Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mail Piece Parts

This "Summer Sky" photo I took in
2010 is one of many I've collected
for Summer Mail Piece resource pix.
I am deep in the middle of producing the Summer Mail Piece right now. It is third in a series of multiple original editions I am creating in collaboration with the United States Postal Service and my subscribers.

As the project has progressed, it has taught me many things. For instance, developing a two-sided, multi-panel, 3-D object as a multiple original is a more complex project than I first anticipated!

At the start I thought 2-3 weeks would be enough development time.  By now I know it's closer to 7 weeks.  The Summer Mail Piece production is stretched over an even longer period, because its development was interrupted by my duties as ConQuesT Art Show Director.

A pattern of features that remain consistent from edition to edition also has emerged. At this mid-point in the project, I thought it might be interesting to examine what kinds of "Mail Piece parts" have developed.

This tri-fold template
by Ricardo Giorgio Botta
illustrates the design basis
for each edition.
Three-Panel Self-Mailer Format
My years as a direct marketing graphic designer made the self-mailer format an easy choice. I have always enjoyed the three-dimensionality of brochures, which offer a series of unfolding views.

Especially as the idea of "collaborating" with the USPS developed, I knew the piece itself had to be exposed to Postal Service markings: postmarks, barcodes, postage stamps, and any other spontaneous "texturing" that might occur.

Unfortunately, I'm told one of the Spring Mail Pieces got "textured" pretty thoroughly in transit.  I have promised subscribers they will receive "reference restrikes" of any pieces that are too badly mangled by my governmental collaborator.

These end panels, representing the New Year Mail Piece and
the Spring Mail Piece, have appeared in my blog posts before.
One of my earliest decisions was to find interesting quotations and short poetry about the season featured in the edition, and incorporate illustrations and decorations suggested by them, along with the words in my designs.

As regular readers of this blog also know, I frequently have used the stand-alone designs of the inside-folded end panels, created using this approach, to represent the Mail Pieces in my blog posts.

The Myth of the Season
World folklore is rich with stories about the seasons, and I have been delighted to reap material from this seemingly endless source.
The New Year Mail Piece highlighted a legend from ancient China, about the fearsome Nian.
The Spring Mail Piece focused on the Greek myth of Persephone (see next section). In the Summer Mail Piece, I am exploring the northern European folklore surrounding Fairy Rings.

Cut-paper rabbit from the
New Year Mail Piece
An Element of Paper Technology
Recently my primary medium has been paper sculpture--originally inspired by teaching some of the elements of pop-up technology to my art students. I couldn't resist an opportunity to include an extra "paper element" in each edition of the Mail Piece Project.

The added paper element in the New Year Mail Piece was a cut-paper design, suggested by a Chinese New Year tradition. The Spring Mail Piece made use of a standard piece of basic pop-up technology, the "step" pop-up.
This view of the Spring Mail Piece inside panels shows the treatment given the Persephone myth, as well as the "step" pop-up in Persephone's flowery meadow.

The Summer Mail Piece uses a different technique from pop-up books and cards, the lift-flap. As research progresses and the designs for the Autumn Mail Piece and the Winter Mail Piece develop, they will suggest the appropriate paper elements to accompany them.

IMAGE CREDITS: The tri-fold template by Ricardo Giorgio Botta is a free download from the Adobe InDesign site.  All other photos and images are copyright 2010 and 2011 by Jan Sherrell Gephardt, available under a Creative Commons license for copy and distribution with credit given, but not for alteration.


  1. These are so intriguing. I wish I'd been paying attention when you offered the subscription.

  2. Thank you! I'm not sure I did a good job of describing them; frankly, I wasn't entirely sure how they'd develop, either!

    If I get enough interest, I might consider doing another limited edition series next year. We'll see how it goes. Meanwhile, I am pleased you are finding these interesting!