Co.Design

The U.S. Postal Service Is Dying. Why Not Radically Rebrand It?

And is retro the way to go?

Snail mail use keeps dropping, and now the U.S. Postal Service wants to save a bunch of cash by slashing Saturday delivery. Will a new look help rescue the agency? D.C. designer Matt Chase has a wacky proposal: Rebrand the USPS to evoke the very anachronisms that are costing it billions.

Chase wants to makeover the Postal Service in cheery retro kitsch. From a Helvetica logo done up in robin-egg blue and cherry red complete with letter-stashing pigeons down to mail vans and branded leather side satchels -- part of a nerdy-cool mailman uniform (all that's missing are the Buddy Holly glasses) -- the branding concept screams the 1950s like bobby socks and McCarthyism.

The idea's to make people nostalgic for the days when pen-and-paper letter writing was the primary (and certainly the most intimate) form of communication. "When the organization was established, I feel like it was supposed to be this way for people to connect, to stay in touch with one another--and for a long time, it was," Chase tells us over (gasp!) email. "But digital communication sort of changed all that; cell phones and texting and e-mail became our primary means to get a hold of one another, and the Postal Service fell into this weird realm characterized by Pizza Hut coupons and utility bills."

He goes on: "The new look is warm, inviting, and (hopefully) makes people want to grab a pen and a sheet of paper and see what that old friend's been up to."

The website:

Love these.

But can nostalgia do the trick? Shouldn't the USPS, maybe, figure out all that Interweb stuff, instead? Electronic mail compounded by the recession is killing the Postal Service's business. Letter mailing dropped 13 percent last year, cutting USPS revenue by $3.8 billion. And the downward spiral will only intensify over the next decade as email all but takes over worldwide communication.

Not that Chase is billing his packaging scheme as a holistic solution, and obviously it's going to take whole lot more than cute packing tape to rescue the Postal Service. (See some bigger ideas here. We think Matt Yglesias, in particular, is onto something.) But as a way to refresh an agency that has had one too many brushes with bad PR, a sweet, old-school image can't hurt. We're off to write a letter to Grammy right now.

[Via the Atlantic Wire and Behance.net; images courtesy of Matt Chase]

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15 Comments

  • bobthelob

    "Branding" is not what's killing USPS.  Unions, lazy untrustworthy workers, unreliability, and far superior competition are the causes.

  • holdthatghost

    Sadly, this is not a situation where 'rebranding' will do anything but, well, rebrand. With smartphones, laptops, ipads, etc., who really needs the USPS? I know I don't. Most of my friends, neighbors, and family use chatrooms, facebook, emails, online billing, etc. So what's left for USPS to do? And don't say junkmail cause we can get that in our inboxes as well. Printing presses also have died because of home printing availability and faxes. It's over. It's losing well over billions of dollars a year? Who's going to pay for this while we are suffering with so many other issues in this country. Of course I feel bad for the employees, but there's not one logical thing mentioned here that would save their jobs. Someone actually mentioned making stamps $4?! Really?! Lmao! Why not just shoot the organization out of it's misery? Another idea was to charge people for emails?! It's FREE already! I see a trend of feeling bad for people rather than doing whats right for the country as a whole. Good luck with that. It's this same mentality (in a sense) that keeps gas stations thriving while we  sit on electrical car technology at a slow pace. Sheesh. We all know it can be done. But, it would be too radical a change for the economy. Same situation here. Have a heart you say? I do. But I also have a brain.

  • hayleyjustine

    I think this is awesome and I will never get bored of sending or receiving snail mail!

  • DanaMarie W.

    I like this, a lot. Unlike previous commentators, I believe the Postal service should be saved. Snail mail might be slower than what we're used to in this day and age, but it's a classic American idea that should be held near and dear to us. Mail is personal, and something that should never die, due to all of the good that it brings. If the concept of "Retro" mail delivery doesn't work out, keep fighting.

  • Steven Dale

    Nice treatment, surely, but the point is being missed here completely. THe US Postal Service is waaay beyond a rebrand. It's very function is no longer relevant.

    What the US Postal Service should do is completely begin phasing in a multi-year shutdown. Reinvest the billions in infrastructure, employees, technology worth into a new system that allows every American to access a new definition of digital mail. Not quite email, but something richer and true to the document. Think easy to access API's, inexpensive, innovative. Regarding actual packages - that is something that can probably be left to private enterprise if properly regulated and monitored.

    What we're doing here is slapping a pretty facade on the hull of a rapidly sinking ship. And no one really cares, cause no one is on the ship.

  • Steve Coleman

    I would have thought that a Retro design would only reinforce its lack of relevance in meeting our service and delivery needs today.

