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Stamp of Approval


At 23,000 days and change Queen Elizabeth is today Britain’s longest reigning monarch. Be you royalist or republican, citizen or corgi, I think we can all agree this is an amazing record of service.

There are so many ‘brand lessons’ one could guff on about to mark such an occasion on a design blog. But here’s a simple anecdote. Back in the sixties Postmaster General and diehard socialist Tony Benn was responsible for commissioning the profile portrait of the queen that graces our stamps. The design and approval protocols and the sheer amount of protagonists, versions, talent and craft thrown at creating this tiny image are mind blowing.

But for our purposes let’s focus on one of the photographers who was involved. A ‘cameo’ version had been proposed by David Gentleman. Photographer John Hedgecoe broke a rule of photography, and placed his subject in front of a bright window at Buckingham palace. It was a piece of quick thinking, using an opportunity that presented itself. To here credit Her Majesty in role of exec creative director approved this unconventional approach. The subsequent design from this shot has been used an estimated 200 bn times, making it one of the most reproduced portraits ever.

The huge body of brilliant iconography created around Queen Elizabeth through her reign is no accident – it has been very carefully and intelligently managed. But I guess the point is, even on a project like the stamp, with the weight of expectation and formality to contend with, there it’s still important to have ones eyes open for chances worth seizing. Fortune favours the bold.



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