British Library sorts its post

Stamps are not always thought of as works of art, but there is no excuse for that this year. Each of the 48 stamps which make up 1999’s Millennium Collection were designed by artists commissioned by the Royal Mail with help from CDT Design’s Mike Dempsey.

The artists were briefed to create images which celebrate the past 1000 years of British history. The stamps, which are on show at the British Library at London’s King’s Cross, tell a series of tales about the nation’s development. Many of the artists were influenced by materials housed in the library, such as the Magna Carta and Captain Cook’s log.

The graphics and name of the exhibition, Post Impressions, came from Carter Wong, while Red Studio created the 3D structure.

The content of the exhibition is quite high-brow, but the aim was to appeal to the general public. ‘We wanted to make it fun and accessible,’ says Carter Wong account director Helen Slater, ‘and entice people into the library who might not normally go.’

The theme for the exhibition was an envelope, because, says Slater, ‘it is the most obvious context for a stamp’. The consultancy has played with this idea, using airmail, parcel and window envelopes to complement the messages of the artists.

The British Library’s double-height exhibition space means that visitors arriving on the first floor will look down on a ground floor seemingly scattered with envelopes. Carter Wong has also designed literature and posters to accompany the event, which opens on 3 August.

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