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Europe/Great Britain : GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

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Guthrum
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19 Mar 2015
03:54:52pm
The default shape for GB stamps is the square. It is a displeasing shape, harsh, uncompromising, in your face. You can only look at it one way, however you try. Other countries eschew the square stamp, because they have aesthetic taste, they appreciate proportion, they realise that the square is an unsuitable frame for almost everything.

Here, then, is a scan of some of the latest GB stamps. As you gaze mystified at the sheer lunacy of trying to portray a bridge, of all things, on a square stamp, reflect that it was not always so, that Britain once did things otherwise, with proper rectangular stamps, some even with bridges on them. (The same bridges, in one or two cases, but let that pass.)

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It's a desperate mess. It's a squash, a crick in the neck, a frantic attempt to achieve a perspective denied by the imposition of its ugly frame.

Fifty years ago, we did things better. I'm sure you remember these stamps. They were elegant, proportionate, appropriate to their subject, skilfully designed.

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There's a lot going on in those two designs, which I won't go into here. But, tell me, which do you prefer?

The great Clive Abbott designed the 1965 set. The bridges were the work of an outfit calling itself, without irony we must assume, GBH. As my American friends would say, go figure.

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Jansimon
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19 Mar 2015
04:00:54pm

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re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Dear Ian, I could not disagree with you more.

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Guthrum
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19 Mar 2015
06:54:41pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Well, Jan, I confess I'm unsure on what grounds your disagreement is based. You could argue from several standpoints here:

1. Square stamps are inherently aesthetically pleasing.
2. Bridges are an entirely appropriate subject for a square stamp.
3. The rectangular shapes of 50 years ago are outdated and effete, rightly superseded by the robust dimensions of the present day.
4. The Post Office Tower designs are neither elegant nor skilfully designed, etc. as stated.

I'd be interested to hear the case for any or all of these propositions. Despite my light-hearted tone I am actually interested in postage stamp design and would welcome discussion!

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Bobstamp
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19 Mar 2015
07:34:30pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Personally, I really like square images. So does Instagram! To me, the square format just "disappears" the issue of landscape vs. portrait format. Photoshop and other image-manipulation programs include the option of square cropping. If photographers didn't want it, those programs wouldn't include it.

My first camera, a Kodak Instamatic, produced square negatives. Here are two pictures from the first roll of film I used (and processed myself); they show the Southern Hotel in Silver City, New Mexico, where I grew up. It was torn down in the 1970s, but shouldn't have been torn down, because of its historic connection with Billy the Kid, whose mother was a laundress in the hotel.

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I fail to see how either of those photographs could have been improved with a different format. They would just be "different".

My first professional camera was a Yashicamat, a Japanese knockoff of the Rolleiflex, which shot square negatives on 120 film. I also owned a Mamiya twin-lens reflex which also shot square negatives.

I don't have many square stamps, but one of my favourite ones is square:

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Would that stamp have been better in a rectangle? I don't think so!

Bob



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Anglophile
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19 Mar 2015
09:06:23pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Quote:

"1. Square stamps are inherently aesthetically pleasing.
4. The Post Office Tower designs are neither elegant nor skilfully designed, etc. as stated.
"



I'll go with those points of disagreement. The square isn't the problem, it's what you put in it, so I agree that never varying from the square leads to disaster. The rectangle isn't inherently better. Yes, it fits the Post Office Tower in the vertical (portrait) orientation, but the 1/3 horizontal issue is awful because the tower is in competition with the monarch.

The broader point may be that GB new issue design has lost its way. Witness the Inventive Britain issue. They could have depicted Dyson, Rolls-Royce, countless others, but went with incomprehensible abstractions that do not honor or promote pride in any particular British invention. What a missed opportunity. Upon learning of the theme in late 2014, I was going to ask all my UK-based patent attorney friends to send 2015 correspondence franked with those--and then I saw them. No thanks!
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Jansimon
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20 Mar 2015
05:15:38am

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re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

@Ian,
I considered your posting as some rhetoric in order to provoke discussion and as such it is perfect. As regards content, it all boils down to the old proverb 'there is no disputing about tastes' and therefore I just replied I disagreed. The fact that I replied from a mobile phone also played a part Big Grin

But since you asked for my line of reasoning, I will give it here.
First of all, the increasing preference for the square canvas makes the British stamps recognizable and original compared to the majority of stamps that are in a traditional 1:2 or 2:3 rectangular format. I find that refreshing.
Furthermore, as has been said already, it is not the format that makes a stamp pleasing or ugly, it is the overall design. Once could also argue that the different shape forces the designer to think "out of the (rectangular) box" and come up with new and fresh approaches to the inherently traditional subject matter.
Of course not all resulting stamp designs are equally successful, but as a whole, I really like British stamps of the past 20 / 30 years.

