Back in Time: The History of Postcard Design

Over the last year or so I’ve found myself picking up old postcards every time I visit an antique shop. I’m drawn to the grainy, nostalgic feel of a lot of the old photographs that they feature. But most of all I love how postcards can serve as small pieces of local history. I think that they can be beautiful little representations of a specific time or place.

Postcards can feature countless different types of subject matter. Postcards that depict landscapes, cityscapes and other scenes are known as view cards. Postcards can also serve as greeting cards, or they can depict a historical event. They can feature works of art, or often have photographic portraits of women, children and lovers, sometimes with hand tinted details. The possibilities are endless.

The idea of the postcard was created by German postal official Dr. Heinrich von Stephan. Once the first postcards were sent in North Germany in 1870, they quickly spread to other parts of Europe and North America. Early postcards from 1898 to 1901 were printed with the words “Private Mailing Card” on the front which also featured both small images and hand written messages. By 1907, the design of the back of postcards was divided in half. The left side was blank for writing messages and the right side featured stamps and addresses. This time was considered the golden age of postcards. From 1915 to 1930 many postcards began to feature a white border around the image in order to save on ink. During the 1930s and  early 40s postcards were printed on paper with a high rag content which gave them the appearance of linen rather than paper. By 1945 this finally gave way to photochrom postcards. Photochrom is a method of colourizing black and white images and printing using halftone offset lithography. The result is usually images with vivid, unreal colours.

The postcards I’ve picked up are all either white border postcards (left), real photo postcards (middle), or photochroms (right). The white border postcards could date anywhere from 1915 to 1930. I have one postcard from Windsor, Ontario that has an American 2 cent postage stamp which, according to my research, dates more specifically from 1925 to 1928. Even though postcards from the white border period are considered lower quality, the ones that I’ve found from this era are some of my favourites. The real photo postcards (postcards developed from actual negatives) could date anywhere from 1910 all the way up to 1962, according to this online database which dates real photo postcards according to the paper manufacturer and the appearance of the stamp box. The photochrom cards are a bit newer and could date anywhere from 1945-present.

Unassuming objects like postcards can serve as artifacts of design history. They can also tell us a lot about photography, printing processes, and local history. But more than anything, I think they’re just super pretty!

Thanks for reading!

Grace

Sources:

http://siarchives.si.edu/history/exhibits/postcard/dating-postcards

http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/photography/History-of-Postcards.html

http://www.metropostcard.com/history1946-1990.html

http://www.chicagopostcardmuseum.org/postcard_age.html

 

Design Inspiration: 5 Examples of Clever Lettering in Illustration

Handling type in an interesting and appropriate manner is a crucial part of what designers do. Combining lettering and illustration into one piece effectively and legibly can be a tough job, but I think well integrated text can truly yield some of the most playful and clever results. Here I’ve compiled some of my favourite examples of illustrators, studios and projects that I think handle type in a fun, inspiring way.

Kate Prior

I came across Kate Prior’s work last semester when I was doing some research for an event poster I was making for my illustration class. I was so inspired by the way that all of the information displayed on her posters is consistently integrated into the scene that she has created. None of her text is placed arbitrarily. Information is illustrated on things like packaging, and signage that exist within the vibrant, brightly coloured world of her posters. A lot of her work includes posters for bands and events but she has also done advertisements for large companies like Urban Outfitters.

Sources: http://www.wabbaly.com/graphic-design-inspiration-event-illustration-posters/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kateprior/

 

Jessica Hische

Lettering artist Jessica Hische has gained a lot of attention and success for her beautiful ornate lettering and her clever, illustrative designs. Above are two editorial works of hers that are both favourites of mine for each of their unique interpretations of the concept of summer reading.

Sources: http://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/jess-russ-p2

http://ballistamagazine.com/features/jessica-hische/

Landland Studio

Landland is an American screen printing studio run by Dan Black and Jessica Seamans. Their work includes mostly band posters featuring architectural illustrations in which names and information are often displayed as signage. The tour poster above to the left first caught my eye at a show because of its gorgeous use of texture, limited colour and interesting integration of typography.

Source: http://landland.net/

Thomas Burden

Thomas Burden is an illustrator that works with 3D rendering and animation (he’s even done some cool tutorials on the subject over here). His work features a lot of vibrant colours and use of type that resembles neon signs. Above are some examples of his book cover designs and editorial work.

Source: http://www.wearegrownup.com/

The 36 Days of Type Project

The 36 Days of Type Project challenges designers and illustrators to create a unique design for a letter or number every day for 36 days and share their creations through social media. The results can be unique and inspiring with each letter encompassing it’s very own story, theme or mood. Above are a couple of my favourites that I’ve come across. The letters on the far left were created Lena La Ballena, a designer and illustrator based in the Dominican Republic, and the letters on the right were made by illustrator Laura Mariscal from Spain.

Sources: http://www.36daysoftype.com/

https://www.behance.net/gallery/37524227/36-Days-of-Type-from-A-to-Z

https://www.behance.net/gallery/37209587/36-Days-of-Type

Type and illustration are both powerful tools for communication and their messages can become more powerful when combined well. I hope you found this post inspiring!

Thanks for reading!

Grace