I don’t want to come over as some sad old stamp geek, but thanks to a long association with Royal Mail Design, I’ve learned a thing or two about this minuscule art form. Strict rules about what you can and can’t do with the look and form of a stamp are gradually being loosened in an effort to attract younger collectors, and the January 2010 stamp issue by Studio Dempsey continues to push the boundaries.

The set features classic British record sleeves, including the seminal London Calling by The Clash, Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Blur’s Parklife and Led Zeppelin II. I was among of a group of designers and music journalists to help draw up a shortlist for Royal Mail, and I’m glad to see that several of my suggestions made the cut. Mike Dempsey has cleverly played with the form of both the stamp and the sleeve, with a small crescent of record poking out of the right-hand side. Let’s hope the younger audience appreciate what this curious black stuff is.

Personally, I’ll be buying as many Clash stamps as I can get my hands on. The iconic Pennie Smith photo of Paul Simenon smashing his bass still has immense power, and the type design by Ray Lowry – a homage to an earlier Elvis album – creates the perfect frame. Along with his many other achievements – bassist, artist, coolest man on Earth – Simenon becomes one of the first recognisable living people to appear on a British stamp. Until recently, only members of the Royal Family were accorded that honour. To see all the other classic British album sleeve stamps, check the Creative Review blog. God Save the Queen.

It’s finally out. The mighty, 64-page 2009 Royal Mail Yearbook represents around four months of Jim’s working life across this year and last – and goes some way to account for the recent dearth of entries on this section of the website.

But flicking through page after handsome page, the effort seems more than worthwhile. This year’s 14 stamp issues included British Design Classics, Mythical Creatures, Naval Uniforms and the Industrial Revolution, and the Yearbook delves into many of their more interesting nooks and crannies. We came up with the title ‘Feed Your Mind – A Great British Miscellany’ because of the bite-size editorial style, which cherry picks obscure facts and stories to bring each subject to life. It also fits in with the slightly unsettling custom-made phrenology head on the front and back covers.  

The designers, hat-trick, have done a grand job… they went for a ‘more is more’ approach, scatter-gunning many smaller subjects around a central theme and packing each spread with visual interest and graphic wit. The result is busy and intriguing, a dippable smorgasbord of a book rather than a meaty read.

The results speak for themselves, but the ambitious approach made for a research-intensive project, with Jim needing to get to grips with from everything from the rules of jousting, to the myth of the Giant’s Causeway, to the most people to fit into a phone box, to the Burns poem Tam O’Shanter. And plenty more besides. We’ll be posting more spreads and details when we get them.

This is Jim’s fifth Royal Mail Yearbook, and he’s just been commissioned to write his sixth for next year. Hat-trick will be designing again. You can get hold of your very own copy here.

It near brings a tear to the proud, fatherly eye.

This is my 10-year-old son Lukje’s latest homework assignment, which was to design an eco-friendly vehicle. It wasn’t so much the concept and drawing as the naming and copy which caught the eye. In case you can’t make out the body text it reads:

‘You’ll be round
the rainforest in
no time with this
solar powered
two seater!’

It has a real economy, rhythm, and an engaging tone of voice. There’s even a nifty bit of alliteration in there. He’ll be troubling the pages of the D&AD Annual before you know it.

That’s my boy.