Journey to the Moon
On 21 April 2023, PostNL will issue the Journey to the moon stamp sheet, dedicated to space. Travelling to and in space has always captured people’s imagination. This year a number of space flights have been planned once again. The Journey to the moon stamp sheet features nine stamps with illustrations related to space. The 10th stamp featuring the moon is missing. The stamp with the moon is symbolised by the punched-out circle, and PostNL plans to issue it when man sets foot on the moon again around 2025. This tenth stamp will then complete the journey to the moon series. The denomination on the Journey to the moon stamps is ‘1’, the denomination for items weighing up to 20g destined for the Netherlands. A sheet of nine stamps costs €9.09.
Space, with all its planets, stars and other celestial bodies has always fascinated mankind. Ever since the development of the first telescopes more than 400 years ago, we have loved looking beyond what the human eye can see. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space in 1961, while the Russian Soyuz programme was launched in 1967. In 1969, the Americans put a human on the moon for the first time with Apollo 11. The Apollo programme was followed by the space shuttle programme. The ISS International Space Station has been the site of close international cooperation since 1998.
Space is now visited more than ever before. This year, for instance, the ESA European Space Agency will be launching the Juice space probe, which will map Jupiter’s largest moons. A number of commercial organisations will also be testing their latest rockets in 2023, including the New Glenn (Blue Origin) and the Starship (SpaceX). Later this year, NASA will send space probe Psyche to the asteroid of the same name between Mars and Jupiter. The moon will also get a visit in 2023, from Japanese, Russian and Indian unmanned lunar landers, among others.
The Artemis international space programme aims to land astronauts on the moon again by 2025. The programme consists of 3 missions: an unmanned test flight (late 2022), a mission during which astronauts circle the moon without landing (scheduled for 2024) and finally a lunar landing mission (scheduled for 2025).
The stamps feature illustrations of the following nine subjects:
o the planet Saturn
o Orion capsule, designed to carry astronauts
o floating astronaut in spacesuit
o satellite with solar panels
o view of the Earth from the moon
o SLS launch vehicle
o Orion capsule during ‘splash down’ with parachutes
o moonboot, a classic part of astronaut outfit
o walking astronaut in spacesuit.
The Journey to the moon stamp sheet features nine stamps against a sheet edge with a deep-blue starry sky in the background. Each stamp features an illustration related to space. The 10th stamp featuring the moon is missing. The missing stamp, which will be issued by PostNL when man sets foot on the moon again around 2025, is symbolised by a circle. The sheet features three round stamps. The other six stamps have a free form that follows the outer lines of the illustration. On all stamps, the starry sky continues across in the illustration. The illustrations are printed in warm red, cornflower blue, soft yellow, silver and copper.
The sorting hook, denomination 1 and the word Nederland are printed in a different place on each stamp. The top half of the stamp sheet features the title of the issue on the top left, while the bottom half features the PostNL logo with the remaining typography on the left. The text is printed in the 2013 Arboria font by font designer José Manuel Urós (Barcelona). The denomination 1 was drawn by Lilian Vos, the designer of the stamp sheet.
The design of the Journey to the moon stamp sheet was created by graphic designer Lilian Vos of Amsterdam-based agency Vividblue. It is her first stamp design, an assignment that fit her like a glove. ‘My father was a collector, especially of first-day envelopes. I remember endlessly admiring the pictures on stamps when I was little. Stamps and stamp designs also definitely played a role in my decision to study graphic design. At the academy’s open day in Maastricht, I had the opportunity to view a number of enlarged stamp designs. I wanted to do that too. And now I was invited to design these stamps! A fantastic assignment, with a lot of freedom regarding content and design.’
