How ZIP Codes Organized the American Postal Service and Ways It Could Be Improved in the Future

Vox contributors Dion Lee and Mac Schneider explain how ZIP codes were used to organize the American postal service, and some of the ways service could be improved in the future.

Zip codes were invented in 1963 to help the United States Postal Service deal with huge increases in mail volume. The Zone Improvement Plan, or “ZIP” code system of addressing, organized mail delivery by dividing the country into 10 regions and assigning five digits increasing in specificity: from region to large sorting centers to smaller post offices. To promote the new system, the USPS released publicity materials featuring Mr. Zip, a cartoon character, and a song about zip codes from a band called The Swingin’ Six.