Stuff it, Gmail! Google Map-Bearing Snail Mail Envelopes

Sending physical letters through the postal service is something of a lost art. Email and text messaging have taken over for most of our daily communications. Facebook, Twitter and other social networking services have made it unnecessary to fill acquaintances in on what we’ve been up to in a long letter. But in a playful new project that combines electronic communication and conventional letter writing, designers Rahul Mahtani and Yofred Moik are working to bring back the art of letters.

Google Maps Envelopes would let users write a letter in an electronic interface – just like email – then with the simple click of a button print an envelope that would feature a map with the origin and destination addresses. It’s a fun, attractive concept that marries the convenience of email with the charm of snail mail.

Of course, the most obvious problem pointed out by people who see the concept is that it would only work with mail being sent to an address oriented to the East of the origin address. But there are a number of ways around that problem, from turning the map “upside down” to piecing together the envelope’s map image from the two respective maps. The concept certainly deserves some further development; until then, we’ll just have to keep making envelopes from recycled magazine pages.

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See more in Unbuilt Concepts or under Technology. April, 2010.