Here is a fine point to consider in mailpiece design that is very frequently misunderstood or simply not known. This design mistake most likely won't cost you anything in postage rates if you don't do it right, but it can make you look silly to your customer if you ignore it.

Across the top of the mailpiece in this illustration, where the arrow is pointing, you can see that there is an opaque paper strip with a barcode printed on it. This label was applied by the U.S. Postal Service to help with their automated sorting equipment. In this case, the machine that is used by the USPS for sorting mail relies on this coded label for its most efficient operation. To facilitate its internal processing, the Postal Service very frequently applies its own barcode to a mailpiece. You may have noticed that sometimes you receive mail that may have multiple barcodes on it, even fluorescent orange barcodes on the front or the back of the piece, that the Post Office has applied. Depending on the size, type or class of mail, the code may be printed directly on the mailpiece or on an opaque peel-off label, like it is on this example.

The USPS reserves the right to place these codes that are for its own internal use within 5/8"â❠of the top or bottom edge of the mailpiece, either on the front or back. Information may be blocked from view by the recipient if you design your mailpiece so that you have critical information appearing within that space. Even though the labels are designed so that they can be easily peeled off, it is still very likely that any part of your message that is covered by the label will not be seen.

In this example, there was critical information underneath the label. Some recipients may know to peel it back, but you could avoid this problem at the design stage by just understanding what the USPS does with your mailpieces.

You will have your critical information land in the customers' mailbox in full view if you know about this 5/8"â❠barcode zone on the top and bottom edges, on both the front and back of the mailpiece.

Mary Ann Bennett is President/CEO of The Bennett Group, Inc., a mailing training and consulting firm, and she is the founder of the Mailing Training Institute in Rochester, New York (www. She can be reached at 585-424-2702 or