A Q+A with Ellen Surrey, Artist Behind the New Thinking of You Stamps

by | Aug 9, 2023 | News

This week the USPS is releasing a new stamp they’ve titled ‘Thinking of You.’ We got in touch with the artist who created the designs to get to know more about her and the postage stamp creation process.

image courtesy of Ellen Surrey
image courtesy of Ellen Surrey

How did you get the chance to design stamps? Did the USPS reach out or did you hear they were looking for an artist?

Designer Greg Breeding reached out to me about working on the stamp. He had pitched the concept to the USPS and wanted artwork that was fun and colorful and my work was what he was looking for.

image by Jessica Watkins (tinydeerstudio.com)

What was your inspiration for the theme/designs?

Greg approached me with the concept from the get go. He knew it was going to be a stamp(s) with words or phrases surrounding it, but it was uncertain how it would all come together. Early on, we attempted a version with the text ‘Thinking of You’ directly on the stamp, but it just didn’t work. The design felt too specific to one way of saying ‘Thinking of You.’ We then landed on the idea of icons, which allowed the stamps to have more versatility throughout the year instead of only being used around Valentine’s Day or a birthday. In the end, the stamps came out really fun and I look forward to seeing how others use them.

How long did the stamp design process take? What was working with the USPS like?

The whole process took 4 years. I started work on the stamp in 2019. Because the stamp isn’t commemorative there was no saying when it would be released. I’ve been told that I’m lucky I didn’t have to wait long.
Working with the USPS was unlike any other project I’ve worked on. The process is different in every way and I’m glad I had Greg to guide me through it.

Tell us about your background in art and how you got started.

I feel as though I’ve always been an artist. Some of my earliest memories are of my father teaching me how to draw. He was an animator at Disney for many years and has always been very supportive. For a long time I thought I wanted to be an animator like him, until I found illustration. I really liked that I could take something from a sketch all the way to the final product and the whole way it was mine. I graduated from Art Center College of Design’s illustration program in 2014 and have been working freelance ever since.

Tell us about the work you’ve done in the greeting card world in the past. You’ve done some projects with big-name companies.

I have! I’ve been lucky enough to work with Papyrus, American Greetings and Card Nest in the UK. I also make cards of my own with Clover Scout, a collaborative made up of myself and illustrator friends Loris Lora and Patrick Hruby. I really enjoy working on cards and do my best to make something that’s unique. I like imagining the person finding my card in the store and the joy they feel of giving it to a loved one.

What was the coolest/weirdest moment you had throughout the stamp design process?

I think the weirdest was getting used to how the USPS works. It is unlike any design project I’ve ever worked on. In a typical project, I will only show my work to the Art Director who then gives notes or approves the work. With the USPS there are far more steps and people the artwork has to go through for approval.
The coolest part is that my work is going to be on a US Forever stamp. While I’ve had my work in big publications, I think this project has the farthest reach. I’ve always felt my work was for everyone and it’s exciting to know that whether you’re 5 years old or 80 you will be able to enjoy these stamps. And as an added bonus, it’s pretty cool that my work will be in the Smithsonian.

Check out Ellen on social media to see more of her work!

Instagram: @yesurrey
Twitter: @yesurrey
Threads: @yesurrey
Website + Shop: ellensurrey.com

Clover Scout: @cloverscout and cloverscout.com