Stamps are bridges that connect people from different shores.
This project was submitted for the ISTD annual competition and awarded a Merit for its typography design. It explores the visual potential of a postage stamp to communicate the subject of emigration in contemporary society, through the life stories of six famous Irish writers James Joyce, Edna O’Brien, Colm Toíbín, Deirdre Madden, Joseph O’Connor and Sara Berkerley.
A set of stamps and a book were designed in order to explore and re-evaluate the expressive and communicative power of stamps using the rich visual potential offered by typographic forms.
After 1840, emigration became a massive, relentless, and efficiently managed national enterprise. The total outflow was more than the population at its historical peak in the 1830s of 8.5 million. From 1830 to 1914, almost 5 million went to the United States alone. In 1890 two of every five Irish–born people were living abroad. By the 21st century, an estimated 80 million people worldwide claimed some Irish descent; which includes more than 36 million Americans who claim Irish as their primary ethnicity. In the same time the postage stamp was invented by Rowland Hill in England in 1840s. These two events significantly affected modern society. People were able to make connection with their relatives abroad despite distances by using a postage service: sending letters or money. Even a poor person was able to pay for this service.
Throughout the history of postage service, stamps were recognised as a symbol of a bridge connecting one world with another. Perhaps today the symbolic role of a postage stamp is as big as the functional. Letters and stamps are associated with something personal that has a human touch. Writing is no longer just a means of saving information, in the same way, postage stamp is no longer merely a prepay for a postal service. I understand that IRELAND IN EXILE: IRISH WRITERS ABROAD will prove for many Irish readers and others as well, to be a tender subject that will touch a raw nerve which has been ignored for too long. More importantly, for Irish readers abroad, I hope, it will, in places, echo and accord with their own experiences of life outside Ireland.
For the stamp design, typography can fulfill both iconic and symbolic functions in relaying the philatelic message. Many graphic designers believe that typographic symbol should as far as possible transform itself into icon, into visible and tangible presence. Six stamps were designed to commemorate the life of six Irish writers in emigration James Joyce, Edna O’Brien, Colm Toíbín, Deirdre Madden, Joseph O’Connor and Sara Berkerley. The quotes of these writers signify their thoughts about being in emigration. We all know stories that have been written by these authors but never associate them with their personal experiences, that in some ways they were inspired by their life abroad. If you keep this thought in the back of you mind the quotes have stronger impact on perception.
In the design of each stamp, quotes, spreads from books and images that were used which reflected the identity of a single author. In this way, I aimed to focus on the personality of the author rather than on his works.
In the process of making the book I used photographs from the Irish An Post exhibition, scanned images of original letters of writers, images of the variety of Irish stamps and envelopes from early days.
A book was designed and produced in order to put together the information I found essential for the subject. Different genres and styles of text were used, like for example interviews, letters of emigrants, essays and extracts from different articles, books and stories in order to make the chosen subject versatile and interesting for readers.