Typically measuring 0.87 inches wide by 0.98 inches high, a postage stamp offers a very limited space for designers to work with. However, the designers behind this week’s stamp-based Design Annual 2023 entries were able to fit typography, color, and stylized art forms on a small scale to create eye-catching, meaningful designs.
“Raven Story” (above) is a stamp design created by the Virginia-based design firmStudio A. Their assignment was to design a stamp for the U.S. Postal Service to honor the living culture and heritage of America’s Indigenous peoples. Given the variety of tribes and nations, it was decided to narrow down the focus to the Indigenous people of the United States’ northwest coast, whose area ranges from southeast Alaska through coastal British Columbia and south into Washington state. For the stamp’s illustration, the firm’s art director, Antonio Alcalá, reached out to Tlingit/Athabascan artist Rico Worl who was passionate about representing his hometown, his tribe, and his family through art and design.
Merging formline, the traditional design style of the Indigenous people of the northwest coast, with modern design touches, this stamp represents the story of the great Raven, a trickster figure in Tlingit culture who disguises himself as a human to steal the sun, moon, and stars that are in a clan leader’s possession. Worl’s first sketched his design with a pencil, showing Raven just as he escapes from the humans and begins to transform back into a bird, before completing the image digitally. He makes sure to highlight formline’s stylistic characteristics of different shapes, continuous lines of varying thicknesses, and abstract patterns that suggest both human and animal features, but also adds a bit of contemporary flair with gold foils stars that Raven tries to hold onto while transforming back into bird form during his frenzied escape. It’s a piece that was loved by everyone; just months after its release, 88% of the stamps produced were sold, with the design receiving wide praise for its beauty and the story behind it.
The next is “Love 2021” (above) by Bailey Sullivan for the U.S Postal Services’ Love stamp series. First issued in 1973, the Love series was initially created for Valentine’s Day and special occasion mailing, featuring designs filled with hearts, roses, and swans. This time, however, the assignment was to create a more general stamp that would be appropriate for a wide constituency who are sending mail for a variety of special occasions and celebrations.
As such, the team decided on a lighthearted and contemporary design with the word “LOVE” and various simple but recognizable shapes printed in a bold graphic style. To ensure the stamp would stand out, a mixed color palette of warm and cool colors, including red, pink, blue, and orange, was used and set off against a navy background. The stamp was a wonderful addition to the U.S. Postal service’s diverse collection, and like “Raven Story” was well received by consumers. Since the stamp’s debut on the U.S, Postal services’ website and in-store locations, more than 156 million stamps have been sold.
To see more stamps and discover other designs, check out the other Design 2023 Annual Award competition entries at graphis.com.