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Design Talk.

Blurbs and rants about graphic design

Pushing the Envelope

Have you ever had to design a project which included envelopes? And maybe you had to choose the type of envelopes themselves. Taking the right decision isn’t always straight forward as there are many things you need to take into consideration.

Jacci Howard Bear, from About Desktop Publishing, enlightens us on many Desktop Publishing related aspects about envelopes and I assure you that after reading her multi-part article, you will never look at them the same way again. As Jacci says:

The envelope you design or choose for your desktop publishing projects is just as important as what goes in it. Before you stick your work into just any old envelope, make sure you understand the benefits and drawbacks. Does the style enhance the image you want to convey? Will the size or shape result in an extra postage surcharge or increased printing costs?

I encourage you to head over to Jacci’s site and have a look at her articles, which I listed below, and then come back and read on, to look at some the other aspects about envelopes that are also important in Desktop Publishing.

Parts of an Envelope
Most of us use or handle envelopes everyday. But do you know how an envelope is constructed?

Common Envelope Styles
Although envelopes can be custom-ordered in any almost any size, there are numerous standard sizes available for almost any use. Using these standard envelope styles can save time and money.

Parts of an Envelope Illustrated

Specialized Use Envelopes
Specialized envelope styles and sizes are based on common commercial, catalog, and booklet styles.

Envelope Seals, Closures, and Paper
Standard size and custom envelopes can have a variety of types of closures and can be printed with many different paper weights. may use non-adhesive seals.

Envelope Styles
Illustrated gallery.

Additional Things to Consider

Jacci is already very thorough in her articles, but there are a few things I would like to add from my own experience. Take it from someone who as dealt with envelopes from their conception to their mailing (and yes I do mean also doing the enclosing myself), there are aspects about creating a design for an envelope that will become evident only when you are actually doing it.

Jobs that require envelopes usually, but not always, have to be mailed. When mailing is involved you need to be more careful with your choices.

Use and Print the Right Envelope

If your package will be mailed, you need to know whether you or your client will use a mailing house and you also need to know who will take care of the printing. Will it be the mailing house or the printer? This is very important because if the mailing house is to take care of the printing, they will choose a type of envelope that they can use and can be printed by them. Find out from them what they can do and, if it suits the client’s needs, you just need to base your design on the specs you’ll get from the mailing house. There are several other things, however, that you need to take into consideration.

Look at the available budget
The mailing house might be able to produce what you or your client wants, but if you are asking for a non-standard size, you might be spending more than you need to. If your client’s budget or yours can cover it, it is not a problem, otherwise you need to standardize the size. Talk to your client and work it out with him or her. Whenever someone asks to use a non-standard size, I always get a quote also for the closest standard size, just in case.

Choose how many colours to print
Your mailing house might be able to provide and print the envelope you need, but only using one or two colours. If that is not what your client wants or the mailing house can’t print it at all, you need to use a printer.

Choose the right closure
When using a printer to print your envelopes and the mailing house to do the fullfilling, find out what type of closure your mailing house wants. Some mailing houses don’t want any type of sealing on the open flaps of the envelopes because their equipment takes care of that already.

Choose the right size
When using a printer, find out also if the size of the envelope you will choose can be handled by the mailing house’s equipment. If that is not the case, they might need to get people to do the fullfilling maually—this will slow down the enclosing process and will make it more expensive due to additional labour. Your client might accept it or he/she may not. Talk about it with him/her.

Use the right paper
Even if you go the printer’s route, the mailing house will have to print addresses on the envelopes at the enclosing stage, therefore you need to choose a type of paper that won’t let the ink smudge. Some mailing houses use inkjet printers and gloss paper doesn’t always agree with that type of printing.

Think “envelope” when you design
Make sure you know where the mailing house will print the address of those who will receive your mailing, the return address and the PPI (Postale Page Impression, not Pixels Per Inch… it’s what they use instead in place of the stamp) and design accordingly. You don’t want a dark background right where the recipient’s address will be, do you? On that note, find out if your envelope will have a window to show the address from the inside.

Watch out for the varnishing
If you are going to use any varnish, spot UV or lamination, take into consideration once again where the recipient’s address, company’s return address and PPI will be. If you are not careful at how you do your design, you might wind up with the printer doing the artwork’s printing, the mailing house having to do the enclosing and addressing, then the envelopes have to go back to the printer or to a finisher for the varnishing, then back again to the mailing house which now has to do extra work when consolidating (sorting and grouping by countries) your mailing as the packs will now be all mixed up. You can already see the amount of money this will add up to and some mailing houses won’t even let you do that, because their process of enclosing, addressing and sorting is often done as one process. If you want varnishing, make sure you design it so the mailing house won’t have problems printing their bits once the varnishing is already applied.

Envelopes aren’t mailed empty
When you choose the size of the envelope, keep in mind that this will affect the size and/or the finishing, particularly the folding, of what you put inside the envelopes. Non-standard envelopes often also mean flyers/pamphlets printed at non-standard sizes, and you or your client will pay for extra and unused paper, due to the fact that the printer will have to use bigger parent sheets, or will manage to fit less copies in a parent sheet of a given size.

In certain cases you can still manage to keep the size of the items that will go in the envelopes standard, by increasing or changing the folding. This influences the design and once again the type of paper you use. Light weight paper will not need scoring when it’s folded, but you don’t want your literature to be see-through and feel cheap. Find out from your printer what’s best and less expensive if budget is an issue.

Additional guidelines
There are some general guidelines that can help stay in budget when dealing with envelopes:

  • â–ª The mailing houses that can print envelopes even four colour, will usually do so cheaper than printers, unless you are using a printer that is specialized in envelopes
  • â–ª Printing envelopes on the entire surface will be more expensive than printing them just on the front and within certain margins. This is because in the first case whoever prints them often has to use open evenlopes and close them for you afterwards Already made envelopes cost less
  • â–ª In a similar way standard sizes will make you save money because they’ll very often be prduced in bulk
  • â–ª Sometimes you might not want to do four colour printing for envelopes, as it can get really expensive, more than with flyers; if budget is tight stick with two colours or use coloured paper and just one ink colour, and where money counts, you certainly want to avoid varnish
  • â–ª Don’t compare envelope prices to flyers, brochures and so on; they are different things, are printed with different methods and usually envelopes will be more expensive than flyers and might take more time to print too. Envelopes are just a different kettle of fish. Keep this in mind when the client will question it.

When all else fails, consider polywrapping, it’s usually more versatile and less expensive, but we will take care of this another time.

Desktop Publishing & Prepress

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