Responses by Jay Cover, design/illustration
Background: To design a set of six stamps that celebrates Manx folk traditions for the Isle of Man Stamps & Coins, specifically traditions and customs that happen over the Autumn and Winter period. The target audience is mainly Manx people who live on the Isle of Man, but I hope it also extends out to people who like to collect nicely produced, unusual graphic prints.
Reasoning: I wanted to produce something graphic and bold that celebrated the rich visual language of the Isle of Man’s Celtic and Viking heritage. I wanted the whole thing to feel very people-focused, so I populated most of the images with characters conducting the traditions.
Challenges: Trying to tell a story on a small 1.1811 in x 1.5748 in space (3cm x 4cm). I produced a lot of iterations where I had to think around the problem and cut back on visual information, which was clouding out the core message and story.
Favorite details: Producing something useful and meaningful for the place where I grew up and still call home. My family lives on the Isle of Man and it’s an amazing feeling to think that they will be using these stamps to send their Christmas cards this year.
Visual influences: I researched a lot of Nordic wood carvings and Celtic stone work, referencing the two-dimensional, stylized characters in them. I drew a lot of influence from mid-century, East European stamp and matchbox design. I also gathered many photographs of the Manx people, from the turn of the century for costume and general inspiration.
Specific demands: The stamps all needed to be approved by the Queen, which was not necessarily difficult, but it gave the project an edge in the early stages. I had a bit of anxiety about whether they would be passed or not. When they were, I was very relieved.
Anything new: I learned a lot of specific information about the Manx folk traditions—the history, where they came from originally, how they’ve evolved and adapted over hundreds of years and how people interpret them.
Alternative approach: I would like to try using fewer colors. Originally, I decided to work with four spot colors and a metallic. However, it was very difficult to conceive how they would look in the end, and it was impossible to get an accurate proof made. Thankfully, we worked with a great printer in Canada, who was helpful in suggesting ideas and alternatives based on what I was after.