USPS Launches Student-Designed Manual
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) recently published the second installment of the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) project, "A Guide to Mailing for Businesses and Organizations," designed by students in Carnegie Mellon's School of Design.
The students redesigned the 1,000-plus page directory as a follow-up to the well-received "A Customer's Guide to Mailing," which was distributed to post offices and households across the country last summer.
"The guide is one of the best resources we offer for small- and medium-volume mailers," said Stephen Kearney, vice president of pricing and classification at the USPS. He added that "A Guide to Mailing for Businesses and Organizations" will make mailing easier and more efficient because it is specifically designed around how customers perceive and use the mail.
The goal of the DMM Transformation Project is to create a document that supports the needs and activities of USPS customers and employees. "The current DMM is a cumbersome binder of regulations and standards and it is the goal of the project to reorganize the information into readable, user-friendly materials," said Design Professor Richard Buchanan, project director for the DMM.
Because the mailing industry generates approximately $900 billion in commerce annually, and employs about 9 million workers, usability issues are a significant concern for the organization. According to USPS Chief Marketing Officer Anita Bizzotto, "A Guide to Mailing for Businesses and Organizations" walks small business owners through the myriad mailing standards that govern mail use and make it easier and more convenient for those business owners to use mail to their advantage.
The DMM Transformation Project team is composed of 15 graduate students and three advisory faculty from the School of Design who hope to shift the perspective of the DMM from a list of rules, regulations and dense, text-based information to a guide that has clear language, diagrams and images to communicate and support interaction with mail users.
As part of their commitment to enhancing design's impact on daily life, the School of Design team is using a human-centered, task-based approach to introduce a new model of interaction and user experience to mailing. The students are working as teams, with a heavy reliance on field research, to develop an information system organized around the activities and needs of postal customers and employees. The design team has divided the three-inch thick Domestic Mail Manual into several modular sections that are designed to serve the information needs of different segments of users. "The idea is to give the appropriate level of information to each audience, and to present it in a way that is optimized for each type of audience, from household mailers to high-volume professional mailers," said Project Manager Angela Meyer.
The project is one of the first collaborations of its kind between a design school and a quasi-governmental agency and represents an important opportunity for the students to directly apply the process and methods they are learning in class to real-world problems. Their research-based approach to increasing accessibility of mailing services also has influenced the vision for the USPS and its products. The Carnegie Mellon team is helping to transform and focus the USPS on the pathways of customer experience.