Netflix Mailers - Usability, good looks, or machinability?

The AP reports that Netflix's DVD-mailing envelopes design has been causing problems for the U.S. Postal Service; specifically, that "non-machinable" aspects of the mailers have resulted in the frequent need to manually handle them at a much higher cost. That's the kind of cost that comes back to the consumer eventually, either through Netflix fees or postage rates. So this design seems to need to find a sweet spot, in between high usability, good looks, and machinability. They're already very usable - the same envelope is used to mail movies out and back, with peel-off adhesive and tear-off conversion. And the current look of the mailers is very much part of their branding, saturated red with white and black accents. I don't know what needs to change to make them more machinable, but here's hoping it's a mere aesthetic change - or that the usability will be impacted little if any. In any case, this example demonstrates how products often have to deal with other factors outside of the frequent areas of aesthetics and usability - and how usability might easily be drowned out by the others if it doesn't have a good advocate on the case!

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