Special stamp designs

In 1965, then-postmaster general Tony Benn asked designer David Gentleman to create new illustrations that would modernise stamp design. Fifty years on, the Royal Mail has 2,663 special stamps to show as part of its collection, ranging from the commemoration of the 1940 Battle of Britain to celebrating the “life” of fictional character Sherlock Holmes in 1993. To mark the 50th anniversary of their non-Royal-related stamp programme, we ask a selection of experts about their favourite design from each decade.

Michael Johnson, founder, Johnson Banks

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail Battle of Britain

1965: 25th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain

This is a really early example of David Gentleman’s skill at designing tiny pieces of gummed paper. The way that the aeroplanes criss-cross and the colours overlap, and the depth of the compositions is world-class. Stamps had never looked like this before.

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail Broadcasting anniversary

1972: Broadcasting Anniversaries

Another David Gentleman one – I’ve always thought this was a masterful piece of cropping with regards to the image, and such a singular object to feature on a stamp.

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail British Greenwich Meridian

1984: Centenary Greenwich Meridian 

Howard Waller’s meridian stamps have a great “powers of ten” feel as we start hovering above the earth’s surface then progressively get closer to Greenwich. They have a great “found” design quality to them – the only unifying factor is the red line.

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail British aircraft designers

1997: British Aircraft designers

Bruce Duckworth’s “designers in the clouds” must count as one of the best trompe-l’oeils ever committed to a design this small.

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail British Lest we forget

2006: Lest We Forget

On balance I think there are probably too many war commemoration stamps and not enough forward thinking – but this fusion of barbed wire and the stems of poppies has always stood out for me. (Design: Hat-Trick).


2013: Football Heroes

It’s not the footballers, or the illustration that I love – it’s the genius of having 11 stamps in the set that gets me. (Design: True North).

Johnson has designed 46 stamps himself, including the Royal Mail’s Beatles set in 2007.


Philip Parker, head of stamp strategy, The Royal Mail


Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail British Concorde

1969: Concorde

Marking the first flight of Concorde, this elegant David Gentleman design is probably the simplest artwork of all time. Two sheets of coloured film, spray painted, were cut with a scalpel to form the instantly recognisable profile. Over five decades Gentleman has designed more than 100 Special Stamps, his work always distinctive.

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail Sailing

1975: Sailing

It was purely coincidental that Andrew Restall’s designs overlapped with Rod Stewart’s chart hit of the same name. Nothing as colourful, as “loose” (and perhaps as joyous) had been seen on stamps before. Restall’s major contribution to stamps included his Fellowship in Stamp Design at the RCA (instigated by Tony Benn).

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail Flowers

1987: Flowers

Stamps have been a vehicle for leading photographers and Alfred Lammer created what I consider to be some of the most beautiful stamps ever. Using only natural light and shooting flowers in situ, he would wait for hours before the conditions were right for a shot. The stamps were a feature of his newspaper obituaries when he died in 2000.

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail Darwin's theory

1999: Darwin’s Theory (from September 1999 Scientists’ Tale stamp set)

The Millennium Stamps were Royal Mail’s most ambitious programme, with every issue of 1999 exploring 1000 years of history with 48 leading image-makers contributing. Ray Harris-Ching is a wildlife artist like no other, meticulously painting mostly birds, and is somehow able to give each an individual character. His ingenious interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution placed a Galapagos Finch on the fossil of the first known bird.

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail The Beatles

2007: The Beatles

Perhaps not surprisingly, The Beatles stamps of 2007 are Royal Mail’s biggest selling issue of the last decade. It’s also notable for its depiction of living people. Before 2007, identifiable living people other than members of the Royal Family had hardly ever been seen on stamps. Designed by Johnson Banks, the stamp’s irregular shape is created by an image of the band’s iconic album stacked on top of a pile of LPs – I enjoy identifying the hidden albums.

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail WWF

2011: WWF

Stamps to mark the conservation group’s 50th anniversary included ten close-cropped images of the faces of endangered species. It’s incredibly hard to select one, but the Amur Leopard is striking and beautiful. Designed by Rose, the simple idea of the creature gazing straight out at you is effective – the fact that there are less than 40 left in the wild is sobering.


Dean Shepherd, editor, Gibbons Stamp Monthly magazine, Stanley Gibbons


Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail Battle of Britain 2

1965: 25th Anniversary of The Battle of Britain

It’s not only the bold design of this set, particularly those created by David Gentlemen, which I like – it also reminds me of the battle going on behind the scenes as Tony Benn, the then-postmaster general, and David Gentleman campaigned to have the Queen’s head removed from British stamp design. They didn’t succeed!

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail Philympia

1970: Philympia 70 Stamp Exhibition

Stamp-on-stamp designs are very popular and this David Gentleman one, issued to commemorate the Philympia stamp exhibition in 1970, is one of the best. It showcases three ground-breaking issues of the Victorian era: the first line-engraved stamp (the famous Penny Black of 1840); the first embossed stamp (the One Shilling Green of 1847) and the first surface printed stamp (the Fourpence Carmine from 1885), to give a wonderful timeline of this pioneering era of stamp design.

