The World’s “Shortest, Smallest Film”

I don’t recall the last time I hand-wrote a letter, never-mind affixed a stamp to a piece of correspondence.  Still, postage stamps remain prized collectors items with postal services worldwide running contests and issuing designs to commemorate public figures and historical events, honor organizations for exemplary service or to pay homage to pop culture.  Stamps pack a design power-punch in a tiny frame.  Measuring no more than 1-inch on each side with the average postage stamp between 10 – 30 mm, creating an evocative image while meeting postage criteria can be a challenge even for the most creative designers.

Stills from the 30-frames that compose KesselsKramer's Dutch postage stamp.

Most stamps use a 2D format but in 2010 the Dutch postal service took on an inspired project in collaboration with KesselsKramer communications agency to create an animated stamp that is touted as the world’s “shortest, smallest film.”  Wallpaper explains.

Tasked to reinterpret the humble stamp by Dutch postal service TNT, communications agency KesselsKramer ambitiously turned to the world of film. It called on Dutch director Anton Corbijn to create the shortest ever movie – about one-second long. Corbijn took inspiration from a classical Dutch stamp, designed in 1951 by Cas Oorthuys, showing a girl posing in front of a windmill. This he gave a new twist, with help from the Netherlands’ most famous actress Carice van Houten. The film was then translated into a holographic postage stamp, using the latest advances in lenticular printing.

Co.Design expounds

The holo-film was produced at the behest of the ad agency KesselsKramer, and it features hottie Carice van Houten – the nation’s most famous actress — in front of a windmill chomping down on some guy’s… finger.

“It’s Anton Corbijn’s finger,” KesselsKramer’s Kyra Müller clarifies. “We asked him to shoot this film, and what happened was a sort of spontaneous interaction between the director and the actress. It was completely on the spot.”

This is not the first lenticular postage stamp design issued by the Dutch postal service.  In 2006 a series of 12 frames were pieced together for this brief animation.

From Dutch design firm, Solar.


And 2010 proved to be an exciting year for lenticular stamps with this one issued by the Slovak post in honor of the World Cup.

Goal! A 2010 stamp in commemoration of the World Cup.

The world’s “shortest, smallest film” enters an award-winning place in the rich and creative history of stamp design.  An informative piece by Stamporama details other lenticular postage stamp designs including sports themed from 2007 and a 2011 Thunderbirds commemorative stamp.  Contributors to the Stamporama forum note that lenticular stamps were issed long before 2006 dating as far back as the 1960s from the South Asian state Bhutan.  Boasting a remarkably innovative history in stamp design, lenticular is but one technique used by the Himalayan country.  In 2008 Bhutan released a CD-rom postage stamp.

Lenticular printing puts these Thunderbirds commemorative stamps in motion.

Flipping through this stamp book reveals an animated sequence.

There's always money in the banana stand. These banana shaped stamps break the rectangular mold.

With accessibility and affordability of communications technology rendering snail-mail nearly obsolete and postal service revenues plummeting  one can only wonder about the future of postage stamp design.  Whether static or in motion, lenticular or holographic, stamps have earned there place, each one a tiny story traveling from place to place around the globe.  Long after they fall out of use these tiny frames will forever open a window to glimpse notable periods of human history.

To see the full sequence of images from the Dutch issued stamp check out this video.

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