On 12 February 2024, PostNL will publish the Typically Dutch – dogs stamp sheet. This issue is the second in the Typically Dutch series this year. The multi-year series was launched in 2020, and in 2024 focuses on the Netherlands’ most popular and familiar animals. 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 six stamps costs €6.54. Typically Dutch – dogs 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. The design was created using artificial intelligence and features figurines in the shape of Delftware pottery. The first issue in he Typically Dutch series is about cows and was published on 2 January. Stamp sheets featuring horses (25 March), songbirds (13 May) and cats (12 August) will follow later this year.
Dogs The dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is a mammal that belongs to the canine family and a domesticated subspecies of the wolf. For many years now, man has used the dog as a guard dogs, companions, shepherd dogs, draught animals, police dogs, assistance dogs and hunting dogs. The Dutch love dogs. The precise number of dogs in the Netherlands is unknown, but estimates suggest around 1.9 million, which works out at one per four households on average. Across the world, there are around 350 breeds of dog. Roughly one quarter of all dogs in the Netherlands are purebred. Their interests are safeguarded by the Dutch Kennel Club, which keeps the pedigree records. A small number of purebred dogs are typically Dutch, such as the Drentsche Patrijshond, the Stabyhoun, the Dutch Shepherd, the Kooikerhondje, the Markiesje, the Saarloos Wolfdog, the Schapendoes and the Frisian Water Dog. Koninklijke Hondenbescherming (the Dutch Society for the Protection of Dogs) feels a responsibility towards all Dutch dogs. Since 2013, the society has championed the legal requirement to have all new dogs in the Netherlands chipped. Since 2021, breeders are also legally obliged to register their puppies and apply for an EU passport for them.
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 space of time and experienced its heyday between 1650 and 1750, when there were around 100 pottery factories. Today, only a few factories are still producing Delftware in the traditional way, including De Porceleyne Fles and Heinen Delfts Blauw. The traditional paintwork can be identified by the mark on the underside of each product.
Artificial intelligence AI refers to learning computer 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.
Each stamp on the Typically Dutch – dogs stamp sheet features two dogs sitting next to each other on their hind legs. The portrait takes the form of a figurine made from shiny Delftware pottery. The image of the two dogs was created using the AI programme Midjourney, which produces 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. Another cutout of the stamp image is repeated in a larger size on the left sheet edge. The Typically Dutch logo is repeated again on the top sheet edge, alongside with a brief explanation of the relationship between man and dog in the Netherlands to its right.
The Nexa Thin and Nexa Rust (Svet Simov, Fontfabric, 2012) fonts have been used for the text on the stamps and stamp sheet.
Typically Dutch – dogs 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 expand on the Delftware theme by combining photography and illustrations. Delftware did end up on the stamps, but with a contemporary twist.
The designers began their search for the new design concept by drawing on other typically Dutch decorative styles. ‘There are others, of course,’ says graphic designer Adam Lane. ‘There’s Hindeloopen, Makkum, Gouda pottery, various styles of clog painting and Staphorster dot work, but they’re all relatively unknown. We also wanted go beyond using images of vases, plates and figurines. We wanted to add a modern twist, and that’s when we thought about using artificial intelligence. Our AI expertise gave us a few ideas, but we wanted to properly explore how we could shape that.’
And so the three designers organised an agency night, which involved a brainstorming session with all their colleagues. ‘We often get together with the agency to develop ideas and strategies,’ says Concept Director Huub van Veenhuijzen. ‘These evenings are a mix of teamwork and social gatherings. After working hours, eat pizza and we see where the group’s creativity takes us. Around 25 designers collaborated on this particular project. In small teams, we used Midjourney, an AI programme, to combine typically Dutch subjects and various decorative styles. Delftware worked the best, as other Dutch decorative styles were too unfamiliar to AI. The results were wonderful – we had dreamlike, often surreal images of a wide variety of subjects: ice skates, cheeses, board games like Game of the Goose, Dutch interiors and garments… you name it! At the end of the evening, the portrait of a dog came up and we all thought it was an interesting concept. We decided to go down that route. Why not dedicate a series to the Netherlands’ best-loved animals?’