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail Transport and Mail Services

1988: Transport and Mail Services in 1930s

This set issued for the 1988 Europa competition and designed by Mike Dempsey recreates the look of those superb art deco-style posters of the 1930s, as well as the distinctive architecture and engineering masterpieces of the era. The fact that each mode of transport shown on the stamps has a link to the postal service is an added bonus.

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail Sherlock Holmes

1993: Sherlock Holmes (centenary of the publication of The Final Problem)

I really admire the artwork of Andrew Davidson. His distinctive designs used for this issue, marking the centenary of the death of the Sherlock Holmes character, are excellent and the elongated format of the stamps adds to the appeal. Plus, as each stamp features a hidden letter that spells out a word related to Sherlock Holmes, viewers have to get out their magnifying glasses and do a little bit of detective work of their own.

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail first pillar box

2002: 150th Anniversary of the First Pillar Box

Designed by Silk Pearce, not only does this set show the evolution of the pillar box over the years but as the stamps were engraved and recess printed they have a wonderful texture to them that was lost to most stamps of the era. This is also my favourite as the engravings were done by the legendary Czeslaw Slania – arguably the best stamp engraver of all time.

Special Stamps 50th anniversary Royal Mail Accession George V

2010: Centenary of the Accession of King George V

This is by far my favourite stamp of the decade as it celebrates some of the most attractive British stamps ever created – in particular the high value Seahorse design by Bertram Mackennal. This is regarded by many, including myself, as Britain’s most beautiful stamp.

All images are courtesy of the Royal Mail.

Source: http://www.designweek.co.uk/

Protests over Kings College rebrand

King’s College London has entered a period of further consultation on its planned Saffron-designed rebrand following a negative reaction from students.

A petition against the Kings College rebrand was handed to the university’s principal Ed Byrne at the end of December. It contained more than 11,000 signatures and has prompted a period of further consultation.

There had been speculation that the rebrand would involve a name-change to King’s London, which has been denied by the university.

According to King’s student paper Roar, Byrne sent an email to staff and students at the university saying: “A process to look at updating the King’s brand without changing the name, which involved extensive consultation over the last few years, has led to great concern among our student body.”

“Further consultation and discussion will take place in the New Year and we greatly value the views of our community. I would like to stress to all in the King’s community that our formal name remains King’s College London.”

The university gave a statement to Design Week saying: “We have consulted many people over the last three years including staff, current and prospective students, alumni and other external audiences, but there are clearly more voices seeking to be heard.

“Given the strength of feeling in the feedback from some parts of the King’s community, we are continuing to listen and will be further consulting staff, students and alumni.”

Saffron was appointed to work on a full rebrand of the university in January 2014.

A new King’s College London design roster has just been set up and does not include Saffron. The roster is concerned with design services rather than major strategic projects.

Source: www.designweek.co.uk

The biggest rebrands of 2014


Made in Britain

The year started with a new identity for the Made in Britain campaign, created by The Partners. Made in Britain is an initiative to promote British-made products and the new identity replaced a previous logo that was designed after a student competition. The Made in Britain identity went on to win the identity design category at the 2014 Design Week Awards.

Black Decker

Power tool company Black + Decker unveiled a new identity, developed by Lippincott. The new identity met with a mixed reaction from DW commentators, not least because of the replacement of the & symbol with a +…

Fitness First

Fitness First introduced a new identity, created by The Clearing, which saw the brand’s blue and white colours replaced by a red to symbolise “energy and strength”. Alongside the rebrand, the Fitness First interiors were refurbished by Checkland Kindleysides.

Virgin Media

Wolff Olins overhauled the Virgin Media branding, dropping the Union Flag from the logo, which had been introduced by Start JudgeGill in 2011.




JKR gave biscuit brand McVitie’s a new identity as part of a £12 million relaunch of the company. This included a marketing campaign that apparently aimed to evoke “the emotional role biscuits play in our lives”.


Reebok launched a new brand mark which it dubbed “Reebok Delta”. It apparently aims to reflect the brand’s new “singular focus on fitness”.


Insurer Scottish Widows updated its branding, with identity design elements created by Rufus Leonard and a campaign led by 101. The project also involved the introduction of a new Scottish Widows “Widow”…


And teenage boys’ favourite Lynx got a new look, with branding developed by Elmwood and new structural packaging created by SeymourPowell – including a “lockable” spray button.




Rebrands were rather thin on the ground this month, but there was this interesting new identity for Bacardi rum, created by Here Design. The consultancy redrew the brand’s bat icon, taking influence from earlier Bacardi designs.




After rebranding McVitie’s earlier in the year, JKR turned its attention to fellow United Biscuits brand Jacob’s. The rebrand featured the creation of a new master identity, packaging and an ad campaign.

GF Smith

Made Thought developed a new identity for paper company G.F Smith. The rebrand project included the creation of two new marks, as well as a new typeface and other elements including a “Collection Wall” of paper at the brand’s warehouse.



