Postal Design Printing Knowledge
Postal Design

Outgoing Envelope | Response Piece

When designing the copy for the outgoing package and the response piece, there are guidelines set up by the United States Postal Service that need to be followed to receive automated rates on postage. There are specific guidelines set up for the return address area, the delivery address area, the bar code zone and the postage area. Shown below are the basic guidelines that you should be aware of when designing your copy for the mailing pieces.

Outgoing Envelope

The basic guidelines that apply to the outgoing envelope also pertain to other types of delivery packaging, such as boxes, tubes and polybags. The guidelines should be followed for the address label used on the package if the address is not imaged directly on the package.

Return Address Area

The information in the return address area tells the postal service where a mail piece should be sent if it cannot be delivered. It is generally located on the front, in the upper left-hand corner of the mail piece. When it is placed on the front, it cannot extend from the left edge more than half the length of the mail piece and cannot extend down from the top more than one third the height of the piece.

Be sure to use a return address that clearly states the address where the item is to be returned and so that ancillary services can be handled properly. Guidelines for what elements need to be included in the return address are the same as for the delivery address, see below. If mail is to be processed as upgradeable mail, the return address must not be in the OCR read area.

For more information on the return address area,
see Postal Regulations - Outgoing Mail.

Ancillary Services
Address correction, forwarding and return services performed by the USPS when mail is undeliverable to the delivery address
on the mail piece.

Upgradeable Mail
Upgradeable mail is First Class Mail and Standard Mail (A) that meets OCR requirements so that it can be processed on a multiline optical character reader to have a bar code applied.

Delivery Address Area

The delivery address area is where the delivery address is printed, instructing the USPS as to where the mail piece is to be delivered. It must appear on the same side of the mail piece as the postage appears. The address should be placed in the OCR read area of the mail piece. Printing that is non-address copy should be kept out of this area whenever possible. Other printing in the OCR read area may interfere with the OCR reading of the delivery address. If non-address copy must be printed in this area, the lowest point of the copy must be above the delivery address line of the address.

The delivery address must include the following information:

  • Name of destination or recipient's name
  • Complete delivery address
  • City and state
  • ZIP code or ZIP+4 code if required for the destination area

Mail pieces with a dual address will be delivered to the address immediately above the city and state. If the street address and post office box are on the same line, it will be delivered to the post office box. ZIP+4 and ZIP +5 codes must correspond to the address immediately above the city and state or post office box if both elements are on the same line. These guidelines apply to the return address also. For guidelines on alternative address formats, see

Complete Delivery Address
An address that consists of all applicable components, including street name and number, post office box number, rural or highway route number and suite, apartment or floor number.

Dual Address
An address that includes both the street address and post office box number.


The standard guidelines shown below should be followed when setting address copy that will be processed as upgradable mail. This will allow the address to be read by the multiline optical character reader, which will apply the POSTNET bar code.

  • Use a type style that is easy to read.
  • Use uppercase characters.
  • Set all address lines flush left.
  • For state designation, use two letter abbreviations.
  • Insert one space between city and state, two spaces between state and ZIP code.

Standard Address Abbreviations


The type style used for the addressee information should be selected from the OCR Readable Type Styles that have been approved. The chart below lists the type styles that have been tested and approved by the USPS for optical character readers. The type styles at the right have not been tested but are similar styles, considered equivalent to the approved styles.

Approved Styles

Similar Styles

Century Light Schoolbook
Fritz Quadrata
Futura Medium

Helios Light
Helvetica Light
Helvetica Regular
Honeywell H200
IBM 1403
IBM 1428
Koronna Regular

Manifold 72
Megaron Bold
Megaron Medium
News Gothic
Trade Gothic
Newtext Regular Condensed

Standard Typewriter
Stymie Medium

Triumverate Bold
Triumverate Regular
Univers 5
Univers Medium


Airport, Alphatura, Contempra, Future, Photura, Sparta,
Stylon, Techica, Techno, Tempo, Twentieth Century, Vogue

Akzidenz-Grotesk Buch
Europa Grotesk

Aquarius, Corona, Crown, Koronna, News No. 3, News No. 5, News No. 6, Nimbus Royal

Alpha Gothic
Classified News

Athena, Chelmsford, Musica, October, Omega, Optimist,
Oracle, Roma, Theme, Zenith

Alexandria, Beton, Cairo, Karnak, Memphis, Pyramid,

Sonoman Sanserif
Galaxy, Kosmos, Versatile

For more information on OCR guidelines and the delivery address area for your mail piece,
see Postal Regulations - Outgoing Mail.

Postage Area

There are several options for payment of postage. You can apply postage by using stamps, precancelled stamps, postage meters or a permit imprint (indicia). The permit imprint is the most popular form of postage payment applied to mail pieces for direct mail but most mail houses also have the capability of applying postage with stamps or postage meters.

To be able to use a permit imprint, you have to apply for a permit number from the USPS. Mailings using the permit number must consists of at least 200 pieces or 50 pounds. The content of the imprint must meet postal guidelines. It must be printed using a type style and ink color that is easily read. Listed below are the standard format guidelines that should be followed when using a permit imprint.

