23 februari 2024

Typically Dutch – cows

On 2 January 2024, PostNL will publish the Typically Dutch – cows stamp sheet. This issue is the first in the Typically Dutch series this year. The multi-year series was launched in 2020 and the 2024 edition is dedicated to the animals that we know best and that are closest to us. The six identical postage stamps will be marked ‘Nederland 1’, the denomination for items weighing up to 20g destined for the Netherlands. A sheet of ten stamps costs €6.54. Typically Dutch – cows was designed by Senior Graphic Designer Adam Lane, Executive Creative Director Edwin van Praet and Concept Director Huub van Veenhuijzen from Total Design in Amsterdam. They used artificial intelligence to create a design featuring figurines in the shape of Delftware pottery. Later on this year, the Typically Dutch series will continue with the following subjects: dogs (12 February), horses (25 March), songbirds (13 May) and cats (12 August).

SUBJECT
Cows Cattle have long been kept by humans as pets – probably for over 10,000 years. Long-term domestication and breeding programmes have resulted in many different breeds. Cattle are descended from the aurochs, a wild bovine that became extinct in the Middle Ages. For humans, cattle farming is now one of the main sources of meat, milk and leather. Cattle terminology is as follows: a female bovine is called a cow, a male bovine is called a bull, a young bovine is called a cow calf or bull calf, a yearling is a one-year-old bovine and a heifer is a cow that has calved for the first time. Around 3.8 million cattle are registered in the Netherlands, including 1.6 million dairy cows (2022 CBS figures). The average dairy farm has 110 dairy cows and 58 female young livestock.

Delftware The history of Delftware is closely linked to that of Chinese porcelain. Delft was one of the VOC’s trading posts, with warehouses where large stocks of this porcelain were stored. Delft potters developed a type of tin-glazed earthenware that could be compared to Chinese porcelain in terms of shape, shine and decoration. Delftware became very popular within a short time and experienced its heyday between 1650 and 1750, when it had around 100 pottery factories. Today, only a few factories still produce Delftware in the traditional way, including De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles and Heinen Delfts Blauw. The traditional paintwork can be recognised by the mark on the underside of the product.

Artificial intelligence AI relates to learning computing systems. These AI systems are capable of extrapolating large amounts of data and algorithms, making decisions and choices, and coming up with interpretations. The developments in artificial intelligence are coming thick and fast. It is used in numerous applications, from face recognition on smartphones and self-driving cars to smart thermostats and deep fakes – digitally manipulated images, sounds and texts. Within AI there is a separate discipline called generative art, which is when a computer algorithm creates an original work of art or design.

DESIGN
The stamps on the Typically Dutch – cows stamp sheet depict two cows standing near each other. The portrait takes the form of a figurine made from shiny Delftware pottery. The image of the two cows was created using MidJourney, an AI programme, which creates images based on textual descriptions. At the bottom of each stamp is the sorting hook, the year 2024, the country (Nederland) and the denomination (1). The logo for the Typically Dutch series is printed above each stamp, with a folded Dutch banner on the left and right. On the left-hand sheet border, another cutout of the stamp image is repeated in a larger size. The Typically Dutch logo is repeated along the upper sheet border, with brief information about the relationship between humans and cows in the Netherlands to its right.

TYPOGRAPHY
The Nexa Thin and Nexa Rust (Svet Simov, Fontfabric, 2012) fonts have been used for the text on the stamps and stamp sheet.

DESIGNER
Typically Dutch – cows was designed by Total Design. This Amsterdam-based design agency has been responsible for the Typically Dutch series since 2020. For the 2024 series, PostNL asked Total Design to elaborate on the Delftware theme by combining photography and illustration. Delftware did, in fact, end up on the stamps, albeit with a contemporary twist.

Artificial intelligence
The designers’ search for their new design concept began by looking at other typically Dutch decorative styles. ‘There are others, of course,’ says Graphic Designer Adam Lane. ‘Such as Hindeloopen, Makkum, Gouda pottery, different styles of clog painting and Staphorst dotwork – but they’re relatively unknown. We also wanted to see whether we could go further than using images of vases, plates and figurines. We were looking to create a modern twist, and that’s when we came up with the concept of working with artificial intelligence. Our AI expertise gave us some ideas, but we wanted to explore properly how it would work.’

Agency night
And so the three designers organised an agency night: a brainstorming session involving all their colleagues. ‘We often meet with the agency to develop ideas and strategies,’ says Concept Director Huub van Veenhuijzen. ‘During these evening sessions, we combine teamwork and informal discussions. After working hours, eat pizza and let our creativity flow as a group. Around 25 designers collaborated on this particular project. In small teams, we used the AI programme MidJourney to combine typically Dutch subjects with different decoration styles. Delftware proved to work the best, as other Dutch decorative styles were simply too unfamiliar within AI. The results were magnificent – dreamlike, often surreal images of a wide variety of subjects. From ice skates, cheeses and board games such as goose game to Dutch interiors and garments… you name it. By the end of the evening, the portrait of a dog suddenly cropped up. We decided that was an interesting option and we wanted to go in that direction. Why not produce a series on the animals that are close to the hearts of the Dutch people?’

