I was in my local Postie the other day, staring patiently on the number on my ticket. My attention was caught by the newly released special Swiss stamps [Briefmarken]. There were some beautiful nocturnal animal editions, but also an extraordinary three-stamp-long tunnel relief.
Of course, it represents Switzerland's about-to-open longest tunnel in the world - the Gotthard. I know that tunnels are very important to the Swiss, so these stamps must be something special.
Intrigued, I got in touch with Roger Zürcher at Vaudeville Studios to ask him all about Alpine travel, and reducing a 57km long tunnel to a 10cm long stamp.
Hi Roger, please introduce yourself and your studio
I'm an animator, illustrator and designer born in Zurich. I studied 2D classical animation at the Vancouver Film School back in the days when everyone said "2D animation is dead".
In 2009 I co-founded Vaudeville Studios with Martin Brunner.
Vaudeville Studios is a production company for animation, illustration and motion design. We are truly devoted to the ‘staying small’ philosophy; we believe that closely working together, in a small, efficient team, has the best possible impact on our work and our clients’ investment.
These new stamps are great. What was the brief from Die Post?
The stamp had to be set up as a classical triptych: the two outer parts would have a monetary value, the centre part has just a pictorial value, mainly for collectors.
We had to show both ends / entries of the tunnel, and since the SBB was in the jury we would not escape trains, ha-ha...
Can you talk us through the various motifs on the stamps?
The main picture shows a reconstructed - close to reality - Alpine panorama, over the Gotthard mountain mass. I say ‘nearly real’ because you will never see such a panorama, the tunnels are, in reality, very winding.
The south part of the Alps, the Ticino, is enhanced with warm colours and the cold colours are for the very rainy part just north of the Gotthard.
The tunnel entrances are an iconic reproduction of the real entrances. They are - as a very Swiss solution - completely equal on both sides. The tunnels are framed by the so called ‘sickle’. In the Bodio section, we included the very distinguishable signal-box.
The trains represent the passenger traffic on the Bodio side, and commercial transport with the Erstfeld railway locomotive. We’ve included a few hidden treasures that are hard to see on the original size stamp (even with good eyesight). But printed in its original drawn size of almost 1 meter, you will see them :)
In terms of fonts, since about 99% of Swiss stamps are written in Helvetica, we went with the beautiful and simple DIN.
Who created the illustration?
I drew the rough sketch within a few days. Then one of our employees, Beni Morard did the final artwork, with Martin Brunner working on the colours and graphical elements.
What was the process like of deciding the final design?
Our aim was to show the sheer, world-record length of the tunnel on a 10cm wide stamp. It took us quite a few sketches and ideas until we came up with the final design that won the pitch.
As the Gotthard Tunnel is such an important milestone in the Swiss history, we wanted the final design to represent Switzerland as much as possible: the view over the Alps, the political equilibrium with the balanced north and south part. We wanted it to be very colourful.
It's claimed that the stamps feature gneissic rock taken from the tunnel. What was the process to getting this to work?
From our side it is actually a pretty simple process, just like with any other special paint application. You mainly need good partners; someone who has the experience for such an application on a stamp.
You need to know that you can not print the gneissic rock too close to the perforation on the stamp, or it will rip apart.
So the middle is not useable? What would happen if you sent it?
We’ve never tried: but I bet a lot of money that the Swiss Post has to deal with a few central parts mistakably taken for an A-Post stamp! :)
What does the Gotthard Tunnel symbolise to you?
As for the Gotthard, most people reduce it to the train or car tunnel not knowing its historical roots. Since I was a kid I have crossed the Gotthard in every possible way – hiking, cycling, travels with my motorbike and car and for sure from the train rides.
I cross the Alps over a dozen times a year, and to me the south always means warmth, a different flora and fauna… and freedom.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
The recent month have been crazy: we just finished 16 short and beautifully animated explainer movies for one of Switzerland’s largest telecommunications brands.
We are about to finish an animated 2D/3D short for a worldwide sunglasses brand, and last-but-not-least the rumour has it that Vaudeville Studios is already working on another stamp...