How we designed the new Eid stamp for Canada Post
As part of Canada Post’s Eid series, our second Eid stamp marks Islam’s most important holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. We asked the project team to explain what went into the design — and the challenges of effectively communicating a message on a 28-millimetre-by-38-millimetre surface.
“Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are significant events within the Islamic lunar calendar, so it was a daunting honour to be asked to develop a design for Canada Post’s stamp commemorating the celebrations,” says Creative Director Lionel Gadoury. “Stamp design is fascinating because it has to capture attention in a nano-second, but also hold up to greater analysis. Even within that tiny frame, there’s a whole story that has to unfold.”
To prepare and explore Eid as a design theme, an internal team of Muslim and non-Muslim contributors came together to review the expert research provided by Canada post and dive into cultural meanings, traditions, and fundamentals of Islamic arts and crafts.
“Out of every project I’ve worked on at Context, this one stands out as especially meaningful,” says Muneeb Khatana, Digital Marketing Manager, who consulted on the project. “There is, of course, a personal connection as I celebrate Eid, but it’s also special to help create something that can be shared by anyone around the world.”
For designer Brad Pyne, stamp design has always been a bucket list item: “Even as someone who doesn’t celebrate Eid, it was exciting to create a tiny piece of art for a celebration that so many people enjoy.”
Inspiration, research and discovery
There were two overarching considerations that helped guide the design process. The word ‘Eid’ in Arabic translates as ‘festival’ or ‘celebration,’ so the design needs to convey the joyousness of the occasions. Second, the team appreciated how in Islamic culture, geometric design is everywhere and at every scale, from key architectural features of mosques, madrasas and palaces to embellishments of small utensils, cloth and carpets in family homes.
A masterful and accessible resource sourced at the local public library also guided the discovery phase: Arts & Crafts of the Islamic Lands: Principles, Materials, Practice by Khaled Azzam. Similarly, a Ted-Ed lesson by Eric Broug introduced the team to a whole series of videos covering the fundamentals of geometric Islamic design.
“As designers, we became transfixed with ornate geometric patterns,” says Gadoury. “The interplay of primary grids and circles reveal new insights for those who pause to consider them more closely. With study, connections that date back over centuries emerge and fundamentals of geometry, arithmetic and archetypal forms reveal meanings that are as relevant and present in society today as they were to artists and scholars more than 1,000 years ago.”
A tiny surface that holds a robust story
“The stamp is based on geometry, but it’s also a deep puzzle,” says Gadoury, on the final design. “They become mesmerizing forms—the longer you look at them, you’ll see something new.”
The multi-layered design motif, composed of a crescent moon and view of a night sky shown through a window, is symbolic — it alludes to the fact that both festivals start with the sighting of a new moon. It pays homage to ornate window grilles featuring geometric patterns, inspired by mosque windows and Islamic architecture.
The design is also influenced by other examples of paper craft, parquetry, marquetry and the much older craft of inlay. The sculptural approach with paper also allowed the design team to explore nuances of light and shadow. The layering of geometric shapes provides depth, and the use of light subtly signifies the role of the new moon.
“It’s a challenge to design at such a small scale,” says Pyne. “Every square millimetre is important, so there’s no wiggle room. On your screen, you can zoom in and everything looks perfect, but when you print it out at actual size, details get lost. We also included three languages on this stamp, so it took many, many iterations to make sure every detail was legible.”
Prior to finalizing the designs, Context gratefully received additional guidance from Dr. Anver M. Emon, Professor of Law & History at the University of Toronto and Director, Institute of Islamic Studies. Based on his in-depth knowledge of the historical tradition of Islam and interactions with our contemporary world, Dr. Emon guided the team with suggestions for tweaks that made the design all the more appropriate.
“Ultimately, it is our hope that our design be received in the most positive light and intent with which we created it,” says Gadoury. “It has been a collaborative effort, informed through authentic and diverse inputs, for which we are very thankful.”
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