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.

300px-VistaPrintOrganizationLogo

English: Moonpig.com company logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Moonpig.com company logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Create your own US Postage Stamps

Create your own US Postage Stamps (Photo credit: The Rocketeer)

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.

English: 2010-6-11Tamils for Obama, a US-based Tamil activist organization, is releasing a first-class postage stamp ($0.44) for use with letters posted within the United States. "U.S. Postal Service (USPS) recently decided to allow American citizens to design and market their own postage stamps. We decided make use of this opportunity to show respect to the Tamils who have suffered destruction to life and property in Sri Lanka," (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: 2010-6-11Tamils for Obama, a US-based Tamil activist organization, is releasing a first-class postage stamp ($0.44) for use with letters posted within the United States. “U.S. Postal Service (USPS) recently decided to allow American citizens to design and market their own postage stamps. We decided make use of this opportunity to show respect to the Tamils who have suffered destruction to life and property in Sri Lanka,” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

(c) A. Shah/USPS/Zazzle.com

(c) A. Shah/USPS/Zazzle.com

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.

(c) V.Shah/HEM/USPS/Wikipedia/Zazzle.com

(c) V.Shah/HEM/USPS/Wikipedia/Zazzle.com

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.

(c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind/Bighugelabs.com

(c) V. Shah/Half-Eaten Mind/Bighugelabs.com

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.

RELATED NEWS from Zemanta

SOURCES:

“Framer: If you frame it, it’s art” - BigHugeLabs.com LINK

Zazzle Custom Stamps (USPS) LINK

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Posted on December 11, 2012, in Features, Personal articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Lool the shaniya picture!! #Anjali Photography :D:D xx
    Gr8 article jay-jay

  2. Where does Pitney Bowes fall in this picture? Being the pioneer in postage meters and printing postage, your article doesn’t mention them once. I think you should give some credit to PB for laying the foundation for other companies to print postage so easily.

    • Hi,
      Thanks for your observation there. I agree 100% that Pitney Bowes does deserve credit for helping realise the whole concept, but with my article I wanted to focus purely on creating stamps online without going through the whole history behind self-made postage services. If in future I decide to write an article on franking or online postage for companies then I will definitely keep this in mind.

      Vijay
      – HalfEatenMind

  3. Very insightful post. My friend used Zazzle for her wedding invitations, and it really added a nice touch to the invites. I work for a non-profit, and I am going to let them know about the text customization. I think that could be a great way to market and outreach with our mailing distributions. Thanks for the information.

    • Hi,
      Many thanks for your appreciation. I agree Zazzle is ideal for non-profits as it means they can promote themselves for the price of a stamp, so it saves nicely on marketing expenditure. Glad I helped you a bit on your way…

      Vijay
      – HalfEatenMind

  4. What a great post. Its amazing to know that with the modern trend, you dont need to be a professional photographer to be at the top as you had said. With a simple click on your digital camera, great pictures and work or art come alive. And with some beautiful stepping stone such as Zazzle postage has become fun with cute beautiful stamps as well as One of my friends came to find out.A beautiful Christmas snownman turned to be part of the postage stamps in the USA as well http://www.zazzle.com/beautiful_christmas_snowman_amazing_stamp-172840043572567561
    Nice post and good details about stamps as well

    • Hi,
      Thanks for your compliments. Yes it is amazing what you can do with a photo, and the good thing about Zazzle is that it is truly democratic, in that it is open to everyone, not just professional photographers or artists, so any average ‘Joe’ or ‘Jane’ can become a designer for a day, and actually see their efforts come to life.

      Regards,
      Vijay
      - HalfEatenMind

  5. Aw, this was a very good post. Finding the time and actual effort to make a top
    notch article… but what can I say… I hesitate a
    whole lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.

    • Thanks, Immigration Advisor.
      I am fortunate that my weekends aren’t usually that busy so I have always have an hour or two. You just have to put your mind to it!
      From Ilford, whereabouts exactly?…I have connections there and in Seven Kings.

      Vijay
      – HalfEatenMind

  1. Pingback: SCRIBBLER CHRISTMAS QUIZ: Win £300 of personalised cards | HalfEatenMind

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