New national stamps by KPU design instructor commemorate Canada's provincial birds

Fri, Jul 15, 2016

Metro Vancouver, B.C. – This week, Canada Post released the first set in a series of 15 stamps that commemorate the provincial birds of Canada, a collection designed by Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) graphic design instructor Keith Martin.

While the complete “Birds of Canada” stamp series will be released over the next two years, the project has already been a long-running one for Martin, who has spent months researching, sketching, digitally drawing and painting birds with as much realism and detail as possible: not an easy feat when the amount of space to communicate meaning is, literally, stamp-sized.

“It is a fantastic experience, and I’m never tired of it. I literally danced around the house when I got the contract for this project,” said Martin, a certified graphic designer who has taught at KPU for 13 years. “The designer in me is really challenged to make the images communicate all of the research and planning in such a small space.”

The five stamps released this week feature the great horned owl, raven, Atlantic puffin, rock ptarmigan and sharp-tailed grouse, and join the 24 other stamps Martin has designed and/or illustrated for Canada Post. His work captures and celebrates the creatures that inhabit the country’s diverse range of ecosystems – from insects on the soil, to the whales of Canada’s three oceans, to the birds that share our skies.

“I have been happily pigeonholed to doing wildlife work,” said Martin, adding that the research, education, planning and detail involved in producing the stamps makes for an incredibly engaging, and rewarding, challenge.

From time to time, Canada Post will reach out to designers and illustrators nation-wide for ideas they wish to contribute to a new series of themed stamps. Martin worked with three other designers from Signals Design Group – a Vancouver-based studio that provides graphic design services – on his submission, which contrasted the puffin and the raven in a unique way.

“I realized what I needed to do from a design and artistic approach was to represent the bird in an atypical position, with them either taking off or landing,” he said. “The raven is a rebel, black, cult bird; they look at you and the hair on our back stands, whereas the puffin is like a clown, this cute, goofy bird – so to be able to depict the range of these two birds was my strategy.”

Martin and his colleagues were selected for the project after their submission was reviewed by a committee, typically comprised of writers, designers, historians and representatives with a wide variety of skills and backgrounds.

Over the next two years, Martin will continue work on the remaining 10 stamps as he continues to instruct the next generation of graphic designers at KPU, an integration he enjoys. In his classes, Martin frames classwork and projects around producing a stamp, because he says the task “incorporates everything about the field, from doing a lot of research and design, through to illustration.”

“Any student coming out of our program has used the kind of thinking and focus where it is all about the big idea, coming up with clever solutions for a difficult and challenging, yet important, product – even one as small as a stamp,” he said.

To view the artwork, or to purchase a first-day cover, souvenir sheet, post cards or booklet of stamps, visit Canada Post.

To learn about KPU’s graphic design for marketing program, visit

About the Wilson School of Design
The Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University is a leader in design education, playing a significant role in shaping the design leaders of tomorrow. Located on Canada’s spectacular West Coast, the Wilson School of Design offers seven unique programs through certificate, diploma, bachelor’s degree, and post-baccalaureate qualifications. With its purposefully small class sizes, hands-on learning approaches, faculty expertise, direct connection with industry and the advanced technological resources, the School of Design instills a deep understanding of design thinking and the design process. For more information about the Wilson School of Design, please visit

About Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Kwantlen Polytechnic University has served the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 200,000 learners. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs in business, liberal arts, design, health, science and horticulture, trades and technology, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 120 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at

Photos of the latest Birds of Canada stamps are available on Flickr.

Media contact:
Hayley Woodin
Media Specialist
t: 604.599.2883
c: 604.364.1288

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