A postage stamp like you’ve never seen

Client: NZ Post

NZPost Christmas stamps 2020 1

The opportunities for augmented reality to immerse and involve are only just beginning. A series of Christmas postage stamps for NZ Post brings the nativity story to life with animation, music, interactivity and story.

The Brief

The NZ Post Stamps & Coins team are well known for their innovative approach to storytelling. For this year’s traditional Christmas stamp they were keen to trial something new. Something that would attract new audiences and excite long time collectors with a stamp series like nothing they’d seen before.

The Solution

Following a number of discussions and demos, we agreed with them that an augmented reality (AR) stamp would achieve their objectives. The first of its kind in NZ, and with only a handful in the world, AR turns a 35x35 mm stamp into a vehicle for activating big, engaging, multi-medium stories.  

The four Christmas stamps, designed by NZ Post, collectively depict a stained-glass window with each stamp a ‘pane’ that tells a different part of the nativity story. 

NZ Post provided us with story outlines for each of the four stories, 2D illustrations and suggested animations. Starting with these, we built a prototype of the first story to test all the elements that make up the user experience: from a flat stamp to a fully animated story popping up from it. 

3D animation created a rich experience, complete with spoken word, music, sound and visual effects. User interaction activates narrated information panels to provide richer stories and explanations. A number of clever and complex design aspects enrich the experience further. For example, the use of light and shadow to create perspective and the use of visual effects to draw the viewer’s attention to visual elements that align with the spoken narrative. We maintained the stained-glass idea, applying a translucent ‘look through a window’ style finish to the artwork.

Successfully proving that the prototype experience delivered allowed us to move on to the other three stamps. Having four unique experiences was one of the biggest challenges, as the user experience needed to change depending on how the AR was activated. A first day cover, containing all four stamps, needed an integrated experience that allows seamless movement from one experience to the next. Alternate packs, with three stamps, required a different user experience. Most users activate a single stamp experience, whilst having the content of the other stamps teased, encouraging them to collect the whole series. 

These contextual complexities led to detailed thinking on how the experience would be triggered. Each stamp had a variety of markers to trigger the content and to ensure the right experience is delivered each time.

A clean and simple user interface was essential, especially given that many users were expected to be older and/or not overly au fait with augmented reality. To assist with this, the NZ Post experience is driven by our proprietary Magenta AR Experiences App, downloadable through Apple and Google Play; and includes bespoke adaptation and customisation to suit the client’s requirements.

The Results

The result is a rich story-telling experience that captures the imagination of both collectors and casual stamp buyers. It brings the stories of Christmas alive, creating all new excitement and value from a traditional stamp design. Initial sales volumes have been strong and the level of discussion and engagement with the stamps are at levels not experienced for a long-time. The client is delighted with the result and is already talking about the next AR stamp.