Another trip to the moon
To learn more about the subject, Lilian Vos visited the permanent Space Expo space exhibition in Noordwijk. ‘Very impressive,’ she says. ‘Take the tiny Soyuz capsule in which André Kuijpers made his journey to the International Space Station ISS, for example. With the almost tangible burn marks created by the frictional heat when it returned from space. They have a full-size replica of the ISS, with a glass dome overlooking Earth. After this visit, I looked at lots of images about space travel to find out how astronauts experience space. This included watching films about daily life on the ISS, and I also found a picture of the life of everyone on board. I also noticed that the astronauts love going to the dome to look at their home planet. There are beautiful images of the Earth that were taken from the moon, too. Amazing, look at that little blue ball we all live on. Thus, the idea arose to focus the stamp design mainly on the human aspect of space travel. Noordwijk showed that the subject is still alive, among young and old alike. Especially given the ongoing Artemis space programme. Mankind is taking trips to the moon again.’
Innovation and sketches
With the relationship between man and space as a guide, Vos explored PostNL’s request for an innovative stamp sheet: ‘We chose a free form for the stamps. With one missing stamp that we are still looking forward to: the moon. Where the moon stamp would be there is now a punched hole. This unique idea is designed to make people curious, and it’s something we haven’t seen on a stamp sheet before. The design concept emerged pretty quickly, with initial sketches looking very similar to the final design. The subjects were also chosen early on.’
Human and iconic
Each stamp features an illustration directly related to space. ‘The stamps are a representation of reality, which is what makes them so iconic,’ Vos says. ‘To achieve this, I looked closely at what space travel looks like today; with today’s launch vehicles and space capsules. Also pictured are the spacesuits the astronauts will soon wear during spacewalks and on the moon. Including the latest space helmet, which actually shows the astronaut’s face. As you can see from the illustrations, the suits provide way more freedom of movement than they used to during lunar missions. At the time, astronauts could really only hop.’
The stamps also feature illustrations on subjects with significant symbolic value in the world of space travel. Vos: ‘The satellite is featured because of its importance in research and communication. The moonboot is where the human aspect comes in again, as astronauts will soon be taking real steps on the moon. Finally, there’s the stamp with half a globe. Which refers to the iconic photo of the Earthrise, taken from Apollo 8. Thanks to that famous “Earthrise”, mankind saw, for the first time, that our planet truly is part of the universe.’
Travelling to and in space has always captured people’s imagination. This got a new boost with the photos from the Hubble space telescope. ‘And these were joined by images from the James Webb space telescope,’ Vos says. ‘Astonishing space shots with deep blue and copper as dominant colours. These are reflected in the illustrations. I added a warm red to the colour scheme to emphasise the human side. And silver to reflect technology. In each illustration, you will see graphic planes, lines, a copper-coloured ball and a structure of spots with a free organic shape. Like the dots, the spots have different meanings depending on the illustration. For instance, the spots may represent dust particles in space or the composition of the surface of celestial bodies. On the “Earthrise” illustration they symbolise the strings of lights you see from space when looking at big cities. Similar rows of lights also appear in the starry sky on the sheet border. For me, this reaffirms the connection between earth and space. Because everything is interconnected.’
The sheet edge features a sloping illustration of a starry sky. Vos: ‘This illustration is based on a photograph of an actual starry sky. I edited it by replacing the stars with the same spots as the ones you see in the illustrations. At the top right of the starry sky there are nine small pluses. These are a reference to the crosshairs on the flight control centre screens during space flights. Are there any constellations in that starry sky? Maybe.’
About the designer
Lilian Vos (Sittard, 1964) studied graphic design at Maastricht Institute of Arts from 1982 to 1987. After graduating, she worked as a graphic designer for Studio 124 Design in Amsterdam and as a design director for VBAT, also in Amsterdam. In January 2021, she started Amsterdam-based agency Vividblue | Brand design together with Paulien van de Oudeweetering. Vividblue focuses on corporate identities and brand strategy in the broadest sense. The agency creates logos, style elements, websites, annual reports and other publications, among others, and works for clients at both macro and micro level. Vividblue’s clients include Caldic (raw and auxiliary materials for the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics sectors), Kaemingk (supplier of seasonal decorations), PostNL and Royal Cosun (agricultural cooperative).