Unit 5: Lecture

Postal Regulations, Visual Hierarchy and Consistency

Envelope Regulations

As you design your Corporate Identity packages, there are some necessary points to bring up about envelope design.

While logo, letterhead and business card design have, depending on the company, very few rules, since envelopes are mailed they have to conform to the standards of the United States Postal Service in several areas.

Take a look at this diagram:

The most important area to note is the Barcode clear zone at the bottom right of the envelope. That area needs to be blank for the postal barcode. It can be colored, but light colors are advisable so the bar code can be properly read by the postal bar code reading machines. The rest of the information in the diagram is guidelines. Your return address area doesn’t have to be 33% of the height of the envelope, that’s just an example. Have fun with this. Be creative. Don’t forget the back of the envelope, either. Just leave that 5/8” by 4-3/4” area clear and go from there.

Visual Hierarchy

One thing that will help organize and draw interest to your collateral materials is a visual hierarchy. Different items should be emphasized more or less than others. For example, on a business card, the name is more important than the title. You need to provide visual contrast of the elements to guide the viewer. You tell their eye where to go and let them know an order of importance of the elements. Remember that a business card can be a tricky thing. It is not only an informational piece, it’s a calling card (no pun intended) for the attitude of the company.

There are many ways to achieve contrast in a Corporate Identity package or any graphic design piece. Size, value, weight, white space, position, and color are just a few ways to create contrast. Obviously the largest, darkest, heaviest element on a page will stand out the most, thus making it the most important in the hierarchy. White space and position are often overlooked in the visual hierarchy. If all the information is the same weight, but one element is separated from the rest and surrounded by white space, it will be at the top of the visual hierarchy.

Let’s look at a quick example:

Number One is a bad example of a business card. All of the information has the same size and weight. There is center, left and right alignment. Your eye doesn't know where to go. Things are evenly spaced. (This is an actual card layout that you will see in "quickie" shops like the Office Max Print Center).

Number Two is a little better. The information has been grouped into relevant chunks and the name is at a larger size and heavier weight. It’s easy to pick out the phone or fax. This is a pretty boring card, though. It might be acceptable for, say, an investment banking firm or other conservative company, but it wouldn’t be appropriate for a ski and snowboard shop.

Number Three is the best of the three (but by no means perfect. You can do better than this). Not only is information broken up by size and weight, there is the added contrast of position and white space around the name and title.

Additional contrast could be added with color, value, etc.


Each piece of your Corporate Identity package needs to be consistent with the other pieces. If you have a thick red line on the letterhead, you need to find some way of incorporating a thick red line (or the idea of one) on the business card and envelope. This is not to say that the pieces have to be identical in every element. They have to be consistent. It should be obvious that the pieces belong to the same package.

“Once the elements have been determined and laid out, all the parts – or forms – within the identity, including letterforms and icons, must be brought into visual agreement with one another. Even those elements purposefully different from one another must still seem to be linked.” – Allison Goodman, The 7 Essentials of Graphic Design.

Information to include on individual pieces

Business Card
Logo Logo Logo
Individual's Name Physical Address Physical Address
Title Company Phone Optional: Web Address
Phone (may incl. extention) Company Fax Optional: Phone
Fax Web Address Optional: Fax
Physical Address    
Email address    
Web Address    
Optional: Direct Phone    
Optional: Mobile Phone