Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Putting its stamp on Canada

City firm designs second set of musical icons for post office

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New Canada Post stamps featuring Bryan Adams and Stompin' Tom Connors are music to the ears of a Winnipeg design company.

Circle Design International designed the stamps released this week, which also feature French-Canadian rock pioneer Robert Charlebois and Acadian singer Edith Butler.

The stamps follow the company's success in designing the first musical icon stamps two years ago, which featured Gordon Lightfoot, Paul Anka, Anne Murray and Joni Mitchell.

Circle Design founding principal Robert Peters said on Friday they had to compete with other companies to get the contract for the first musical icon stamps.

But Peters said those stamps were so successful -- selling six million of them -- Canada Post came back to them for the new series.

"It's a cool project to work on," he said.

"It's an honour. We do take the role seriously because we are contributing little bits of culture."

But they're not the first stamps the company has designed.

"Every 18 months or so we do one," Peters said, noting other past stamps they designed include the ones commemorating the 1999 Pan Am Games and the 125th anniversary of the RCMP.

The company also designed the two series of Canadians in Hollywood stamps, which included Raymond Burr, Mary Pickford and Fay Wray.

"It's not the main thing we do, but it's the most public. It's nice -- it's something to show your relatives."

Located in the Exchange District, Circle Design and its four-member staff create a wide array of products for local, national and international companies, including annual reports, websites and design identification.

"We work with a lot of companies and services," Peters said.

"You fill the role of surrogate dreamer sometimes."

North West Company is one of their clients. Circle Design has designed the company's annual report for the last 15 years.

Edward Kennedy, president and CEO of North West Company, said in a statement to the company, "Thanks for your great work... as well as designing our annual reports and contributing creative insight into our communications strategy, Circle has provided added value through your commitment to understanding our business and guiding principles."

Peters, who was born in Steinbach, but moved to Germany with his family when he was two, said when he came back to his home province 35 years ago, he enrolled in the two-year graphic design program at Red River College.

"I started the company straight out of school because there were no jobs around," he said.

"A lot of people said we wouldn't last six months."

They were right about the six months, but in the wrong direction: Circle Design is celebrating its 33rd anniversary this year.

During those years, Peters said his company has seen many changes in graphic design.

"There certainly weren't websites around," he said.

"When we started, everything was done by hand and now most everything is touched by computer. But the needs of the end audience is still the same."

Nicole Lemire, a Canada Post spokeswoman, said the Crown corporation has been pleased with all of Circle Design's stamps.

"They definitely produce a stamp Canadians want to purchase," she said. "They have world-class designers and they produce an outstanding product."

Lemire said a lot of work goes into stamps. "It's one of the smallest canvasses a designer will work on," she said.

Lemire said Canada Post didn't just want to create a stamp series featuring musical artists who had or have a hit record.

"We wanted to recognize artists that created the music that's here today," she said.

Peters said some of the photos for the latest musical icon stamps were challenging. "We wanted to get across the feeling of them in performance or on stage," he said.

"The photo of Stompin' Tom is a scan from an album cover -- there were no photos from that period of his life... he performed at night in smoky bars so there were no great photos. We finally got the photo from his son."

Peters said the photo of Charlebois -- which looks like a spotlight is behind him -- was actually "taken in sunshine at the end of a dock with a canoe."

Besides being the owner of the company that produces the stamp, Peters had another interest: he was a stamp collector himself.

"Stamp collecting is still the most popular hobby in the world," he said.

"I collected them while I was a kid living in Europe."

Because of confidentiality agreements, Peters can't say if Circle Design is working on a future stamp for Canada Post.

But we do know how Circle Design got its own copies of the latest musical icon series of stamps.

"I was in line yesterday morning to get them," Peters said, laughing.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

 

Stamp facts

Canada Post has had four million musical icon stamps printed by Lowe-Martin, an Ontario printer.

The stamps designed by Winnipeg's Circle Design Inc. feature rock superstar Bryan Adams, country singer Stompin' Tom Connors, French-Canadian rock pioneer Robert Charlebois and Acadian singer Edith Butler. The 2007 series the company also designed, which saw six million stamps printed, featured Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, Paul Anka and Joni Mitchell.

The stamps are being sold in a booklet of eight and with four stamps on a souvenir sheet in the shape of a CD.

Each stamp features a photo of each artist with the Order of Canada insignia. The artists in the musical icon series must have received an Order of Canada.

For the stamp collector who wants to know the nuts and bolts of the stamps, they were printed using lithography with nine colours on paper produced by Tullis Russell, a Scottish papermaking company.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2009 B6

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