Blue fur
The idea of featuring favourite animals was thus developed. Animals were shortlisted and two animals were chosen to feature on each stamp, rather than one. Van Veenhuijzen: ‘Working with animal duos created a very familiar image – just like seeing a double portrait of your children. The images were created through AI commands. You can describe aspects such as the preferred situation, lighting, position of the animal and where the viewer is standing. The result is then further refined, for example by changing the size of the cow’s eyes and placing the animals closer together or further apart. We also tested Dutch cattle breeds that are less well known than black-pied and red-pied, but AI did not recognise them. We therefore decided to feature the cows we know best, which graze in Dutch pastures. In our case, not black-pied or red-pied, but blue-pied cattle. We asked AI to convey a sense of intimacy; after all, that’s what our favourite animals are all about. Thus, the image tells the story of the animals we all love and care for. They’re close to us, both literally and figuratively speaking.’

Fantasy images
Adam Lane knows the pose of the two cows featured from his bike rides around Amsterdam. ‘The cow’s curiosity always stands out to me – when you stop at the fence, they come up to you. One cow is always in front, just like on the stamp. It’s the cow as you know it. However, if you look more carefully, you’ll see that it’s a fantasy image. The decorations look like Delftware and you recognise them as Delftware, but they’ve been dreamt up by AI. It’s not a real cow, and it’s not real Delftware because that kind of decoration is always realistic. But that’s not the case on the stamps.’

A special design process
AI programmes are self learning, which meant the results improved over time. In the final phase of the process, the designers made minor tweaks to the AI images, for example by adjusting the animals’ eyes, removing unevenness in the fur and enhancing the feel of shiny pottery. ‘The blue shades have also been evened out where necessary,’ Van Veenhuijzen concludes. ‘We also introduced a slight colour gradient at the bottom of each stamp in order to keep the typography legible there. That was the final step in this special design process. Our process combined AI with traditional design tools for a strong, flexible workflow that allowed us to move quickly, create and – most importantly – innovate.’

About the designers
Adam Lane (Hemel Hempstead, UK, 1994) studied graphic design at Southampton Solent University (UK), where he graduated with first-class honours in 2016. He then moved to Amsterdam to join Total Design, successively as an intern, junior graphic designer and senior graphic designer. Lane is part of the Branding Team at Total Design. In 2023, he was responsible for designing the Typically Dutch series on tourist attractions in the Netherlands in collaboration with Edwin van Praet.

Edwin van Praet (Breda, 1971) studied graphic and typographic design at the St. Joost Academy of Art and Design Joost) in Breda. After graduating, he worked as a graphic designer at Tel Design in The Hague for seven years. In 2003, he joined Total Identity/Total Design, first as a Senior Designer and now as Executive Creative Director. Van Praet is part of the Branding Team at Total Design. He has won many awards for his work in both national and international design competitions. For PostNL, Van Praet previously designed the 100 years of aviation (2019) stamps and the stamps in the Typically Dutch series featuring typically Dutch dishes (2020), house types and façades that are typical for the Netherlands (2021), typical Dutch sports (2022) and tourist attractions in the Netherlands (2023).

Huub van Veenhuijzen (Amsterdam, 1985) studied Graphic Design at Mediacollege Amsterdam and Design and Advertising at Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. He has worked in creative roles at various agencies and was a long-time freelancer in areas such as copywriting, concept development and digital applications. In 2023, he joined Total Design to take up the position of Concept Director (copy).

About the agency
Total Design is not only a name – it also describes how the agency works. Total Design represents an integrated approach, which produces result-oriented, surprising and iconic solutions for every project. Total Design was founded in 1963 as a unique creative collective and works with both young talents and experienced individuals from various disciplines. Strategists work together with developers, branding experts and storytellers in an open playing field to collectively fulfil customers’ goals.

SALE/VALIDITY
The stamps are available while stocks last at the post office counter in Bruna shops and at www.postnl.nl/bijzondere-postzegels [in Dutch]. The stamps can also be ordered by phone from the Collect Club customer service on telephone number +31 (0)88 868 99 00. The validity period is indefinite.

VALUE
The Typically Dutch – cows stamps are marked with ‘Nederland 1’, the denomination for items weighing up to 20g destined for delivery in the Netherlands. A sheet of six stamps costs €6.54.

TECHNICAL DETAILS
Postage stamp dimensions 30 x 40 mm
Sheet size 170 x 122 mm
Paper normal with phosphor print
Glue gummed
Printing technique offset
Printing colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black
Print run 75,000 sheets
Appearance sheet of six stamps in identical designs
Design Adam Lane, Edwin van Praet and Huub van Veenhuijzen from Total Design, Amsterdam
Printing company Cartor Security Printers, Meaucé-La Loupe, France
Item number 440163

SUMMARY
Issue: Typically Dutch – cows
Date of issue: 2 January 2024
Appearance: sheet of six stamps in six identical designs
Item number: 440163
Design: Adam Lane, Edwin van Praet and Huub van Veenhuijzen from Total Design, Amsterdam

COPYRIGHT
© 2024 Koninklijke PostNL BV

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