Australia Post stamp design | Communication Arts

Responses by Matt Remphrey, creative director, Parallax.

Background: Remembrance Day—also known as Poppy Day, owing to the tradition of wearing a remembrance poppy—is a memorial day observed on the November 11 in commonwealth-member countries since the end of World War I to honor victims of war. The purpose of the project was to develop a special collectable stamp issue to commemorate the day. The target audiences were the general public and stamp collectors.

Design thinking: The brief was very precise: hero the poppy in any artistic approach in a clear and simple manner, with a red poppy for those who served, white poppy for civilian casualties and purple poppy for animals in war. Merely depicting a poppy seemed to miss the weight of meaning behind the symbolism—that of human loss and deprivation. We decided the final stamps must visually depict the poppy and speak directly to their symbolism. Our solution uses silhouetted portraits, depicting those each poppy represents, as overlapping petals. Each poppy, although abstracted, is immediately recognizable. But on closer inspection, the petals of each flower speak to the symbolism and poignancy of meaning. The black background gives each illustration maximum standout and symbolizes loss.

Challenges: The idea came pretty quickly, but we agonized over the execution. At first glance, the illustrations would have to read as a poppy, with the portraits revealing themselves on closer inspection. If the reveal didn’t work in that order, the concept would fail.

Favorite details: I find there is a real poignancy to the final stamps, something I had not envisioned being evident in the artwork at the start of the project. Perhaps this has something to do with the current hostilities around the world, but if the stamps make people stop and reflect, then they have achieved something special.

New lessons: I learned WWI military history and the reason behind the poppies’ symbolism. The red poppy were among the first to flower in the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium after the war. In soldiers’ folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of their comrades soaking in the ground. In 1919, the British Legion sought an emblem that would honor the dead and help the living. The red poppy was adopted as that emblem and has since been accepted as the emblem of remembrance.

Specific project demands: The limitation of scale demands a clear idea and visual brevity. The illustrations needed enough detail to be readable, but simple enough to hold up at small size.

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