GOING POSTAL: The Half-Eaten Mind’s virtual postage stamps
By Vijay Shah
With the advent of the Internet and a greater ease and speed of use in technology, it has become nearly effortless for anyone with the slightest technological prowess to produce personalised and tailor-made items, within a matter of minutes. Before the computer age, you would either have had to pay a lot of money to get something made especially for you or a loved one or go the free route and make good skilled use of a sharp instrument or pen. Either way, for the ordinary consumer, personalisation was a limited affair.
Now, with the help of a keyboard and mouse, anyone can dream up personalised items. Hundreds of retailers now market everything including personalised photo mugs, mouse mats, party banners etc, within which the client can pick their own choice of graphics, inscriptions and photos and come away with something just as good as the mass-produced stuff sold “off the peg”.
You only have to witness the success of companies like Vistaprint, which offer ‘design-your-own business cards (albeit with a limited array of design templates) on which any matter of detail can be printed. Moonpig and its bitter rival Funky Pigeon have revolutionised the greetings cards industry with their fun and snazzy products where the customer always calls the shot when it comes to visualising the card. This has caused more traditional card merchants like Hallmark to sit up and take notice.
There has also been a new development within the past decade that relates to this trend. The personalised postage stamp. For a fee, some postal operators (often in tandem with printing/graphic design firms) offer you the opportunity to create your own actual postage stamps. These stamps are as legitimate as the ones you can buy from a post office, therefore they are valid for local and international mailling purposes.
Until this happened, stamps were always issued with set designs decided upon by the postal authority and the only chance ordinary people has of seeing their image on a stamp was either through winning a design competition, or by getting a job as a philatelic artist. Either way you needed to have excellent drawing/Photoshop skills or a massive stroke of luck.
Now, some major postal authorities, most notable the Royal Mail (U.K.), Australia Post, Canada Post and the United States Postal Service have seen self-designed stamps as a significant asset to their customer service and profit margins. The Royal Mail have been offering personalised stamp sets for years under the Smiles programme, where customers can put a photo as a tag next to a greetings stamp – for events like birthdays and weddings. The USPS offer photograph stamps themselves through a partnership with Zazzle Stamps and a few others.
To be fair, most of the above named give leeway to budding stamp designers only as so far as the pictorial design is concerned. You can choose your own image but the rest of the design is still set by the people who send your letters. Still, it is a cute way to offer that individual touch to things like a wedding or party invite. They make great conversational pieces and keepsakes, and presumably are hot property for philatelists looking for the extra dimension to add to albums full of state-sanctioned postal items.
Zazzle’s stamps have even been used to disseminate political messages across borders .
To give an idea of the ease of creating your own stamps, I have showcased three examples I had cooked up myself, two of them especially dedicated to this blog.
This stamp shows how you do not need to be a professional photographer to use the design software. This image used was taken using my younger sister’s Blackberry Curve and is of my niece, grumpy after being denied her bribe of sweets. My sister had preivously complained that the camera was below-average, but the shot works well as a stamp. The template was offered by Zazzle Stamps on behalf of USPS.
Zazzle is a popular online retailer States-side who do not just sell stamps but all manners of personalised goods – t-shirts, mugs, even self-designed ties. They have a licence with the American postal authority to produce custom-made stamps which are only available with a face value of 46 U.S. cents. The really good thing I encountered with Zazzle compared to other personalised stamp providers is that you can add lines of text as well, of your own choosing. You can even choose the colour of that text.
Here is another Zazzle 46c. stamp with the official ‘mascot’ of the Half-Eaten Mind, our own Woodsey the anti-forest fire owl. I obtained this picture from Wikipedia so there should be no copyright problems. If you do make use of these services, be sure to use pictures which either were taken by yourself or to which you have rights to copy, otherwise you could find yourself kicking up a big legal stink that could leave you thousands out of pocket.
This stamp, despite saying ‘CANADA’ in big bold letters, did not come from the Canada Post site but from special design software I stumbled across on a third party website called Big Huge Labs, where you can manipulate digital photos into all kinds of objects, including the Canadian stamp up above. The software used is called Framer, a part of that site’s digital design suite.
The image selected is of my Toshiba Satellite C660 computer which is a very valuable piece of kit to me. This is the nerve centre of my blog where my thoughts become pictures and text. So important is this laptop that I had to honour it with its own stamp.The laptop shows the Half-Eaten Mind Blog’s fan page on Facebook.
Unlike the Zazzle stamps this is just the product of some design software and has no postal validity whatsoever. There is a postmark automatically added too, just to put off any chancers aiming to pull wool over the eyes of the Great Postal Workers of Prince Rupert and Winnipeg.
So as you can see, it is child’s play to start making your dream DIY stamps. It is good fun and highly memorable.
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“Framer: If you frame it, it’s art” - BigHugeLabs.com LINK
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Posted on December 11, 2012, in Features, Personal articles and tagged Big Huge Labs, Canada Post, design, image, philately, Postage stamp, postage stamps, Royal Mail, United States Postal Service, USPS, Zazzle. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.