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."
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.