[Alyson Kuhn] Louise Fili’s first thought when she received the inquiry in 2009 about designing a Love stamp was, “How can I design something so small for a subject so large?” Fili was in Paris at the time and happened to be immersed in research for a book she was working on with her husband, Steven Heller. Fili’s 2012 Love stamp debuted late last week. If you are in luck, they will be coming to a post office near you in time to mail your valentines. Fili chatted with us early last week about her first postage stamp for the USPS.
Scripts: Elegant Lettering From Design’s Golden Age is a typographic treasure trove of ephemera from Fili and Heller’s collection, including photographs of shop signs.
What inspired the ribbon script for the stamp?
I looked at previous Love stamps, as I didn’t want to repeat anything that had been done before. I had been interested for a long time in doing a logo script that was “material specific.” I had experimented with a logo for a pasta restaurant using fettuccine, which was a disaster. I’d never done anything like this with ribbon. Jessica Hische was my senior designer at the time, and she could do anything. Plus, four letters seemed manageable.
Did someone run down the street to the Mokuba showroom and buy various widths of double-faced satin ribbon to try writing with?
No, we didn’t use any actual ribbon. I sketched it out the way I thought it should look, and Jessica is such a skilled illustrator, she took it from there. She drew it directly in Illustrator. I think it can hamper the look if you photograph something and then try to translate it to vector art. Drawn ribbon can do things for you that it couldn’t do in real life.
Like defy gravity?
Exactly. For other projects in the past, I’ve tried ribbon with wire.
Love is a little like Louise, minus a couple of letters. And the e in your Love design reminds me of an ampersand, which seems ideal for a Love stamp.
I tend to draw my e’s like that. And it seemed easier and more interesting to draw that style out of ribbon, rather than a small loop e.
What were the other design considerations?
Well, color was obvious. It had to be red. At the time we designed the stamp, the first-class rate was 44¢, and we’d positioned the 44 in the lower right corner, where it worked perfectly, with a small USA running up the left of the 44. When it was changed to be a Forever stamp, we had to go back to the drawing board.
Of all the stamps that say Forever, what could be more aspirational than a Love stamp?
Yes, and if we had known in advance, we might have experimented with placing the Forever underneath. By the time we needed to make this revision, Jessica had gone out on her own, so the revision was done by my current senior designer, John Passafiume. The USA is hand-lettered, and forever is modified Coquette.
What a lovely detail — using a romantically named typeface! And when did you start thinking about the sheet as a whole?
Initially we focused on designing the single stamp. Once it was approved, we started to play with the idea that the floating ribbons had to go somewhere.
Every stamp on the sheet is identical, but the design unfurls from one stamp to the next. To create this effect seamlessly on your envelopes, the smoothest way to transfer multiple stamps is to gently roll the backing sheet down, so the stamps slide off right next to each other.
Are you personally planning on sending a lot of mail for the 14th?
I am. And hopefully, this will be the one day when I will not be scolded by a postal employee.
Louise Fili Ltd (@louisefili), founded in 1989, specializes in logo, package, restaurant and book design. In addition to our armchair tour of Scripts, Felt & Wire has previously featured the work of Louise Fili, including a visit to her studio (with recipe!). The studio’s blog is another treat. Check out this post about the gigantic poster for the School of Visual Arts, made from 8400 mosaic tiles, each smaller than a postage stamp.
Jessica Hische (@jessicahische) will have the particular pleasure of using the 2012 Love stamp on her own wedding invitations.
U.S. stamp design © 2011 U.S. Postal Service, all rights reserved.