As to the post office tower stamps, to me they are classic examples of the worst period of graphic design: the early nineteensixties with its symbolic use of large coloured surfaces and geometric forms. This particular set looks like a cut and paste job where everything is out of proportion.

Finally, I do not know the significance of the design agency's name. To me GBH is a punk band from a long time ago. Rock On





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Charlie2009
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20 Mar 2015
06:51:20am

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re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

GBH:Grievous bodily harm.

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Jansimon
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20 Mar 2015
07:15:56am

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re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Thanks for pointing that out. I wonder if the founders of the agency, Jason Gregory, Mark Bonner and Peter Hale thought of that when they named their company.

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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
20 Mar 2015
09:01:20am
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

I'll weigh in here.

I think the GB Post Office rectangles are awful: what dominates: the name, first, the monarch second, and, last, the thing being commemorated. The bands of color, or its absence, highlight the tower, but then compete with the rest of the design. They completely miss all sense of focus, and the garish colors further turn the eye away from that being commemorated. But, it would be just as awful in a square or circle; it's just bad design.

I think the bridge squares are models of appropriate design, with the monarch sitting in a corner away from the central image (note how all move left to right, back to front, with the queen in what is clearly the background, although the white silhouette actually pushes her forward). The images, while complex, are still readily readable; the colors vibrant, but not garish. Note, then, the graphic on the bottom, which imitates bridges in two ways. This IS clever and effective design, mostly because so much does NOT call attention to itself, until you notice how it was so competently crafted. I suspect they could have done every bit as well in a landscape horizontal rectangle.

Bob, I can't wait for you to disabuse me of my contrary opinion about the Magyar MiGs. Although I am Hungarian, Hungarian stamps of the communist era have, in general, contributed little to the enhancement of art and design. But, maybe I'm missing something with that stamp and the man with one of the best eyes I know will save me from my troglodyte views.

But let me reinforce what Christopher and Jan-Simon have both said: the square isn't the issue, unless faced with massed cavalry.

David, Transylvanian expat

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Jansimon
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20 Mar 2015
09:14:30am

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re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

i agree with David, the Hungarian stamp would not be any better or worse if it was rectangular, square, octagonal, round or amoebe-shaped. In any shape it would still be bland and ugly, but that is my personal taste and I respect Bob's fondness of it. He may very well find the stamps I think are beautiful an abomination to the eye. And I have no problem with that Happy

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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
20 Mar 2015
11:27:57am
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

and Bob and Jan-Simon both have an affinity for military aircraft, with the C-141 figuring prominently on Bob's life and site and Jan-Simon's filial connection to the Fokker CX.

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Jansimon
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20 Mar 2015
11:47:37am

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re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

the Fokker C-X is one of my brother's specialties.

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Bobstamp
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20 Mar 2015
12:10:14pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

I didn't say the Hungarian airmail stamp was a beautiful stamp. I said it was "one of" my favourite stamps, and has been since I was…11 years old! It was in a set of eight square stamps (four of which are oriented in a diamond format) that came to me in a packet of approvals that I had ordered through Boy's Life magazine.

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I actually do like the designs, all of which fit nicely into a square, in my opinion, and based on my superb taste in wine, women, song, and stamps. Big Grin But, more significant is the fact that at age 11 I desperately wanted to be a jet fighter pilot. Through newsreels I had learned about the Korean War dogfights between MiG-15 and F-86 jet fighters, and if I couldn't actually be a pilot then (or never, actually, I knew deep in my heart), I could "fly" vicariously through that stamp.

Bob




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Bobstamp
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20 Mar 2015
12:24:22pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

David mentioned my "special affinity" for the C-141 Starlifter jet transport (after I was wounded in South Vietnam, I was evacuated back to the U.S. in a U.S.A.F. C-141).

But I have an "affinity" for many other aircraft that I have flown in:

• Douglas DC-3

• Lockheed Constellation

• Lockheed Electra II

• Beechcraft Twin Beech

• Fairchild F-27

• Boeing 707

• Beechcraft T-34, which as far as I know is represented by only one stamp which, Guthrum will be pleased to know, is NOT a square Winking :

Image Not Found

Actually, I have not so much an "affinity" for this aircraft, but knowledge that they can fall out of sky, like one did with me in it! See my web page, Surviving a plane crash in the Black Range.

