Envelope Design Tips

Some basic tips for designing an effective, and usable, envelope.

When it comes to designing envelopes as part of a stationery package, designers look at it as the unloved cousin (how glamorous can envelopes be?) while paradoxically creating layouts that may look pretty but will be hell to print. Functionally speaking, the process could involve slapping on the company logo, a return address, and we’re all set though many designers tend to go overboard with the design, adding all sorts of unnecessary elements to their mockups. There’s some very real caveats when it comes to designing envelopes and if you don’t pay attention, it may cost you large down the road.

A different kettle of fish.

Printing of an envelope, generally speaking, is quite different that that for a letterhead or business card. More often than not, printers will use envelopes that are already constructed (with flaps and pockets already in place) and this represents some unique challenges on the press. An envelope is not flat, so it tends to move around a little when being printed – air can get captured inside the envelope – something which has to be factored into the design and the tolerances for registration are not as exacting as for other printed pieces. Also, it’s very difficult to use bleed printing or artwork on a pre-constructed envelope (unless the envelope is printed BEFORE construction – which is fantastic, but can lead to very expensive production charges). Because of press slippage, it’s also best to avoid four colour process printing to avoid registration problems. It’s more effective (and more economical) to utilize either a spot colour or one colour version of your logo and business information. Now, that’s not to say you CAN’T feature full colour bleed artwork on your envelope design, or that you shouldn’t – you can. It’s just going to be more expensive to print your envelopes if you choose to do so.

The bare bones.

In terms of what goes on an envelope design – well, that’s pretty well standardized. Company logo, name, return address – maybe a tagline or call to action. Generally speaking, we don’t put phone numbers on envelopes (though you can if you want.) Recently, the debate has become whether or not to feature your company’s web address on the envelope design. And why not? After all, shouldn’t your web address be on every single scrap of paper that leaves your desk? And while an envelope is often headed quickly for the ’round file’, the few seconds it’s in front of the potential clients eyeballs should certainly be a factor in the design.

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