Collect 'Em All

by Kristina Urquhart

July 11, 2017


A roundup of the stamps Subplot Design created for Canada Post's iconic Canada 150 set 


Designers and philatelists alike are heading to the post office this month to appraise the new set of Canada 150 stamps issued by Canada Post and long-time supplier Subplot Design. The stamps depict 10 iconic Canadian moments since the centennial celebration in 1967, including marriage equality in 2005 and the signing of the Constitution in 1982.


“The challenge with creating such a significant set of 10 stamps was to ensure that the stamps look part of a collectable set and yet are each unique enough to represent 10 very distinct topics,” says Roy White, Subplot’s creative director. The solution was a set of maple leaf–shaped stamps—the first time Canada Post has strayed from a traditional quadrilateral silhouette. “We hope that Canadians see this as a time to reflect on their own history and memories,” says White. “This project, more than any other, has been incredible to be a part of, considering the importance and historical relevance of Canada’s 150th anniversary.”


Each stamp was periodically released via Canada Post’s site and Facebook Live ahead of June 1, at which point they went on sale to the public to ramp up excitement for Canada Day and the Canada 150 celebrations. 


The complete Canada 150 collectible set includes the full set of 10 stamps, all in the iconic maple leaf shape—this is the first time a stamp has been cut out of the national emblem—and Official First Day Covers (OFDC) wrapped in a commemorative bellyband, a 10-set souvenir sheet, and a 10-set booklet, along with a custom cancellation mark.



Expo 67, the first in a 10-stamp series created by Subplot Design for Canada Post


The first of the series was a maple leaf marking Expo 67 (above). Expo 67 took place in Montreal in Canada’s centennial year, and had lasting architectural impressions on the city, including the Moshe Safdie–designed Habitat 67 apartment complex that features on the new stamp. Safdie was on hand to chat about the impact of the Canadian moment in the video below.



In addition to Safdie, each stamp was unveiled with the help of a notable figure tied to the moment. Each OFDC explores its stamp’s theme in more detail—the Expo 67 one ties to the nostalgic memorabilia associated with the event. Subplot gathered the memorabilia from the personal collection of Maurice Guibord, a historian and Expo enthusiast recently profiled in an Expo 67 exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver. 



Stamp number two in the series marks Canada’s patriation from Britain with the passing of the Constitution Act of 1982, ratified by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth II. It was the moment that Canada became a fully sovereign nation. It was also when the government debuted the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the cornerstone of our country’s political and civil rights.


Stamp #2 in the Canada 150 set celebrates the Canadian Constitution



Because Subplot worked with an image of the actual Constitution, it presented some challenges in the final design of both the stamp and the OFDC, above.


“The original constitutional document featured on the stamp and signed by Her Majesty was hand drawn with a quill pen onto parchment paper, specifically created for the ceremony,” explains Matthew Clark, founder and creative director at Subplot Design. “Therefore, we found the quality not to be the greatest and there are many small imperfections [in the image]...including raindrops on the document from that rainy afternoon in Ottawa!”


Jean Chretien, who was instrumental in the constitutional negotiations leading up to 1982 before becoming prime minister himself in 1993, helped set the stage for the stamp unveiling in the video below.



For the third stamp in the series, the Subplot team got to have a bit more fun with the design. The stamp celebrates Canadian innovation with a picture of the Canadarm, a robotic arm used since 1981 in the space shuttle program, which shuttered in 2011.


Stamp #3 in the series celebrates Canadian innovation 


But it’s the OFDC that gave the designers a chance to recognize the breadth of Canadian inventions, from the snowmobile to the pacemaker, in a quirky way.


“The challenge with the OFDC was how to convey the diversity of all the very different technological advances that Canada has played a part in over the years,” says Clark. “The solution: create a “Mr. Roboto” out of all these amazing things from the Blackberry, and the Walkie Talkie, to the Pacemaker and the Flight Box Recorder.”





Another two additions to the Canada 150 stamp set by Subplot Design and Canada Post have been released—for marriage equality in 2005.


