Monday, December 01, 2014

Forever isn't what it used to be

You say "Permanent" and I say "Forever." Let's call the whole thing off.

Business is slow for the people who hand-deliver personal letters and bill payments. But the postal services of the world (okay, United States, Canada and the United Kingdom) have come up with a way to encourage people to buy postage stamps to make mailing letters less annoying.

Since postage rates are going up on a seemingly yearly basis, postal services now sell stamps that don't have a price on them (called, according to Wikipedia, "Non-Denominated Postage"). The stamps are good for first class letters now and into the future, even if postage rates increase after the stamp was purchased.

In the U.S. they are called Forever stamps, in Canada they're called Permanent stamps, in the U.K. they are simply called First Class stamps. And there's not a price on any of them.

And while I think the idea is good I think some of the executions of the idea are better than others.

The United Kingdom has opted to print "1st" on every stamp. That, in combination with the Queen's silhouette, is all there needs to be on a U.K. stamp. The U.K. doesn't even print the name of the country on the postage. That's confidence.

The United States puts the entire word "Forever" on every stamp. Along with the letters USA. And sometimes the name of whatever is on the stamp. I gotta say I think it gets a little crowded on the U.S. stamps.

Canada's stamps have a very small "P" inside a maple leaf on their stamps. Along with that symbol, stamps must always say, "Canada." (Not to mention the English/French language thing.) The word "Canada" is a bit of a longer word than "USA," so it's for the best that Canada decided against spelling out "Permanent."

A few more examples:

I think the U.K.'s solution is pretty cool. Just having the silhouette and three characters on a stamp can really open up the small space for some fun stuff. And while the silhouette doesn't always work with the subject matter on the stamp, it's generic enough to eventually blend in and be ignored.

A very standard treatment here. The info is there, but it doesn't compete with the artwork.

And when the Queen profile is the main image on the stamp -- then it's the most simple a stamp can be. Clean and classy.

Canada's solution is pretty flexible. The three elements of Permanent logo, country and subject matter label allows for some fun designs.

Again with the unnamed Queen.

This Chinese New Year stamp downplays the symbol. (The English word "Dragon" must be "Dragon" in French, too.)

Lotsa logos here, but the Permanent logo doesn't clash. (Zamboni postage!)

More type on this stamp than most -- including the guy's jersey number. The Permanent logo again, doesn't clash.

The Permanent logo on this one is really downplayed. Because of its size and coloring, it's almost just another letter in the word, "Canada." (Canada and the U.K. have no problem putting living people on stamps. It's a bit of a shock to a born and raised U.S. stamp fan.)

While the U.K. and Canada opt for compact solutions, the United States "Forever" is big and bold and -- sometimes -- a bit much. Putting a label of "Forever" on something implies immortality or invincibility. That can be overbearing. These flag designs, for example.
With the Reagan stamp, the "Forever" is downplayed -- and that's good, in my opinion. Still, the "Forever" hints at the eternal.

The Janis stamp plays up the immortality angle.

The Jimi stamp just lets it kinda fade away into the background.

"Batman / Forever / USA." The "Forever" is getting pretty big play here. Batman forever? Yes, if Warner Bros. has anything to say about it.

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