Since the main objective in direct mail is to get the mailer to your recipients, the first hurdle is to design the mailer within postal regulations. The Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) was created in order to have a set of rules for designers and mailers to follow. The book is huge and very cumbersome to read. With that in mind, we have put together a list of common areas to watch out for when you are designing for direct mail.

Design Elements:

  • Round corners: This is not outlawed, but will get very expensive as it changes to a shape based pricing category. Instead use imagery to make a round feel.
  • Too Short/Tall: The post office requires that letter size mail (up to 6.125 x 11.5 depending on the category) be an aspect ratio between 1.3 and 2.5. To determine the aspect ratio you divide the length by the height when looking at the mail panel. If you fall below or above you will need to alter your size or you will have to mail non-machinable which will increase your postage.
  • Folds: If you are sending a self-mailer, you need to keep the folds in mind.
    • 8.5 x 11 trifold: mail panel should be the middle panel, top folds down followed by bottom folds up. This will give you a final fold below the mail panel.
    • 11 x 17 folding to 5.5 x 8.5: First fold to create 8.5 size should be to the right of the mail panel. Second fold is below mail panel. This will give you final folding below mail panel and to the right of mail panel.
    • 11 x 17 folding to 3.66 x 8.5: First fold to create 8.5 size should be to the right of the mail panel. Second fold is above mail panel folding down. Third fold for 3.66 x 8.5 is bottom folds up. This will give you final folding below mail panel and to the right of mail panel.
  • Address Placement: There are two ways to design the mail panel, one is for a barcode to be included in the address block and the other is for the barcode to be in the barcode clear zone (bottom right area of mail panel). The barcode clear zone is only available with letter size pieces (up to 6.125 x 11.5 depending on the category). From there we need to break down address block
    since flats (larger than 6.125 x 11.5) have different regulations than letters.

    • Flat address placement: Must be in the top half of the short edge. On an 8.5 x 11 the address block must be within 5.5 inches of the top of the piece.
    • Letter addresses with the barcode in the address block: These have more regulations than flats. You need a 4 x 2 clear area for the block. The block needs to be a minimum .5 inches from the right edge and .625 inches from bottom edge. The block can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of .125 inches.
    • Letter addresses with barcode clear zone addressing: The barcode clear zone is the bottom 5/8 of the mailer; it must be free of all text and images. Then the address must be a minimum .5 inches from the right edge and .625 inches from bottom edge. The address can be no higher from the bottom of the mailer than 3.5 inches. Lastly the address must remain at a minimum distance from graphics or text of .125 inches.
  • Tabbing: The first thing of note on tabbing is that there is another option. You can fugitive glue the mailers closed instead of tabbing. If you feel that the design of your mailer is being distracted from by the tabs you can opt for fugitive glue by adding a folded panel or just gluing along the edge. For tabbing there are 4 categories:
    • Under 1 ounce: Two 1 inch tabs above mail panel, final fold must be below mail panel
    • Over 1 ounce: Two 1.5 inch tabs above mail panel , final fold must be below mail panel
    • Booklet with stitching below mail panel: This requires three 1.5 inch tabs. Two to the right of mail panel and one to the left of mail panel
    • Booklet with stitching to the right of mail panel: This requires three 1.5 inch tabs. Two above mail panel and one to the left of mail panel.

This is by no means a complete list of all the things to consider when designing for direct mail, but it is a good start. If you have specific questions let us know we can guide you through the process. The limitations on design by the post office do not need to stymie your creativity. There are still many great designs that will be compliant and creatively unique. Have fun with it. If you have a design you would like feedback on email it to us. We will let you know if there are problems.

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If you have any questions call us in San Diego at 619-448-6111 or email info@eyecomm.org.
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