My grandfather was a mailman. He told stories of living in rural Iowa and finding mailboxes stuffed full of gifts of appreciation during the holidays. Homemade candies and chocolates spilled forth as he opened each painted wooden latch to deliver the daily mail. This is an unheard of practice now. I wondered if my small metal apartment mailbox scrawled with “2B” in permanent marker could present the same possibility as a space for gratitude. I saw the value and potential in the small space and wanted to create a location through design in which two strangers could meet. The following is a project completed during my Master's thesis in graphic design at RISD.
I began by flooding my apartment mailbox with postcards showing appreciation and respect for my mailman— an inconspicuous job. I mailed a series of ten postcards addressed to Kevin at my address. Though, I only learned his name after he answered my first inquiry. He discovered my postcards as he sifted through his daily deliveries. I tucked a pen inside my mailbox, allowing him to answer my prompts immediately.
I reshaped hand-made collages of time stamps and security patterns usually found on the inside of utility bill envelopes into a more personal use. I wanted to wake him out of his daily routine by adding an element of surprise and connection. I chose the form of a postcard because it has an established universal meaning as a way to connect people across distance. However, the distance demonstrated here is about twenty feet, or really from one side of a door to the other. The short lines on the back of a postcard can lead to awkward, impersonal sentiments. By extending the narrative into a series and exchanging personal details, I tried to overcome the postcard’s templated form. He even made postcards for me containing articles he thought might help my thesis. We were pen-pals for a couple of months, and this is a sampling of our correspondence.