Bob

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Guthrum
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20 Mar 2015
01:56:13pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Thanks, all, for some challenging ideas, though I see I am in a minority of one on the 'square stamp' debate. And also in the 'Clive Abbott design' debate. That PO Tower pair has always been one of my favourite GB designs, so it was interesting to read David's critique.

I have to confess I'm on shaky ground, not being trained in art & design, and so fall into the 'I know what I like' category of those at whom professionals shake their weary heads. Worse still is the category of 'I'm too old to change my mind now', into which I also fall.

Do we have any design professionals in the group?

Anyway, thank goodness films are not made square. Or television programmes. Or laptop screens. Or books. Or (most) paintings. Then where would I be, eh? Pretty uncomfortable, I can tell you!

Guthrum!


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TuskenRaider
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20 Mar 2015
03:38:03pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Hi Everyone;

Just can't resist this one, so here goes.

Have none of you wondered why almost no houses have square windows? Keep in mind I said
"almost no houses have", not all.

I'm with Ian as regarding 'I know what I like' kinda guy.

There has to be a reason why there aren't more square windows. It is true that some were de-
signed to be 2:1 tall shapes so the lower sash could be raised to let in fresh air. However sealed
thermo-pane windows were designed for central air conditioning and can't be opened. So why
aren't more of those square?

@ Bob;

altho I like rectangular shapes for most stamps, I think your Hungarian stamps and page layout
is very beautiful. You have obviously put much thought into it's layout and design.

@ everyone;

I'm sure it would be cheaper to make the old style TV picture tubes and oscilloscope CRTs, and
medical equipment CRTs with a square shape, but I've never seen any of those. Some things
aren't square for functionality and design of use, but that doesn't apply to everything tho.

Altho I think some stamps are okay if square, but I think most subjects work better if 2:1, 3:2,
4:3, or even 3:1 or 4:1. Even tho they are more difficult to mount than more common shapes.
Even Ian would probably disagree about 3:1 and 4:1 tho.

There is a good reason why I don't collect stamps from Tonga. I've got two set of those ugly
things that fit into my Scott International that I refuse to keep and will get rid of soon.

I can't wait to read what the women on here think on this one, and will look forward to reading
each reply!

Just cavin' out....
TuskenRaider

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TuskenRaider
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20 Mar 2015
03:57:04pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Hi again;

@ amsd;

David, I took a closer look at the square stamps, after re-reading your reply. I think
those graphic things at the bottom of each stamp are cartography (map making)
symbols used to designate a bridge over a river, another road or other geographic
obstruction.

Just chillin'....
TuskenRaider

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Ningpo
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20 Mar 2015
05:16:39pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

I too like square format GB stamps but I stress the word 'format'. I do not like many issues which I feel are flattered by the word 'design'.

Printing a cropped photograph onto a stamp is not design. This is just lazy, low outlay label printing, just to reel in the collectors who buy any new GB issues regardless of theme.

About three years ago, I couldn't resist poking fun at the annual televised Eurovision Song Contest. This is a competition into which participating countries submit a new song to be performed by a nominated artist. The songs are scored by a jury from each other country.

The United Kingdom hadn't been doing too well in the previous few years with young artists, so in seeming desperation they started to nominate or 'recycle' older ones. For example; Engelbert Humperdinck.

I decided to nominate my own 'recycled' artists for forthcoming years and to commemorate these earth shattering Eurovision events, I produced these two:


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These two stamp images illustrate how loosely the word 'design' is used in modern day stamp production. These are not designs at all. They are photographs I found on the Internet which I fiddled with. It is perhaps a fortunate coincidence that my 'artwork' Winking suited the square stamps better than any other format.



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TuskenRaider
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20 Mar 2015
05:55:23pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Hi Ningpo;

Could you add a 1 pound stamp to that set please with the image of Dusty Springfield?

Her and Marianne Faithful are two of my all-time favorite British singers.

Just chillin'....
TuskenRaider

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Ningpo
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20 Mar 2015
06:02:16pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Well in my view, Dusty deserves the £1 accolade. What a great theme for a future GB stamp issue. Does Petula Clark rate in your fave raves? By the way, Pet is a past winner of Eurovision. Oops, I meant Sandy Shaw.

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sheepshanks
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20 Mar 2015
07:02:01pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

If we are going to have the ladies on the stamps can we include Alma Cogan and Elke Brooks, Alma's 8 days a week, and Elke's Nights in white satin, are personal faves along with Faithfull's Ballad of Lucy Jordan which I'm sure Tusken appreciates.
Vic

Ps regarding the topic, I am personally not fond of the square format, it does not rest easy on the eyes.

