Although sending correspondence across the United States has existed since the late 1600s, the United States Postal Service (USPS) as we know it wasn’t established until 1971 and is now a network of 31,000 retail locations delivering mail to over 152 million residences. Financially troubled for the last decade, USPS is a “self-supporting government enterprise” that receives no tax dollars and has to rely on the “sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations”. Raising basic postage prices, international shipping, closing locations, and ongoing warnings of shutting down Saturday delivery service have not improved its woes much so perhaps this new move to reinvent its Priority Mail options in order to compete with FedEx and UPS may be its best hope. Introduced on July 28, Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express (formerly Express Mail) now have better tracking, free insurance, and day-specific delivery. If all this sounds like basic operational qualities, well, it really is an improvement. The service changes arrive with new design for the shipping materials and a whole new visual presentation. No design credit given.
The new design is not much. It’s not any kind of award-winning effort nor does it further our profession in any way. But it has two important things going for it: (1) it doesn’t make you want to gouge your eyes out like the previous Priority Mail boxes and envelopes with its giant eagles and extreme italics and (2) we are talking about USPS and design, together, for the first time in years.
The new boxes, with all their tracked out Gotham, have a very simple and sophisticated look with minor graphic embellishments and an astounding amount of white space. The red and blue borders are basic devices to help distinguish between the two services — even if the two services aren’t clearly differentiated as services — and you can never go wrong in America with a big star somewhere and this effort has two of them on the sides of the word “Mail”. Regardless of whether shipping boxes help USPS improve their bottom line, at least they now look good trying.
Thanks to Noah Lambert for the tip.