Nothing is more aggravating than when, after a long design process, the perfected final product is judged by the post office to be not machine-readable and thus subject to a surcharge, or when the PHD is delayed due to a long back-and-forth during the feedback process.
To prevent this from happening, members of our operations team look very closely at all new designs and point out any discrepancies. To find out in greater depth what went wrong, and how to avoid such mistakes in advance, we've put together an in-depth article here. Just click on the titles in the table of contents, or scroll directly to the bottom of the page to download ZIP files with helpful stamps and templates!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 1. Font type and size
- 2. Contrast and colours
- 3. Alignment and placement of the address
- 4. Address format
- 5. Barcodes
- 6. Print restrictions
- 6. Offset printing restrictions
- 7. Shipping restrictions
- 8. Personalisations
- 9. General recommendations
Why is machine-readability essential?
Machine-readability is crucial to ensure the smooth flow of mail delivery. When a letter can be read and sorted by machines, the likelihood of human error is minimized. This leads to faster and more reliable deliveries.
Why are the printing restrictions so rigorous?
Precise specifications are required to ensure an optimal workflow at high production speeds. To ensure that the postcard doesn't have a white stripe around the edge and that the models on the self-mailer don't suddenly appear four-eyed, it's crucial that we only submit materials that simultaneously adhere to precise formats and offer sufficient leeway.
To assure that your mailings can be perfectly cut, please download our templates. You, your design department, or a design agency of your choice can use these as a stamp to quickly and easily determine at a glance that everything can be processed optimally.
1. Font type and size
Use a clear font that is easy to read. Deutsche Post recommends using fonts such as Arial or Times New Roman, but other standard fonts such as Frutiger, Helvetica, and Univers are also easily machine-readable. The font size of the address should not be smaller than 10 points to ensure that it can be detected by reading devices; additions that are not part of the address itself can be smaller.
Fonts with the following properties are generally not machine-readable:
Hand block fonts
2. Contrast and colours
Ensure that there is sufficient contrast between the font and the background. Use dark colours (e.g. black or blue) on light paper to increase readability. Avoid using too many colours, as this can affect machine-readability. Of course, our operations team will thoroughly check for strict colour specifications.
3. Alignment and placement of the address
Place the recipient's address on the front in the lower-right corner. Make sure it is clearly visible and free of overlaps. To find out the exact dimensions of the required free space, please download our templates. These can be used as stamps in graphics programs, making the best use of the space.
The return address should be on the upper-left side of a postcard. Leave enough space to the right side to prevent confusion between the sender and address information.
The background of the address window should always be white or a solid colour in pastel shades to ensure even contrast; otherwise, machine readability may be impaired. Should you decide to use pastel shades, stick to the lightest possible tones.
4. Address format
The recipient's address should be in the following format:
First name Last name
Street and house number
Postcode and city
Avoid adding additional information or abbreviations that are not part of the address, as this can make machine entry difficult. This includes a destination country if the shipment is not being shipped internationally.
Additional notes should be indicated in smaller type above the address.
Do not add your own barcode, as Deutsche Post uses special barcodes for machine processing. Deutsche Post will place these barcodes accordingly in the coding zones provided.
The coding zone is located in the lower-right corner of the front and extends 150 mm to the left and is 15 mm high throughout. For automation-capable addressing, it must be white and free of any writing or graphics; even the lightest pastel shades are not possible here.
To easily match the exact dimensions of the coding zone to your end product, simply download our templates for the format of your choice! These can be used as stamps in graphics programs to ensure that the coding zone has been kept completely clear.
6. Print restrictions
Even with highly accurate, optimally calibrated printing presses, slight inaccuracies may occur during cutting when processing at high speed. We therefore strongly advise adhering to a 3 mm margin, within which no important elements should be indicated. If, for example, a letter of a coupon code is accidentally trimmed in this area, an entire mailing may easily become useless.
Furthermore, it is advisable to colour overfill the area to prevent white “flashes” from appearing when the mailing is cut. To get the exact dimensions of the surrounding bleed at a glance, you can download our templates for the formats of your choice.
