Despite their small size, postage stamps are the perfect place for illustrations. Whether they're created to raise money for charity, commemorate historical figures and events, or simply a new issue from the Royal Mail, we've noticed some brilliant stamp designs over the years that are worth sharing.
Best stamp designs: David Bowie
The Royal Mail releasing a series tribute to David Bowie in March as the next instalment in its Music Giants Special Stamps series.
The stamps will feature six iconic album covers from throughout Bowie’s career – and similar to Pink Floyd special stamps, each one has a vinyl breakout detail.
Alums featured in the series include Hunky Dory (1971), Aladdin Sane (1973), Heroes (1977), Let’s Dance (1983), Earthling (1997) and Blackstar (2016).
Alongside the Special Stamp series, the Royal Mail will release first day covers and a presentation pack, alongside several limited edition David Bowie souvenirs such as a framed stamp and print – with only 950 of these being released – and an album art fan sheet.
Best stamp designs: Ancient Britain
As the newest Royal Mail special stamp issue, this stamp collection explores prehistoric Britain from 11,000 years ago to the Iron Age of around 300 BC.
It may seem like a slightly boring topic – but illustrator Rebecca Strickson has created beautiful line drawings over photography of ancient artefacts and sites, including the Avebury Stone Circles and Drumbest Horns.
Best stamp designs: Stamps for Good
M&C Saatchi Abel in South Africa, in collaboration with email signature company RocketSeend, has created 10 virtual illustrated stamps linked to ten different South African charities. The stamp can be embedded in every email you send – “a little rectangle with a big purpose”
The stamps were designed in-house by M&C Saatchi Abel's own art directors, illustrators and copywriters. They support charities such as WWF, Habitat for Humanity, The Haven Night Shelter and Project Literacy.
Best stamp designs: Star Trek
On the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the US Postal Service has released a boldly designed set of four commerative stamps based on the franchise.
The stamps were produced by Philadelphia-based design agency The Heads of State, in a year-long project working with the USPS's in-house agency Studio 1A.
The studio couldn't use the likeness of any particular actor for legal reasons – though no-one's going to be any doubt as to who's being beamed up in the stamp shown here.
The resulting stamps have a rough feel while using simplified versions of the show's icons symbols and shapes – which allows them to be significantly different enough from the show itself to feel fresh.
Best stamp designs: Bees
Launched by Royal Mail, the collection is called Bees, and features six illustrations of Britain's bees.
The six bee stamps were designed by Anna Ekelund and illustrated by Richard Lewington. This is not the first time the pair have worked together on stamps – in 2013 they worked together to create a set of butterfly stamps.
The Bees collection also includes a set of our additional stamps, called 'action stamps' that depict the honey bees' important lives.
The action stamps in the new Royal Mail Bees collection were created by London-based agency Interabang.
Best stamp designs: Alice in Wonderland
Earlier this year, Royal Mail released a series of 10 stamps that celebrated 150 years since the initial publication of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
The illustrations were created by Grahame Baker-Smith, and we think they're gorgeous. These illustrations were also used as the basis of a pop-up book published by Walker Books.
Best stamp designs: Children's TV
Following on with the children's theme now, with a Royal Mail stamp collection from January of 2014. This collection starred 12 of the best-loved British kids characters from the past 20 years, including Andy Pandy, Bagpuss, Peppa Pig, Bob the Builder and more.
The stamps were designed by Interabang (the same agency that created the action stamps in the Bees collection), and represent each decade of children's TV since the 1950s. You can see the full collection here, or purchase them from the Post Office Shop.
Best stamp designs: Remarkable Lives
Design agency Purpose created a wonderful set of Royal Mail stamps last year, to celebrate some of the most incredible British figures that were born 100 years ago for a collection called Remarkable Lives.
Each of the icons features on the stamps were born in 1914 and made an impact on British society during their lives, including graphic designer Abram Games.
See the full collection here.
Best stamp designs: London 2012 Olympics
The Olympics came to London in 2012 and with them came a series of new stamps created by Hat-trick Design for the Royal Mail. The stamps feature iconic London landmarks cleverly paired with Olympic sports to celebrate the union of both.
Best stamp designs: London 2012 Olympics
Prior to the arrival of the Olympics in London, three other sets of Olympic-themed stamps were released by Royal Mail in the lead up to the event. A different artist designed each stamp, and there were 30 stamps released in total – the first 10 in 2009, the second in 2010 and the third and final set of 10 in 2011.