Portland Monthly recently reported on the self-transformation of Ziba Design, the 30-year-old firm that played a big role in carving out a reputation for Portland in the industrial design field. (Task summary on that project: 1) transform from an ID firm to an all-purpose brand consultancy; 2) But still invent stuff!; 3) Adopt a radically different internal hierarchy. No problem!)

In recent weeks, Ziba made waves with another kind of conceptual reboot. In this case, the firm set its designers loose on an experimental new system for one essential task that definitely could use a fresh image and some cool gear: the postage system.

Ziba's proposed Signet system gives a surprisingly warm digital kiss to the analog processes of physical mail. Users would apply an unique, laser-etched mark, coded in intricate helices inspired by currency and ye olde waxen seals, to pieces of mail, literally burning delivery information into the physical object. However, all the details of the shipment—when, where, who pays—could then be managed in real time through a Signet mobile app, allowing back-and-forth between the two parties and a new level of flexibility on timing and location.

It's a bit theoretical for now. But Signet definitely represents a bright idea—and a refreshing instance of design employed to improve, rather than render obsolete, a crucial public service. Read more via Quartz and Wired.

 

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