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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

HOW STAMPS ARE DESIGNED

BY: - F. Aleem Sundal
Good stamps designs not only play a vital role in the promotion of philately, they also become an effective source of earnings for the stamp-issuing agency. Attractive themes, fine artworks and quality printing certainly catch one’s eye and compel stamp lovers to keep them as souvenirs.
The success of the stamp business has been due to the pioneering efforts of some great specialists in designing and engraving. Had there been no appealing object in stamps, perhaps philately would not have existed.
In the designing history of Pakistani postage stamps, the name of Abdul Rehman Chughtai will never be forgotten. He designed one stamp of the first commemorative set of the country in 1948. Later in 1951 he designed a complete series of stamps depicting pottery, hourglass, the Saracenic Leaf pattern and archway, and lamp. This set is universally acknowledged as “Chughtai Art”.
His contribution made possible for Pakistan stamps to be rated high in the list of world’s most beautiful stamps within just two three years of the country coming into being.
High class designs need to be printed with the best printing process available the recess printing. Engraving and printing of Pakistani stamps were, therefore, was assigned to M/s Thomas De La Rue (London), mainly because until then the country had no stamp producing facilities available.
However, in 1958 a young engraver, Abdul Munir, joined the newly found Pakistan Security Printing Corporation (PSPC). His proficiency in engraving stamps, currency notes and other security documents is rated with the world’s top master engravers.
Throughout his career, which spans over 28 years with the PSPC, he tackled the job of engraving almost all Pakistani stamps single-handed. The sets of “Small in dustries and Archaeology” in commemoratives, the ‘Chhota Sona Masjid Gateway’ series, the Shalimar, Minar-e-Pakistan and current Makli’s Tomb definitive, are among the best stamps in our history.
But how actually is a stamp designed?
For designing a stamp, the general criterion takes into account three factors; stamps must indicate the country of origin, should have face value (in figures or code letters), and must be able to stick on a variety of surfaces. In countries where automatic letter sorting machines are in operation another very important factor is that the chosen colors must not upset the operation of the photoelectric cell that do the actual sorting.
Today, the designer is asked to draw designs not only for postal use but also with a view to emphasise the issuing country’s political or cultural identity or even to attract tourists by showing more sceneric views and the remains of ancient monuments.
Whatever the subject an issuing authority selects, the artist draws rough sketches in actual stamp size of photographs or models provided to him. Two or more sketches are prepared until an appropriate design is reached. In accordance with the selected sketch, a color artwork of larger size is prepared.
Occasionally various designs of artwork are proposed and submitted to the Design Approving Committee, which selects or rejects them.
After this initial approval, machine prods are taken out in various colors. These are called Essays. After the final approval of proofs, the choosen design is forwarded to experts who decide which printing method would be suitable for the particular design.
Often more then one design is arranged in the stamp sheet “se-tenant” vertically or horizontally. Collectors should not separate such designs from each other, but mount the stamps including all the different designs.
Sometimes a gutter margin is left unprinted between two stamps. Again a collector should take care in obtaining the stamps with the gutter margin in the middle, preferably unfolded along perforation.
The illustrations shown here explain the different stages of the special stamp issued on September 1, to mark the centenary of Sind Madressah-tul-Islam, Karachi.
Adil Salahuddin, who has the distinction of designing over 100 Pakistani and 40 stamps of foreign countries, which is a rare achievement, designed the stamp. No other artist in the world has perhaps reached such an outstanding.
Here we must not forget the services of other stamp designers like M.A. Munnawar and Mian Saeed who, besides designing Pakistan stamps, have won first prizes for their stamps designed for the United Nations