Graphic Design, Practical Application:
"  Celebrating Diverse Cultures"  Postage Stamp Design
The Assignment: A Block of Postage Stamps that Celebrate Diverse Cultures (from “Design for Communication” by Elizabeth Resnick, Massachusetts College of Art)

Before Starting: Create a "lastname_stamps" folder on your network space. Your work will be saved into this folder as you proceed with the project.

Overview: The project allows the student to design a series of four postage stamps on the subject of "Celebrating Cultural Diversity." 


  • To develop a design concept as a framework for four separate but equal components.
  • To communicate the essence of a subject without merely illustrating it
  • To design with scale issues in mind (postage stamps are very small...).

Selecting Your Culture:   Students will select an international culture that will be celebrated on their postage stamps.  For this assignment, students will create four different stamps that are all tied together with a similar visual theme, but that celebrate FOUR of the following areas of cultural significance for the culture in question (please note that you do not have to illustrate MODERN culture, you can do HISTORICAL culture if you wish, but your historical time frame must remain the same on each of your four stamps!):

  • Art
  • Dance
  • Food
  • Drama
  • Sports
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Other culturally significant areas, such as Architecture, Science or Technology.

The cultures celebrated can be of any nationality, ethnic group, such as Mexican, Irish, Italian, African, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Russian, English, Native American, etc. Certain minorities would be acceptable for this project, if executed in the proper spirit of the assignment (for instance- disabled, gay or autistic.)

Specifications:  You will be creating your block of postage stamps ON THE AIMS SERVER USING PHOTOSHOP 2019. You work will be on a canvas in Photoshop that is roughly 8 x 8 inches, but before you submit your project, you will RESIZE your canvas to be only FOUR INCHES WIDE!  Your block of stamps can be in a 2 x 2 stamp block or four horizontal or vertical stamps, the decision is up to you.  You MUST include the following words on EACH postage stamp (SEE IMAGE BELOW!):

  • USA
  • 55 cents
  • Historical Time Frame, PLUS, the Name of the Country or Culture, PLUS the Area of Cultural Interest, ie:  Medieval Japanese Art or Renaissance Italian Architecture (please note the time frame and area of cultural interest being included on the stamps were NOT a requirement on Resnick's original assignment, I have included it.

To preserve the theme across all four of your stamps, these words should be of the same font style and scale on each stamp.

Preliminary Research:  Get comfortable, jump online and do some research into the unique areas that make your culture or ethnicity interesting.  If you wish to do something out of the ordinary or creative with your stamps (like the student that convinced me that "Volkswagen" was a culture and created a great block of four Volkswagen stamps, including Art, Technology, Music and Architecture), SEE MR. B. first! Once you have decided on your culture, your four stamp subjects, your time period and some of the important aspects of those subjects, please complete The Cultural Celebration Postage Stamp Research Questionnaire.

Your Visual Theme:  Your stamps, although they will each be illustrating a different aspect of the culture that you have selected, will all have a similar THEME.  This theme will be a particular way of illustrating your subjects, a color pattern, a continuous design, etc. 

To help in the understanding of the idea of VISUAL THEME for four different stamps, please consider the following three student samples from Elizabeth Resnick's Graphic Design class at the Massachusetts Institute of Art (larger than actual size!):


Notice how each stamp above has a similar look to the other three in the block, but all celebrate different areas of cultural significance.  Also notice how the USA/34/CULTURE texts are similar on each stamp in a block.

The Problem of SCALE:  Remember, these are POSTAGE STAMPS!  The final products will be 2 inches or so in size.  (see actual size of the block of four stamps to the right!)  That is a VERY small canvas to work with.  Your designs have to be simple and distinct enough to get across the important issues of your culture without being so small that the visuals are unrecognizable.  Make sure to CROP images and EDIT them so that they are easily identifiable on your stamps!  Make sure that your TEXT is large and legible!

How to Incorporate the "Postage Stamp" using AIMS PHOTOSHOP (see ILLUSTRATIONS BELOW!):  In the Custom Shape Tools (this is the "blob"-looking icon under the shape tool that includes RECTANGLES, ELLIPSES, etc.) there is a border, called "STAMP 2" (see picture below), which looks exactly like the edge of a postage stamp, use this border to create the outside edge of ONE of your stamps on your canvas, then copy this stamp to create your block of FOUR stamps.  Remember, when you create this original border, your FOREGROUND color will define the color of your stamp edges. 











PLEASE NOTE: The little semi-circles around your stamp are perforations. These are cut-out areas that allow for the easy separation of your stamps. THERE IS NOTHING THERE ON A STAMP! DO NOT LEAVE ANY DESIGN ELEMENTS IN THESE AREAS! A traditional stamp also has BORDER around the design for the perforations, but not always.

Techniques to be used:  It is not only encouraged, but almost necessary, to use any and all of the Photoshop techniques that we have learned this year, such as Masking, Filters, Layer Blending, Brush Tools, Colored Masking, etc. DO NOT SIMPLY LOCATE A PHOTOGRAPH OF AN OBJECT AND PLACE IT ON YOUR STAMP AND THINK YOU ARE DONE. YOU MUST MANIPULATE YOUR IMAGES TO FORM A COHESIVE THEME!

RESIZING YOUR CANVAS:  When you are completely done creating your POSTAGE STAMPS, save your document in its original size. Then, you will need to resize them to be the size of Postage Stamps.  In Photoshop, use IMAGE>IMAGE SIZE to adjust your canvas so that the SMALLER side of your canvas is equal to FOUR INCHES!

Submitting Your Work: When you have completed and resized your final canvas with your block of FOUR stamps, save your file as a .JPG File, call it "lastname_stamps.jpg". Save this file to your folder on the network.

Grading: This assignment will be worth 200 points total, with the breakdown of points as follows:

  • Use of four different areas of cultural interest on a block of four stamps= 50 points
  • Use of a consistent visual theme that holds the four stamps together= 50 points
  • Aesthetic qualities of the final Block of Stamps (according to Mr. B.'s whims)= 100 points.
  • Failure to save final product as a .JPG file= -50 points.