How the Royal Mail’s sustainable fishing stamps were designed

Independent designer Kate Stephens is behind the Royal Mail’s new set of stamps, which carries a sustainable fishing message.

Common skate

Stephens was appointed after the Royal Mail commissioned its own research and found that little is known by the public about sustainable fishing.

The stamps, which illustrate and categorise fish that are from threatened and sustainable fish stocks, have been designed to guide the public on how to conserve fish in UK waters.

Those threatened in the UK are the common skate, spiny dogfish, wolffish, sturgeon and conger eel, while the sustainable alternatives are identified as herring, red gurnard, dab, pouting, and Cornish sardine (pilchard).

Stephens, who has ‘always lived by the sea’ and is ‘surrounded by the context of fishing’ says, ‘I wanted the fish to be placed within the story of their environment; you need to know where it lives to understand it, so things like deep water and surface water are really important.’

Stephens conducted a competition of artists shortlisting first 12 and then four who she asked to paint sardines and skate. Two artists then went head to head and they were asked to create further images which were judged by the Stamp Advisory Committee.

The winner, David Miller, then worked to a framework set by Stephens who had designed the type and values for the composition.

Stephens says that Miller researched the fish extensively before drawing them and even bought live ones in some cases to watch them swim.

‘We had to be precise – down to the number of scales even – so people who understand fish, like fishermen would know what it is straight away,’ says Stephens.

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