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TuskenRaider
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20 Mar 2015
07:42:59pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Hi Everyone;

@ Ningpo;

Yup she's right up there too. Also from Canada, folk group Ian & Sylvia.

Ian & Sylvia performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963 & 65.

Just Grovin' Baby....
TuskenRaider

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Ningpo
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20 Mar 2015
08:17:23pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

For TuskenRaider:


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Would you like a block of four, or can I sell you a whole sheet? Big Grin

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TuskenRaider
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20 Mar 2015
09:45:34pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Hi Ningpo;

What do we have to do to get the Royal Post to consider a series on Brit's fav singers?

There is a lot of talent there. Maybe several short series of stamps (6-10) for the top
6-10 names of each decade? So 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s etc. Or maybe booklet panes,
each stamp a different singer?

Could I have a plate number block of 4?

Just dreamin' I guess....
TuskenRaider

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Anglophile
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22 Mar 2015
11:54:54pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

We have also all assumed facts not in evidence, for it turns out that the Bridges stamps are rectangular. As reported in the current issue of Gibbons Stamp Monthly, they are 35mm x 37mm.

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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
23 Mar 2015
10:12:09am
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

i guess we need to throw the whole thread out now that we've been talking about a thing as if we knew what it was, when, all along, it was the other.

so i'll head back to the singers, none of whom would ever be considered squares, and nominate my own favorite, Elizabeth Fraser

I didn't create a stamp for her, though.

David

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Guthrum
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23 Mar 2015
07:23:32pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

35 by 37. Does that really invalidate the point I was making?

However, the enthusiasm with which the merry hi-jacking of the thread by my artistic Essex compatriot has been greeted persuades me that I should steer clear of criticising GB stamps in future.

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michael78651
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23 Mar 2015
08:19:44pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Quote:

"However, the enthusiasm with which the merry hi-jacking of the thread by my artistic Essex compatriot has been greeted persuades me that I should steer clear of criticising GB stamps in future."



You're lucky that the reigning monarch is Queen Elizabeth II. If it were the Queen of Hearts, you'd be in trouble for sure if you criticized her!

Personally, I like the stamps!
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Jansimon
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24 Mar 2015
05:12:43am

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re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Please don't. Everybody is entitled to an opinion and this was an interesting discussion until it was hijacked ;-)

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Ningpo
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24 Mar 2015
03:48:58pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

It would seem that I have annoyed at least two members here for 'hijacking' this thread. My last post I would admit, strayed away from the topic’s purpose. For that I apologise.

My views about format and design in my previous posts do still stand though. Perhaps I over- elaborated, or at least distracted readers from what they expected or hoped for.

It won’t happen again!

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Bobstamp
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24 Mar 2015
04:33:03pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

This "hijacking of threads" topic seems to come up again and again lately! Perhaps it's because we seem to be having more and more participation in the Stamporama Discussions. More people, more brains, more thoughts, more divergent thoughts, more desire to express those thoughts.

The nature of any discussion is to wander away from the initial topic, and at any time someone can bring that topic back to the fore. I don't see any reason for someone to have to apologize for their "hijacking" a thread or deciding that the initial topic shouldn't have been brought up or that future, similar topics should be avoided. If any of us are offended because someone doesn't agree with us, well, then, we need to take a trip to the skin store to buy some thicker skin!

It's rare that I don't learn interesting stuff from threads that I read, and often the most interesting posts are ones that diverge from the original topic.

Bob

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BobbyBarnhart
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24 Mar 2015
05:33:17pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Maybe if the moderator's started mailing demerits to offenders...Big Grin

naaaahhh, then folk would be hijacking threads right and left to get the cool stamps on the envelopes containing the demerits. Sad

well, back to the ol' think tank. Thinking

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roy
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24 Mar 2015
05:36:57pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Quote:

"It would seem that I have annoyed at least two members here for 'hijacking' this thread. "



Personally, I did not read those comments as "annoyance". I could be wrong, but they felt more to me like a jocular verbal "poke in the ribs" ... something I am prone to do in any conversation among friends at the local club. (Jan-Simon even used the "winky-face emoticon! Winking ) I wouldn't worry about it, and no need to apologize, nor be excessively careful to stay on topic. Topics morph, and it is one of the things that keeps a conversation interesting.

And Guthrum, don't hold back. Your observations make interesting conversation (and I refer to multiple posts), and I for one completely agree that the "nearly square" format was a poor choice for bridges! I am a fan of the Golden Ratio.