Borrowed dogs and adoption dogs
Both designers grew up with dogs, but now live in Amsterdam where they have too little space to look after a dog of their own. ‘I do miss it,’ says Van Veenhuijzen. ‘We occasionally borrow a dog, and all dogs are really excited when you get home.’ Adam Lane knows which type of dog he would go for once his living situation allows it. ‘I’d have a Spanish Greyhound, which is used for hunting. Unfortunately, they’re often left to their own devices if they’re too old or not good enough. I’ve already worked out how I’m going to adopt one.’
Following the brainstorming session, the idea of favourite animals was developed. Animals were shortlisted and two animals per stamp were selected to be featured on each stamp, rather than just one. Van Veenhuijzen: ‘Working with pairs of animals created a very familiar feel – it’s like looking at a double portrait of your children. The images were created using AI commands. You describe the preferred situation, lighting, animal’s position, the viewer’s perspective, etc. That way, you guide the AI programme in the right direction. We didn’t want to feature a small dog, as that wouldn’t have fit in well with the other animals in the series. So that’s why we didn’t go for any Instagram dogs sitting in handbags. We selected large, sturdy dogs with lots of characteristics of the Rhodesian Ridgeback. We also explored using typically Dutch purebred dogs. However, they are less well known and so they weren’t recognised by Midjourney. We deliberately chose strong, muscular guard dogs. Originally, people presumably started keeping dogs so that they would guard their properties. They protect us, they give us a sense of security and they’re incredibly loyal. All of that is reflected in how the two dogs are presented on the stamps. They’re looking straight at us, as if to say they have protected everything that is precious to us. Similarly, the image tells the story of the animals we all love and love to care for. They’re close to us, both literally and figuratively.’
For Adam Lane, not only are the two dogs of the same breed – they are also related to each other. ‘I see them as a brother and sister sitting closely together. This seem to be supporting each other. While the cows on the first stamp sheet mainly exuded a sense of intimacy, the feeling of loyalty prevails here. Both dogs have a majestic posture, are sitting upright and dominate the image. Also noteworthy is the thickening at the neck, which AI generated by chance. Is it a neck crease or a collar? These are the ‘happy little accidents’, as television host and painter Bob Ross once called them. This has also happened with AI here. You continue guiding the programme until you get the desired result. You’re constantly chipping away in your quest for what, in this case, appear to be real dogs. But be careful – when you look closely, you’ll realise that it’s actually a fantasy image. The decorations look like Delftware and you recognise them as Delftware, but they have been dreamed up by AI. It’s not a real dog – it’s not real Delftware because those decorations are always realistic. That isn’t the case on the stamps. You think you recognise floral patterns and landscapes, but they’re not real either.’
A special design process
AI programmes are self learning, so the results improved as time went on. At the end of the process, the designers made minor changes to the AI images. For example, they adjusted the animals’ eyes, removed any unevenness in the fur and enhanced the look of shiny pottery. ‘The blue shades were also evened out where necessary,’ adds Van Veenhuijzen. ‘A slight colour gradient was added to the bottom of each stamp in order to keep the typography legible. That was the final step in this special design process. The process involved combining AI and traditional design tools for a flexible, powerful 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 designed the Typically Dutch series on Dutch landmarks 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), typically Dutch sports (2022) and Dutch landmarks (2023).
Huub van Veenhuijzen (Amsterdam, 1985) studied Graphic Design at MediaCollege Amsterdam and Design and Advertising at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. He has worked in creative roles at various agencies and has been a long-time freelancer in areas such as copywriting, concept development and digital applications. In 2023, he joined Total Design as 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.
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.
The Typically Dutch – dogs stamps are marked with ‘Nederland 1’, the denomination for items up to 20g in weight destined for delivery in the Netherlands. A sheet of six stamps costs €6.54.
- Postage stamp dimensions 30 x 40mm
- Sheet size 170 x 122mm
- 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 440262
- Issue: Typically Dutch – dogs
- Date of issue: 12 February 2024
- Appearance: sheet of six stamps in six identical designs
- Item number: 440262
- Design: Adam Lane, Edwin van Praet and Huub van Veenhuijzen from Total Design, Amsterdam
© 2024 Koninklijke PostNL BV