2009 Stamps Commemorate 10 Iconic British Designs

The British Royal Mail picked a panel of prominent designers to choose which designs Great Britain should commemorate in a design series of stamps for 2009. There were no rules for this panel; they chose designs from furnishings, fashion, transportation and even graphic design. Here are the 10 design icons that were chosen....


1. The Mini Design Stamp

Sir Alex Issigonis designed the Mini way back in the late 1950's, in response to an oil crisis, believe it or not. And the Mini became not only a design classic, but an engineering first for front wheel drive in a small car and a transverse engine. The Mini is the best British selling car of all time. Here's the new British Mini stamp...




2. The Mini Skirt Design Stamp

It all started in a little shop in Chelsea, London, where Mary Quant ran a clothing boutique selling many of her own designs. The little skirt, short and showy, called the "Mini" skirt, was Mary Quant's design... and it went much further than her shop to become THE fashion of the 60's. And it still comes back in style every few years with a new twist.




3. The Polypropylene Chair Design Stamp

I had no idea this chair was designed by British designer, Robin Day, known for his design of low-cost modern furniture. Created in 1963, the polypropylene chair is the was the first chair to have been injection molded. Since 1963, 14 million "Polyprop" chairs have sold in 23 countries. Chances are good that you have sat in one of these chairs yourself, as they are in many public buildings.




4. The Routemaster Bus Design Stamp

It's hard to imagine the streets of downtown London without a double-decker bus and the Routemaster was the original, makin the team of A. A. Durant, Colin Curtis and Douglas Scott innovators of their time (late 40's to early 50's). They introduced lightweight aluminum to the bus's frame, independent front suspension, power steering, an automatic gearbox, and power-hydraulic braking. New double-deckers in London may resemble Routemasters, but they have not been made fore several years.




5. The Supermarine Spitfire Design Stamp

Beloved fighter plane during WWII, the Spitfire probably has one of the longest development records of any plane that ever finally got off the ground... and once it did, there were still development issues. But the plane with the elliptical wings was a trooper through the entire War, in production from the beginning of the War to the end. Flown by the British and the Americans, this plane probably saw the most combat. It's designer, R.J. Mitchell, who began the design in 1932, did not live to see the first production flight in May of 1938.




6. The Penguin Book Cover Design Stamp

The Penguin book cover designs have delighted readers since 1935 when the series was first published. And the first publication establishing the mark of Penguin was for the cover of The Edwardians, by Victoria Sackville-West. The designer of the jacket cover was by Edward Young, and though the design has undergone some changes in the course of 75 years, there is no Penguin that falls far from Young's first... a lesson in how a company can keep it's identity as times change.




7. The London Underground Map Design Stamp

Back in 1931 when Harry Beck made this first drawing of the London underground train system, there were no computers and no drawing programs to help design underground maps. At that time there were eight different underground train lines in London and no map showing riders where the stops were and where they connected.

Beck created this map by following the electrical lines from beginning to end. The map was not accepted at first, as it was thought too "radical," but in 1933, it was published and sold out right away. Harry Beck was paid the equivalent of $10 for his design. Later, an overlay was created showing the train lines and stops in relation to the street map. His design became the prototype for most of the world's underground train systems.




8. The Anglepoise Lamp Design Stamp

The 1932 invention of the Anglepoise Lamp came about while George Cawardine was in the process of designing something related to vehicle suspension, which was his specialty. He created the lamp and manufactured it himself for many years, making several adaptations to it and patenting them. Later, demand was so high, that he employed another manufacturer. The design is one of the most frequently copied in different versions for the home, medical and dental offices, offices, and industrial settings.




9. The Concorde Design Stamp

The elegance of its design and engineering made the French and British passenger Concorde the most desirable and prestigious way to fly the Atlantic. The Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde flew from 1976 to 2003 with very few major changes. The last flight of the Concorde became the last flight of the 109 passengers and crew, and four persons on the ground, after the plane's tire was torn by a large piece of titanium on the runway. During take-off, the tire exploded and a piece flew into one of the fuel tanks, shattering it, causing the giant Concorde to crash, killing 113 people.




10. The K2 Telephone Kiosk Design Stamp

Another design that shouts "London!" the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott actually created a few versions of the Telephone Kiosk during the 1920's. Born into a family of architects, his design focus was more on larger structures like cathedrals, large buildings and bridges. But Scott won London's telephone kiosk design competition in 1924, sponsored by the Royal Fine Arts Commission, and he continued to be asked to update the original K2 design. Isolated K2, K3 and K6 kiosks have been found all over the world, so they are obviously seen as desirable collectibles.



These are just 10 great designs that Britons have contributed to the world. Though there are hundreds more to be celebrated, those chosen by the British Royal Mail panel are certainly icons of the monumental kind.

The stamps will be available to the public January 13, 2009 in collectors' editions and by the booklet and sheet, from the British Royal Mail.


Sources: British Royal Mail, Design & Technology, Design Museum; Wikipedia