Roy


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roy
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24 Mar 2015
05:39:33pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

P.S. about the 1965 Post Office issue. I like the layout of the 3d, but think the effect of the 1'3 is to end up looking "squat". And I loathe the colour scheme of both stamps!

Roy

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Guthrum
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24 Mar 2015
06:58:51pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

As a fan of the Golden Ratio, Roy, you will be delighted to learn that the right hand edge of the tower on the 1/3 value is placed precisely on that vertical. As I used to explain to my maths class, great artists and designers often place key points or lines by instinct and practice, though some obviously have used their slide-rules or calculators.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Golden Ratio, there are many websites devoted to explaining it, with fascinating examples of where in worldwide art and design it may be found. It's on stamps, too. (As well as architecture, early medieval literature and the Bible!)

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BobbyBarnhart
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They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. -Benjamin Franklin
24 Mar 2015
11:17:39pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

As an amateur photographer, use of the "golden ration" and its cousin "the rule of thirds" is second nature to me. Even without my camera, I unconsciously view the world this way. When I find a stamp which is particularly pleasing to me, I can almost always apply the mechanics of the Golden Ration and discover it fits.

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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
25 Mar 2015
08:52:55am
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

I don't mind wandering threads, unless they're on my favorite shirt. Frankly, they often add quite a bit to the discussion. And, here, where we're talking art, ratios, design, geometry, the meaning of square, Dusty Springfield, well, they're all related. And the most humorous things are those that are otherwise throwaway lines.

One can see the great interest that the topic begat and the great minds churning through it. I never felt this thread was hijacked, it just didn't flow as straight as the line on the bottom of the bridge issues on their nearly square pieces of paper that most seem not to like.

I hope that's what we're talking about, as I no longer see any bridges or towers.

David

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BobbyBarnhart
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They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. -Benjamin Franklin
25 Mar 2015
11:59:29am
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Actually, I have seen no post in this thread which I would not consider at least tangentially on topic. Every post I read, even the delightful creations of Ningpo featuring 3 of my favorites lady vocalists of all time, seem to fit (at least partially) somewhere within the parameters of "GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square."

As a moderator, I believe conversations should be allowed to go where they will. There are times, however, when they get so far off track, that members need reminding that our resident Wizard has provided us with a plethora of categories within which to post, and that they should take advantage of this marvelously structured discussion board and find appropriate topics wherein to post messages, images, comments and discussions which have "0" relevancy to the titled topic. (Whew!!! What a sentence - Charles Dickens, eat your heart out!)

To make sure this post is on topic:

Some stamps are square
Some stamps are round
But a stamp I didn't like
I have never found
Big Grin




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"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. -Edmund Burke"

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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
25 Mar 2015
12:36:31pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

When asked "stamps, why you lick 'ems?"
the author, Charles Dickens
replied
"how else you stick ems?"
he cried.

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"Save the USPS, buy stamps; save the hobby, use commemoratives"

juicyheads.com/link.php?PLJZJP
amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
25 Mar 2015
12:42:50pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

and, to keep it closer to Bleak Home, here's round Chuck on rectangular ZazzleImage Not Found

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"Save the USPS, buy stamps; save the hobby, use commemoratives"

juicyheads.com/link.php?PLJZJP
cdj1122
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Silence in the face of adversity is the father of complicity and collusion, the first cousins of conspiracy..
28 Mar 2015
02:45:37pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

Discussions that stay strictly on topic are like mental jackboots stomping through an echo prone hall, eyes firmly fixed ahead, ignoring the colorful tapestry of life that surrounds their path, ignorant of what they have passed through and oblivious of what they are about to meet.

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".... You may think you understood what you thought I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you think you heard is not what I thought I meant. .... "
Ningpo
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28 Mar 2015
07:52:17pm
re: GB Stamps. Square Again. Always Square.

I've just been browsing through some GB stamps and came upon this one. It's a cropped image of a miniature sheet released in 1980.

This ticks a number of boxes for me; the clever use of a collage as the main design element, the clarity of the design (8 recognisable London landmarks), the use of monochrome printing (polychrome printing would not have worked at all here) and perfectly fitting the familiar oblong shape.


Image Not Found



Notice that one of the landmarks is the Post Office Tower shown on Guthrum's opening post; on the Clive Abbott designed 1965 3d and 1/3d stamps.

I loved this miniature sheet when it was first released and bought about six of them. I just wish this design had been issued as part of set, of say 'British city landmarks' where all values were of the same collage concept but different monochrome outline.

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