  • Must be located in the upper right hand corner of the delivery address side of the mail piece or address piece.
  • The imprint content must be in a clear area that is at least 1/2" wide and 1/2" high.
  • It must be no more than 1 1/2" down from the top edge of the mail piece or the address piece. The left edge of the imprint must be no more than 1 1/2" from the right edge.
  • There must not be any other copy between the imprint and the right edge.
  • Copy must run parallel to the delivery address copy.
  • The type must be a minimum of 4 point type.
  • A border around the imprint is not necessary as long as content is an approved postal imprint.

When developing the content for the imprint, you must follow the postal guidelines set up for the different classes of mail. See the guidelines below for First Class, Priority and Standard Mail.

First Class and Priority Mail

  • Imprint must show "First Class," "Priority Mail" or "Priority," whichever is applicable, the city and state, "U.S. Postage Paid," and the permit number.
  • Optional information:
    • Amount of postage
    • Number of ounces of postage paid
    • Mailing date
    • ZIP code
    • Rate Markings
  • City and state can be eliminated if the "Mailed from ZIP Code" endorsement is used instead, followed by the 5-digit ZIP code that is assigned to the mailing post office.

Standard Mail

  • Imprint must contain the same information as the First Class and Priority Mail.
  • "First Class," "Priority Mail," or "Priority" and the date must be eliminated.

For more details on postage design,

Response Piece

The response piece can be one of three different types of reply mail. The difference between them is the way in which the postage is paid.

Business Reply Mail (BRM) - The response is returned by First Class Mail and postage is paid by the mailer. The mailer pays postage for only the responses that are returned.

Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM) - The postage is paid by the respondent.

Meter Reply Mail (MRM) - The postage is prepaid by the mailer by the use of a Meter Stamp.

All three options make it more convenient for the recipient to respond. They make mail processing and delivery faster, eliminate errors and encourages recipients to respond sooner.

The BRM is the most widely used option in direct mail packages. Shown below are some of the basic guidelines that should be followed when designing your BRM.

Return Address Area

On the BRM, the return address area is the Permit holder's area. It may contain an area for a return address to be enter, logos, form numbers, codes or other information the permit holder feels is necessary. The information must stay out of the restricted areas surrounding it.

Delivery Address Area

The delivery address area on the BRM is the area that contains the permit holder's complete name and delivery address. The address must include the permit holder's company name, street address and/or post office box, city, state and ZIP code. A company logo can be placed in the address block as long as it is at least 5/8" up from the bottom edge of the mail piece and does not fall within the bar code clear zone.

Postage Area

The postage endorsement imprint is located in the upper right hand corner and must not extend more than 1 3/4" from the right edge. The endorsement should read "NO POSTAGE NECESSARY IF MAILED IN THE UNITED STATES".

Bar Code Area

The bar code is located in the lower right hand corner of the mail piece. It must fall within the bar code clear zone unless the bar code is in the address block of a window envelope or on a printed address label. A delivery point bar code cannot be used. It must be the ZIP+4 bar code assigned to the permit holder by the USPS. Prebarcoding of the BRM piece is optional except for in automation rate mailings of letter-size BRM and for QBRM mailings.

QBRM (Qualified Business Reply Mail)

QBRM is business reply mail that meets special design requirements which allows the BRM to be eligible for the lowest per piece rate available.

Business Reply Legend Box

The legend box is located above the delivery address block. It must contain the words "BUSINESS REPLY MAIL" and below that the words "FIRST-CLASS MAIL PERMIT NO." followed by the permit number and the city and state of the issuing post office. All copy in the legend box must be in uppercase letters. Also, in uppercase letters, under the legend box is the statement "POSTAGE WILL BE PAID BY ADDRESSEE".

FIM Location

The Facing Identification Mark (FIM) is required on BRM letter-size mail and postcards. There are two different FIM patterns. FIM B is used on mail pieces without bar codes. FIM C is used on mail pieces that have a bar code. It is located to the left of the postage endorsement indicia. The FIM Clear Zone is 1 1/4" x 5/8" and begins 1 3/4" from the right edge. The top of the FIM bars must be within 1/8" of the top edge.

Horizontal Bars

These bars are located directly below the postage endorsement indicia and must run parallel with the length of the mail piece. They must be at least 1" long and 1/16" to 3/16" thick. The bottom bar must not extend down below the delivery address line. There must be even space between bars. The bars are used to indicate that the mail piece is a BRM.

For more details on setting up your copy for a BRM, see Postal Regulations - Business Reply Mail. If you have any questions as to whether or not your BRM meets all the postal guidelines, you can take a proof to your local post office to have it approved.

The location of information on a CRM is basically the same as a BRM. The CRM does not have the Business Reply Legend Box or the Horizontal Bars. The content in the postage area just indicates that it is the area for postage to be added, such as "PLACE STAMP HERE".


The location of information on a MRM is basically the same as a BRM also. The MRM, like the CRM, does not have the Horizontal Bars below the postage area. It does not have a Legend Box above the delivery address but it has a Legend statement in uppercase letters, "NO POSTAGE STAMP NECESSARY" with "POSTAGE HAS BEEN PREPAID BY" on the line below. In the postage area, the MRM has a meter stamp instead of a postage endorsement indicia.


For more information on the requirements for Reply Mail, see


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