American Stamps

American Stamps premiered February 2009.

StampsEach of the iconic images on our stamps captures a unique angle of the American experience
There is a story behind every postage stamp. Each of the iconic images on all those little bits of paper captures a unique angle of the American experience. Collectively, they represent the greatness in us. And while stamps are closely related to currency, the wide range of subjects they represent makes choosing them a personal decision.

American Stamps is a visually compelling thirty-minute documentary about the designers and artists who create our postage stamps. Supported by a soundtrack composed by acclaimed guitar virtuoso and art rock legend Bill Nelson, the program provides a behind-the-scenes look at how stamps are conceptualized, designed and produced.

Almost everyone is interested in the creative process; artists, designers and architects are often asked where their ideas come from and how they do what they do. Postage stamps present an ideal medium for exploring the concerns and motivations that drive creative professionals because they feature artistically rendered popular subjects and are designed for everyday use. Stamp designers and artists must take a diverse range of factors into consideration in selecting the most appropriate solution with the widest appeal.

Derry NoyesArt Director Derry Noyes enjoys an afternoon working at home on the front porch
American Stamps features interviews with art directors Howard Paine, Phil Jordan, Derry Noyes, Carl Herrman, Richard Sheaff and Ethel Kessler. These long-time USPS associates share the details of their stamp creation process and explain the personal connections they have to the monumental characters and events they portray in miniature. The art directors are joined by portrait painter Michael Deas in describing how each produced some of America's most popular stamps. The program focuses on six of their designs: Elvis Presley, the Wright brothers' plane, Hawaiian athlete Duke Kahanamoku, Alexander Calder's art, the American flag and playwright Tennessee Williams.

American Stamps also includes interviews with Terry McCaffrey, Manager of Stamp Design for the USPS and Wilson Hulme (1946-2007), former Curator of Philately at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. McCaffrey introduces the art directors and anchors the program with helpful backstory about the history of stamps in America, the criteria used in selecting stamp subjects, and how stamp artwork gets checked—and re-checked—for accuracy. Wilson Hulme discusses the fun of stamp collecting and the printing errors that can make a stamp extremely valuable.

Postage stamps carry the messages most important to us: our declarations of love, our job applications, and congratulations to our friends and family. In depicting and honoring their subjects, stamps play a significant role in memorializing national icons and showcasing important features of our culture and history. American Stamps offers an intimate look at these fascinating cultural artifacts and the people who create them.

American Stamps was produced and directed by Nori-zso Tolson and Terry Green of twenty2product, motion graphics and interactive design studio in San Francisco, CA.

Explore the music, art and creativity of recording artist and producer Bill Nelson at


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