A common refrain here at PRINT is, “PRINT IS NOT DEAD” (yes, all caps), and that sentiment extends to other practices of yore, too, like snail mail. So, we were particularly excited when we caught wind of the USPS’s recent unveiling of their new Día de los Muertos Forever Stamps.
Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is an ancient Mexican holiday observed annually on November 1st and 2nd to welcome back the souls of those that have passed on. The celebration is fueled by a rich visual vocabulary of vibrantly colored “sugar skulls” (calaveras), flowers, butterflies, cacti, birds, chili peppers, and much more.
The USPS tapped Minneapolis-based artist and designer Luis Fitch for the task. Originally from Tijuana, Mexico, Fitch is the founder of the agency Uno Branding, and they specialize in cross-cultural Latino branding. Not to mention he just so happens to have harbored a life-long affinity for stamps, collecting them as a kid and even inspecting their elaborate details under a microscope. Since then, he’s had aspirations and, well, voila—the postal service came a’calling.
When one of the contracted art directors for USPS, Antonio Alcalá, reached out to Fitch for the project he had no idea of the designer’s love for postage. Alcalá had previously seen his work within an exhibition on Día de los Muertos and ofrendas (home altars to honor lost loved ones) at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago back in 2018, so when the idea for a Día de los Muertos stamp was pitched, Fitch was top of mind.
Fitch’s creative process begins with a handcraft tradition called “papel picado,” which involves cutting intricate designs into colorful paper. Then he scans the designs and crisps up their edges digitally. Over the years, he has cultivated a robust personal library of Mexican-inspired iconography, priming him for this commission.
Since this is the USPS’s first-ever foray into a Día de los Muertos commemorative stamp, the designs needed to be friendly and easily accessible even for those who may not be familiar with the holiday. Fitch took this brief in stride, creating a cohesive collection of four designs, with each including marigolds and candles along with either a father, mother, son, or daughter sugar skull. He chose this direction to reinforce the idea of family, a central theme of the holiday.
Fitch’s four stamps are available for purchase now and are sure to bring some life back into your dingy stamp collection.