In the print industry, we start a project by looking at the desired end result. Knowing where we want to end up prompts us to think about the steps we need to take to get there. By working backwards, we can evaluate all aspects of the production process to ensure a project’s success. We think about design, usage, additional processing, and shelf life. This approach is called reverse engineering, and can be applied to print programs.

The standard approach to creating a direct mail campaign is identifying what to sell, creating a compelling copy to sell it, and designing graphics that will deliver the message. In most cases, the copy and its placement are what determine the campaign’s success. The printed pieces are designed around the words and pictures. Usually, this can work. But there are a lot of other factors to consider when creating the construction design (construction design refers to the attributes given to a piece: size, stock, number of pages or pieces, and any other elements such as perforations, die-cutes, adhesives, etc.). What about postal weights? Or shelf life? Or recipient participation? How do you take what you’ve already spent so much time developing and make it work for you? The easiest place to make changes is in the beginning stages. When working with print production, making changes gets more and more expensive as you get further into the process. Not only in rework costs, but in lost opportunity revenue. Working with your printer to create the construction design of your project can help you avoid having to make changes further down the road, which will save you time and money in the end. Your printer is an expert that you can use to your advantage. They’ve got the knowledge to make your project more efficient and cost-effective.

Here’s a prime example of something that could be missed without utilizing your printer’s expertise: According to the USPS, the minimum mailing size is 3 ½” x 5”, with a minimum thickness of .007”. The maximum size for the .007” thickness is 4 ¼” x 6”. Any size over these dimensions must be of .009” minimum thickness. Therefore, without having a good preliminary construction design, any budget made from the original specifications will be inaccurate, and there may even be the increased possibility of returned mail.

It’s possible to use construction design as a branding tool. Developing a program that allows you to provide useful information periodically can have positive results. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What gets your attention? Your print partner will have samples of products they have produced in the past that are formatted to fit your needs. If you’re looking for something specific, it’s easy to create a unique construction design just for you. Your customers will begin to associate your brand with a certain kind of mailing and your company will be more memorable.

-John Castro, Director of Estimating | MITTERA

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