Centenary of the Magic Circle Commemorative Stamps – five stamps for the Royal Mail illustrations and consultancy from George Hardie
Date of Issue of the Magic Circle Commemorative Stamps – 15 March 2005. Exhibited D&AD, The Old Fish Market, Billingsgate: May 2006.
I was commissioned by the Royal Mail to work with Amanda Tatham on a set of Magic Stamps. I have worked on such consultancy on many occasions: usually directly for Royal Mail but occasionally for designers already commissioned by them. My Jet Travel, one of 48 Royal Mail Millennium stamps by British image-makers won a D&AD silver award in 1999. I worked on Safety at Sea, and designed the Channel tunnel stamps for Royal Mail and La Poste. I have made essays (each set is designed to this stage by four competing designers) for many other projects but these (as with a Cultural Diversity set in 2005) were not adopted.
As I write in my short biography for exercises like RAE, I am ‘commissioned internationally to solve problems and make illustrations for a variety of clients’.
I was brought into the project fairly early by Tatham’s assistant Sam Griffiths (an ex student of the MA Sequential course at Brighton and an ex assistant of mine). My initial task was one of illustration; many of the ideas were only expressed in simple black and white line computer indications at that point. My task was to make pictures of these ideas.
Naturally I quickly became involved in solving problems as well, working out the editorial rules and helping discover new techniques for the printer’s tricks. The project was a collaboration which I found very rewarding and I felt able to contribute not least because of my previous experience of the web of rules that governs stamp design; principally the problem of making a visually connected set of disparate tricks, which has to provide stamps that are distinct within the sets, to make each denomination recognizable. The first set of illustrated versions were more colourful and referenced the commercial art of small ads and the packaging of tricks you could buy from catalogues. Later the Magic circle became involved, and we made some ‘big animal magic’ images at their request but these were not used. The set became less graphically referential and cleaner, partly as a response to the Stamp Advisory Committee which included such peers as John McConnell from Pentagram and Michael Wolff of Wolff Ollins as well as philatelists etc.
The challenge for us was, “Is it possible to invent some stamps that the public could interact with?” The challenge for me, “and could one design and illustrate stamps that would still be a celebration of magic if they didn’t.”
The stamps were well received by our peers. They were nominated by international design jury for a D&AD Silver Award 2006. They were accepted by design jury to be included in Images 30. The Annual of the Association of Illustrators, 2006.
"But great work shouldn't be enough for D&AD. All of us know and remember breakthrough creative work. It's a continuing inspiration and always an invitation to jump over it into something new. Amanda Tatham's magic stamps for the Royal Mail were in this league."
(Michael Wolff, Chair of the Design Juries Report. D&AD Annual 2006)
The Designer interviews Amanda Tatham. 'Magic! Stamps…Just Like That'.
Double page illustrated article, 10-11, The Designer. Issue no 24 2005.
John Stones. 'Get stuck in', whole page article 17. Design Week. 17 March 2005.