The marriage equality stamp was launched at The 519, a Toronto LGBTQ community centre, with the help of former politician Olivia Chow. The stamp recognizes that twelve years ago, when Canada passed the Civil Marriage Act, it became only the fourth country in the world to legalize marriage for all its people, no matter their sexual orientation.



Subplot designed the Official First Day Cover (OFDC) for the marriage equality stamp to be inclusive and celebratory. “The challenge of the OFDC was in representing the large and diverse LGBTQ+ community,” says designer Jacquie Shaw. “Using silhouettes of people to frame the image of the rainbow flag—a symbol of solidarity, resistance, and pride for the LGBTQ+ community since its inception in the 1970s—brings a vibrancy and sense of celebration to the OFDC.”



Canadians share their stories about the historic moment, below:



Stamp #5, launched by country singer Dean Brody, commemorates the Trans-Canada Highway (also known as Highway 1), which became the longest uninterrupted highway in the world when it was finished in 1971. While it no longer holds that title, Highway 1 is still an amazing feat—it connects all provinces and major cities and links to roads into Canada’s North.



The stamp features a route marker and the OFDC includes depictions of some of the fun pit stops along the highway. “Pausing to see the ‘Biggest Nickel,’ ‘Mac the Moose’ and the ‘Woodenhead’ are always a welcome break from those long hours on the road,” notes Roy White, creative director at Subplot.



Stamp six: Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope, which took place in 1980.


“With the OFDC, we wanted to convey that Terry’s run was a huge undertaking, and one that, in a way, was a solitary battle both with cancer and the distance of the marathon he undertook,” says Subplot designer Liz Wurzinger. “The [OFDC] image shows Terry alone on the road but with all the supporting vehicles behind him—just like the entire nation was behind him.”





The addition of Nunavut to the Canadian map on April 1, 1999 was the stamp advisory committee’s seventh selection in its rundown of memorable events over the past 50 years.


“The warmth and friendliness of the Inuit people is dramatically captured on the stamp portrait,” says Wurzinger. “The OFDC [Official First Day Cover] image captures the starkness and isolation of the Arctic archipelago against the haunting beauty and wonder of the Northern lights.”




For Canadians who can remember what they were doing in the year 1972, it’s likely a specific sequence of 34 seconds and a hockey game-winning goal is part of their memory. Stamp #8 commemorates the Cold War–era game between Canada and the USSR in the Summit Series.


“The 1972 Summit Series stamp was one of the tougher stamps to create,” says Subplot designer Jacquie Shaw. With only four images of the winning goal in the public archive, “It was felt that the iconic image already seen by most Canadians over the years was the most symbolic and recognizable image of the moment,” she says.




Finding a single image to represent Canada’s track record at the Paralympic Games proved to be difficult for stamp #9. At the Paralympic Games in Vancouver (2010) and Toronto (1976, at the Torontolympiad) alone, Canadian athletes have won nearly 200 medals.


“What united these two Paralympic Games was the host nation’s stunning and unique natural landscape they competed in—visible prominently on the First Day Cover,” notes Shaw. “All images were chosen as mere representatives in place for all the relentless, ambitious athletes having competed in these Paralympic Games for Team Canada.”




The final stamp recognizes Canada’s three-time hosting duties for the Olympic Games, and the Canadian Olympic athletes themselves. Despite hosting the Games in Montreal (1976) and Calgary (1988), it wasn’t until the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games that Canada won a gold medal on home soil. Moguls skier Alexander Bilodeau won the country’s first and graces the front of the stamp.


The theme was a little trickier to encompass on the OFDC. “How do you best represent three different Olympics, in three different cities, with three different personalities, over three different periods of time?” asks Wurzinger. “Simply take the thing that all three have in common: the Olympic flame.”




The stamps are available now via Canada Post’s website and post office locations.



Concept & Design: Subplot Design Inc.

Designers: Liz Wurzinger, Roy White, Jacquie Shaw

Illustration / Photo Illustration: Liz Wurzinger

Creative Directors: Roy White, Matthew Clark

Printer: Lowe Martin


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