The print file should be created at a minimum of 250 dpi; line art at a minimum of 1,200 dpi to ensure clarity. Please check all elements to avoid blurred images and text with the so-called staircase effect. Even elaborate designs will otherwise quickly look cheap, sloppy, or rushed, and the mailing will not have its full impact on your customers.
To make text appear as clear as possible, it should always be embedded. Avoid embedding text as an image file! This can lead to inaccuracies in printing.
To ensure correct production and folding of pages according to template, please insert fold marks. Incorrect folding marks can lead to loss of automation capabilities for the post office, so we ask for the greatest possible accuracy here. You will, of course, find the exact positions of the marks for all available formats in our downloads. In addition, make sure that the fold marks are created on a separate layer in the design file.
The print file must be created in CMYK colour mode. Otherwise, colour deviations will occur during printing. Please confirm that all colour elements are created in CMYK mode and that the RGB mode often used for screen displays is not used. Special colours cannot be reproduced faithfully either. Black text, on the other hand, should be 100% black and not composed of a combination of different colours.
Unique fonts help give your company a recognizable look. We are happy to print your mailings in a font of your choice – just make sure that you send us the font in advance so that this option can be implemented by the printer. If this is not possible, you can use so-called open-source fonts that are not subject to any licence.
6. Offset printing restrictions
Colourful personalisation is only possible with digital printing. If, for example, a coupon code or a percentage discount is to be highlighted in colour, the printing must be done as digital printing.
Also note that it is not possible to personalize a postcard on both sides in offset printing. If, for example, a personal voucher code has to be printed on one side while the address is printed on the other, digital printing is necessarily the method of choice.
If, on the other hand, the same high-quality motif is to be printed on one side, while personalisation is only to be carried out on the same side as the address data, offset printing may be the better alternative if the mailing is correspondingly large. You are welcome to contact us for details!
7. Shipping restrictions
To send worldwide with the format "Dialogpost International”, a German sender address is mandatory. Please ensure not to specify any foreign senders, not even senders of the destination country or region! Furthermore, no international addresses can be delivered via "Dialogpost National”, so make sure you select the destination countries in coordination with your data delivery.
When printing a franking wave for an automation-compatible mailing, ensure the exact format of 44 mm x 21.3 mm. The print must be located entirely in the designated franking zone (74 mm x 40 mm) in the upper right margin. To make sure the position is correct, please download the templates for your chosen product.
There is a 5 mm quiet zone around the address field, which must be kept free of graphics, text, and numbers. The quiet zone must be solid white. For an A4 letter, the address field is located 15 mm from the left edge and 40 mm from the top edge. You can find other formats in our templates!
Make sure that the artwork does not contain any personalisation elements. The personalisation will be printed on afterwards. To learn more about the design of both required files, please have a closer look at this article. We understand that the topic of personalisations is complex, and our support team looks forward to hearing from you if questions persist!
In addition, if offset was selected, it is recommended that you remove associated text passages from the print design and place them exclusively in the sample. Otherwise, unsightly paragraphs or spacing can occur. To avoid this effect with text personalisations, we recommend digital printing, where personalisations are inserted dynamically, which eliminates the risk of unsightly releases. To learn more about the difference between offset and digital printing, read on here!
While we are excited to see custom voucher codes used, allowing for tracking and data collection, it is of course possible to use one and the same voucher code for all mailings. Note that a generic code like “SummerSale1996" is not part of the personalisation and therefore should not be part of this file!
9. General recommendations
The paper we use is always FSC-certified. This certification confirms that the wood used to make the paper was obtained from renewable forests. The FSC certification option lets you indicate this by placing a logo on the paper. Please keep in mind that the paper is one and the same and the option in the order creation is specifically for logo printing.
The final product will be ordered from a certified printer and verified again by a third party before completion. This will result in the additional costs. Keep in mind that this process takes time and thus the PHD may be delayed by 1 to 3 business days! For time-critical mailings, we therefore advise you to plan an additional time buffer.
Offset printing is often not profitable for small mailings. To print cost-consciously, we recommend digital printing for small quantities. To learn more about the differences between the two types of printing, please contact us for individual advice!