US consultancy Fuseproject created a new identity for payment service PayPal. The new identity contains four elements; a new wordmark and typefaces, a new monogram of PayPal’s double PP’s, a new dark and light blue colourway and a “dynamic angle graphic”.

V Fest

V Festival launched a new identity, created by Saffron, based around the concept of “bring the vibe”.



Following the merger between publishing giants Penguin and Random House, Pentagram partner Michael Bierut designed the identity for newly formed company… Penguin Random House.


Nestlé’s instant coffee brand Nescafé launched a new, unified look and feel across all its products worldwide. Identity design work was carried out by CBA Design Paris.


New York’s Cooper Hewitt Museum reopened at the end of the year following a £54 million refurbishment project. Ahead of its reopening it unveiled a new identity, created by Pentagram partner Eddie Opara.



Airbnb launched a new identity, created by DesignStudio, based around the new “bélo” icon – a “symbol of belonging”. The new logo was pounced upon by social media critics, who rather bizarrely compared it to both male and female genitalia.


Social geo-location service FourSquare launched new branding as well as a new interface and functionality. The new identity was created by Brooklyn-based consultancy Red Antler.



Source: EBU

August was, perhaps unexpectedly, rather a busy month for new brand launches. The month kicked off with a new identity for the Eurovision Song Contest, which was created by Amsterdam-based consultancy Cityzen Agency. The new branding is an evolution of the contest’s heart logo, which was introduced ten years ago.


Dixons and Carphone Warehouse announced in May that they would be merging the two companies. Subsequently, the newly launched entity opened its doors in August, glorying under the name Dixons Carphone. Branding for the new company was created by AMV/BBDO.


Landor created the new identity for the World Trade Center development in New York – a complex of buldings on the site of the original Twin Towers which were destroyed in the attacks on 11 September 2001. Thw new logo is heavy with symbolism with, for example, each of the five bars in the logo representing one of the five towers that will make up the new World Trade Center. Two empty columns at the top represent the Tribute in Light memorial that will be built on the site, while the two columns below them represent the twin pools of the National September 11 Memorial.


Also in August, WWE “pinned down” (ha ha…) a new look. The new World Wrestling Entertainment logo is the fourth incarnation of the brand that started out as the World Wrestling Federation in 1982.


Following its work on McVitie’s and Jacob’s, JKR was again behind one of 2014’s big fmcg relaunches. New Birds Eye branding and packaging designed by by the consultancy hit the shelves in August as part of the company’s £60 million relaunch.


SomeOne created the identity for the first ever European Games, a sporting event that will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, next year. The logo itself was unveiled in November 2013 and was created by Azerbaijani designer Adem Yunisov and features the pomegranate fruit. SomeOne says the pomegranate tree – which symbolises unity in Azerbaijani folklore – is also integral to the new branding, which features tree branches interwoven with symbols of Azerbaijani culture and heritage.


Volvo updated its identity with the launch of its new XC90 vehicle. The updated “ironmark” logo was created by Swedish consultancy Stockholm Design Lab. The ironmark has been in use since 1927 and is based on the chemical symbol for iron.



Channel 4 launched a new All 4 identity, which will represent all of Channel 4’s digital output and replace the 4oD branding. The new identity was designed 4Creative team, working with Magpie Studio and We Are Seventeen, while the overall branding was developed by 4Creative and We Are Seventeen. Channel 4 says the new branding is “derived from the iconic Lambie-Nairn Channel 4 logo”.


The USA’s Major League Soccer rebranded with a flexible identity that can be adapted to feature the home colours of every team in the league. An in-house team worked with US consultancies Gigunda, Athletics and Berliner Benson to develop the new identity.



Following the relative quietness of September, October was another busy month on the rebrand front. Shoe brand K Swiss rolled out a new identity which it says pays homage to its place as the only US heritage tennis brand. The new look was created by a newly appointed internal creative team.


NB Studio created a new look for apple products brand Aspall, designing the new identity alongside an assembled team of craftsmen including woodcutters and botanical illustrators.


Purple Creative overhauled the Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky brand, creating a new identity, colour system and brand expressions.


Portuguese consultancy Brandia Central, which has created identities for football tournaments around the world, including Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine and Euro 2016 in France, unveiled the identity for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The new identity references the Sputnik spacecraft and Russian icon art techniques.



Colgate rolled out a new identity, created by The Partners’ New York office, which features a redrawn logo and a new chevron device. The new branding also features a bespoke typeface created by Fontsmith.


Pizza Hut launched a new identity in the US in what the restaurant chain says is its “biggest brand evolution ever”. The new look was developed with ad agency Deutsch, and takes in a new identity, box designs, website and staff uniforms.



Right at the end of the year came what is probably 2014’s most controversial rebrand. Russian company Kalashnikov, known for making the AK-47 assault rifle, launched a new identity as it looked to position itself as a “Protector of Peace” (really). Russian consultancy Apostle Center for Strategic Communications was behind all of the rebranding work.


And finally, Moving Brands created a new identity for DeviantArt, an online community that allows users to share and discuss artworks.