What’s better than receiving a handwritten letter in the mail? Especially now when most of us probably haven’t seen family or maybe even people in general in quite awhile?
Well, this was the basis of my idea for Snail Mail Science, a postcard service delivering science information to your doorstep the ole’ fashioned way! And all while helping out science organizations in the process.
I started working in science communication several years ago, coming from a 100% art (specifically animation) background. So of course, my work started out as pretty much entirely animation. I would work with scientists or a company to animate their research, machinery, or what have you. But news flash, animation takes a long time. And as much as I love it, personally driven animation projects without a team or partner was getting exhausting.
That lead to me creating my thesis project – an interactive website + physical card game about comparative anatomy. After that I was immediately in love with alternate forms of science communication. Not just a video, or an infographic, but something that’s interactive. I found it more fun for me, and more engaging for the audiences I was trying to reach. The more you can involve people in your work, the more invested they’ll be in learning, remembering, and telling others! But let’s jump forward a few years to July 2020 and my conception for scicomm via the mail!
“If you make a project you are personally passionate about, then usually that travels through the work and others can see that.”
If you are in the United States right now, you are probably aware of the fire our postal system is under. If you are not, there are better sources than I to explain the situation. But because of the events unfolding around the USPS (and many other things in our country right now honestly) there was a push to buy stamps, and basically show the postal system support both monetarily and vocally. So I found myself with an influx of stamps, old stationary sets I never used (because I never had stamps), and time.
I started writing letters to family and then to friends. But these are people I text and call regularly so I wasn’t really sure what to say other than a play by play of what my dog was currently doing. So I started filling the cards half with hellos and half with science facts! Being in the sciart world, I have worked with a lot of different topics, but also absorb a lot of knowledge at the same time. Basically I had a lot to give. After sending out a few letters I knew I wanted to do more, and my first step was brainstorming a name…
Initial Concept Sketches
I wish I wrote down all the name iterations I went through but I work mostly by talking aloud until I land on something. Postcard Science was one I worked with for a bit, but I didn’t think it had a nice ring to it. Eventually though, I got the almost alliteration I wanted with Snail Mail Science! I began working on designs.
It was a tough process (graphic design is not my passion) as this wasn’t the type of work I usually made. But I kept at it, and ended up with what you see today, cute blobs and my favorite color green in the center. The only thing I do regret in the current design, is that I didn’t make an empty square on the back for the stamp. It’s always the little things!
Next step was finding a printer. Wanting to start small since I had little spending money and also no gauge for how successful it would be, I looked for local print shops. I’ve made the mistake of spending too much and not selling before. It took a lot longer than I thought, with mainly issues of communication and payment processes for these small older shops. But I was grateful I live in a big-ish city, because I found a copy shop who gladly printed out small numbers and placed an order for 20 postcards.
Initial Concept Sketches
I had the postcards safely mailed across town to avoid unnecessary contact, and we were in business!
A quick note on the donation aspect of the project: I knew from the start I wanted this to be something that raised money. Almost all my personal work is about making education as accessible as possible, with most stuff ending up for free, and this personal project was no different. I follow a lot of non-profits and love seeing their work and their own science communication efforts online. It only felt right that this scicomm project would go to support other (larger) scicomm initiatives.
You’ve Got Mail!
When the postcards arrived in the mail, I quickly got some product photos taken and uploaded them to the Gumroad page where I previously set up a listing. Posted it on twitter and almost fell over in shock when the first purchase came 1) within minutes, 2) from someone I didn’t know, and 3) paid well over the minimum price of $1! I was not use to such success and spread of my personal work. I immediately wrote the science fact on the back of the postcard and put it straight in my mail dropoff box!
Now every time an order comes I am filled with happiness, it is such a joy to know that people want to learn and that I can tell strangers across the country all this cool stuff I have shaking around in my head! Write the book you want to read came to mind when this project started getting orders. I didn’t know if others had my love of getting mail and learning random new things, all I knew was that I did. If you make a project you are personally passionate about, then usually that travels through the work and others can see that. I hope this project continues in the future with more facts going out and more people learning cool new things about the world around them.
And if you want to get one yourself, you still can! Like I said above, it’s pay what you want (at least $1!) and I will send you a science fact in the mail! Brighten up your day, or send it to someone who could use a random surprise.
You can order at https://gumroad.com/l/snailmailscience.