, and left and right edges.
  • The bottom edge of the address window must be within 1/8″ from the clear barcode zone for nonautomation price mail.
  • The window cover, if any, must be non-tinted, precise, or transparent to meet the print contrast ratio (PCR) standards.
  • The envelope design guidelines require you to glue all the edges of the window cover material to the envelope.
  • You must ensure that the bottom edge of an address window is at least 1/2″ (5/8″ preferred) from the bottom edge of the envelope.
  • Ensure that the address window is parallel to the longest edge of the envelope for letter-size mailpieces.

USPS Envelope Design Guidelines For Green Diamond Border Envelope

You must pay the appropriate First-Class Mail price if your business envelope bears a green diamond border. The pricing applies to all such mailers regardless of their content or requested class/service. According to USPS regulations for envelopes, your mailers must meet the following standards.

  • The border must not enter the OCR read area or the (barcode) clear zone for letter-size mailpieces.
  • Suppose the Delivery Point Barcode or Intelligent Mail barcode is in the address block. In that case, the border may enter the OCR read area or (barcode) clear zone.

How Can PostGrid Help You With USPS Envelope Design Guidelines?

As you can see, there are numerous USPS envelope design guidelines that you need to follow to ensure accurate and fast deliverability. However, keeping track of all the minute details, conditions, and standards required for designing a mail envelope is not easy.

PostGrid's direct mail solution automates the entire process, so you don't have to worry about USPS guidelines for envelope design. Our system can choose the ideal envelope for your bulk mail campaigns and ensure it complies with the USPS guidelines. But don't take our word for it. Here is what one of our clients had to say about PostGrid's direct mail services.

“The API has turned out to be a great success. We started with 4000 mailings for 3 months and never had any downtime. I requested an increase in the sending limits, and it was given to me in 10 minutes!” – Vice President of Engineering.

Here are some ways we can optimize your company's mail communication and marketing efforts.

Full Automation

PostGrid's direct mail system comes with full automation capabilities. It means everything from personalizing your mailers to picking an envelope that aligns with the USPS envelope design guidelines is automated.

CASS Certification

PostGrid is a CASS-certified service provider that even provides your business with an address verification solution. Our address verification tool can access the USPS address database to verify and print standardized addresses for your business mailers.

Fast And Error-Free Mail Delivery 

As PostGrid offers a fully automated direct mail solution, there is zero chance of a manual error, including the envelope design guidelines. As a result, your business mailers always reach their destination without any unwanted delays.

Also Read: Medicare Marketing Guidelines

Conclusion

The USPS envelope design guidelines can be complex and challenging for business organizations. There are numerous rules, and most of these rules have several exceptions. It is virtually impossible to ensure you comply with all the USPS regulations during the manual mailing process.

Luckily, you can access fully automated direct mail solutions like PostGrid to ensure your mailer follows the envelope design guidelines. PostGrid's direct mail solution can automatically select the ideal envelope for your business mailers and ensure fast delivery.

You can even access PostGrid's address verification tool to ensure the maximum deliverability of your mailers. As a result, you save a lot of time and money on your bulk mail communications. And the best part is that you no longer have to worry about USPS envelope design guidelines because PostGrid does that job for you.

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