    Further more, a Brand is not a logo nor is it a design. A Brand is a promise. The question is what 'promise' can the Postal Service make that will be credible, relevant and meet a real need within the community. How can the Postal Service build a 'platform' around that need which is different and uniquely its own. Once its has answered these questions how then can it express that promise in the form of advertising and marketing touch points which cut through the clutter and build connections with people.

  • Chloe LaPointe

    It seems to me that the most logical course of action would be to have USPS set up a localized e-mail service. They could store the servers in the Post Offices and set up a kiosk of one+ computer (depending on the PO’s location) where those who don’t have a computer can go to access their e-mail and print out messages/documents for a low-cost (10c a page?) on site. With an @USPS e-mail, the Post Office would also be able to drop a quick message to people who have packages waiting for them. Who knows if this would save money or not, but it would certainly help get them up to date. The facelift adds a nice touch too. ;)

  • SimpleScott

    I agree with Sheena. This institution has big problems maybe a bottom up approach is required. Every employee at the USPS needs a "rebranding".

  • Tom Jeffrey

    The biggest issue with the USPS is what they do not deliver - good customer service. A re-brand would give them a fresh face on the outside, but they'd have to fix those grumpy faces on the inside in order to reverse their downward slide.

  • Sheena Medina

    Most of the comments so far have pointed out how re-branding the USPS merely scratches the surface of the vast and greater issues of the institution as a whole. I'm surprised no one has mentioned how grossly mismanaged this service is, and how that factor has been one of the primary contributors to its demise. Julie Qiu touches upon it briefly. We can talk all day about repricing, revenue, technology, and how to make mail "meaningful" again, but the core issues with this service remain intact until someone can make a solid argument to reform it from the ground up. It didn't earn the name "snail mail" for nothing. The real problem isn't technology. Correspondence is meaningful as is our time, which has come to be valued more significantly than ever.
    The USPS needs to catch up on the way we all value our time and thus offer solutions to the way we can correspond accordingly. Until its ready to tackle the real problems of today's corresponding world, nothing can save it-- even this beautiful "radical" retrofit, which would be a fantastic start.

  • Julie Qiu

    Rebranding is merely the surface-- for me, the appearance of USPS isn't what makes me want to run the other way. It's the service (or lack there of) and speed.

  • breadwild

    I had a mentor tell me 30 years ago that a re-branding is often the dying gasp of a failing company. While Matt Chase's design solution might be a whimsical approach to branding a staid old behemoth like the USPS, it won't solve the problem—it's losing customers, and losing them forever. In a world of electronic communications, the Postal Service is the horse and buggy. Look around you, there are no horse and buggies anymore. Even the fax machine is becoming a horse and buggy (we unplugged ours a year ago). We don't even print stationery anymore, so we have nothing to mail. What the Post Office needs, a new logo or color won't fix. Design is not that good of a marketing tool. It can't fix what is wrong, at the core, of what it is promoting. The USPS is going away, and as fun as it might be, a logo won't rescue it. I say, cut your losses, right size, and prepare yourself for a graceful exit.

  • adam hutchison

    Rebranding? I dont think it will provide any benefits. RePRICING is what the USPS needs. Make postcards $1, make regular letters $2, first-class mail $4. And expand the $10 anything-that-fits-in-the-box-under-70lbs program.
    Also, more importantly, rescind the "bulk mail" discounts that businesses get. end the local newspaper junk mail, get rid of wasteful advertising that nobody signed up for.

    Make mail for meaningful correspondence again.

  • Emily Heizer Photography

     I do not even remotely understand this comment. Why on EARTH why I want to encourage USPS to take First Class mail from 40 cents to $4? Are you INSANE? Talk about a deterrant! Email is free! I'd never use it again! As it is, I'm in the Post Office every other week or so for business stuff. It's more convenient than scanning and emailing than it is to just mail it. This repricing is preposterous. Significantly up-pricing on small items, while under pricing on the flat rate boxes is stupid. It costs  the postoffice a lot of money to move large items. If people ship lots of large boxes- well, you can only fit so many boxes on a truck. Which means you need another truck, another driver and more gas. They lose more money. You sure didn't think that through at all.

    I love the mail. It is irreplaceable.

    The problem with mail is that it is a pain in the ass. Standing in line. Getting stamps. It's never open, it's always crowded. Overworked and underpaided cranky employees.  It's inconvenient. Limited hours.

    That's the problem with the post office.

    I love the rebranding, I love the nostaglia, I don't think things like that hurt, especially nostaglia-themed rebranding. However, stuff like that costs money that losing industries can't handle.