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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Envelope Printing: “In Your Face” Design Just Works

In my hand I’m holding an envelope. It’s not just any envelope. It’s pink, or, rather, magenta. Actually I think it’s fluorescent magenta, which is even better. Sappi Fine Paper of North America sent this to me as the OGE (outgoing envelope) for a paper promotion called “Ideas That Matter.” All type is reversed out of the bright background on this 9.5” x 13” carrier envelope, as is the address block (so all postal information and the Intelligent Mail barcode are readable by the OCR equipment at the Post Office).

When I removed the envelope from my mailbox, the light was blinding. I’m only kidding, but it was the very first envelope I opened that day.

How many direct mail marketers would like that enviable position: the first envelope opened?

Analysis of the Custom Envelope (or Why It Just Works)

Let’s look closely at why this promotion (or the envelope, even before I saw the promotion) worked.

    1. Bright colors capture your attention. Sappi Fine Paper understands marketing. I’m not surprised. This is a bright color, but the radiance of the color suggests the use of fluorescent inks. When you’re doing your own design work, ask your custom printing vendor about either adding fluorescent elements to the ink or replacing one or more process colors with a fluorescent ink.


    1. The custom envelope‘s simplicity grabs you. Sappi went beyond just using a bright color. The heavy-coverage ink bleeds off all sides of the envelope. It is a solid color, and the simplicity of the design (nothing but the fluorescent magenta) makes it stand out from all other envelopes in the mailbox. The simplicity distinguishes this printed envelope.


    1. Reversing the type accentuates the brightness of the color. Sappi could have surprinted black ink over the magenta (or knocked out the magenta behind the black). But, again, the contrast would have been less dramatic. The sans serif typeface with its simple but bold letterforms further accentuates the contrast, as does the bright, white knock-out panel for the address information. I’m sure the Post Office was happy, too. You couldn’t miss the address.


    1. The size makes a difference. Sappi could have mailed a smaller piece, but it would not have been as dramatic. In fact, even a 9” x 12” envelope would have been adequate for an 8.5” x 11” enclosure. But Sappi went a step further and opted for an oversize envelope: 9.5” x 13”.


    1. Paper weight makes a difference. I pulled out my caliper and measured the thickness of the envelope paper. It “mic’ed” (as in micrometer) to 7 pt. Then I looked at an online paper weight conversion chart and saw that this “caliper” fell between 90# and 100# text paper. To put this in perspective, most envelopes are 24# or 28#, which corresponds to 60# or 70# text paper. So this envelope paper is just under 50 percent thicker than most heavy-weight envelopes. Why does this matter? It suggests opulence, just as the full-bleed, thick magenta ink suggests opulence.


    1. The envelope had to be converted. Sappi did not print this heavy-coverage ink on a pre-made envelope. Actually, beyond the 9” x 12” envelope, the standard sizes would be 9.5” x 12.625” (booklet, opening on the long side) or 10” x 13” catalog (opening on the short side). Basically, this is a custom envelope. Sappi printed the heavy-coverage magenta on a 100# gloss text sheet and then diecut, folded, and glued the “flats” into custom envelopes (a process more costly than just printing on pre-made blank envelopes). Granted, the heavily laid down ink and the fact that the ink covers one full side of the press sheet (known as “painting the sheet”) would actually necessitate Sappi’s printing on a flat press sheet and then converting the job into a custom envelope. In short, this also implies opulence.


  1. The size and weight make the promotional piece cost more to mail. Again, this implies opulence. Sappi is saying that this direct mail item is important. Sappi spared no expense (custom printing, converting, or mailing) to put its message in front of prospective buyers. The buyers need to know it’s worth their time to drop everything else and open this custom envelope.

What You Can Learn from Sappi

Think carefully about the design of an OGE (outgoing envelope). Weigh the costs against the benefits. It should definitely not be an after-thought. In fact, its design and custom printing will weigh heavily on a prospect’s decision whether to open this envelope before all the others—or throw it away.

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