10 Years of King Willem-Alexander
King Willem-Alexander took office as head of state of the Netherlands on 30 April 2013. To celebrate his 10th anniversary as king, PostNL will issue the 10 years of King Willem-Alexander stamp sheet on 28 April 2023. The five stamps feature pictures that reflect the king’s unifying, representative and encouraging role. The stamp sheet is printed in orange. The sheet border features a large Dutch royal crown made up of iconic quotes from King Willem-Alexander. The texts in the crown match the key words unifying, representing and encouraging that have been printed on the stamps. The design of the stamps was created by studio026 in Velp. A sheet of five stamps costs €5.05.
The 10 years of King Willem-Alexander stamp sheet was designed by Velp-based studio026. The stamps feature cut-outs of pictures taken by various photographers. The original colour photos were edited and printed in orange. The background of the sheet border has the same bright orange colour. Each picture has content related to one of the three key words of King Willem-Alexander’s reign: unifying, encouraging and representing. The sheet border features a large Dutch royal crown constructed typographically from iconic quotes from speeches made by King Willem-Alexander. The quotes continue onto the stamps and connect to the key words printed on them. The number 10 on the background of the sheet border and the contours of the crown have been embossed. The denomination on these stamps is ‘1’, the denomination for items weighing up to 20g destined for the Netherlands. The year in which Willem-Alexander became king was added to the year of issue. The typography of the texts uses the serif font Capitolium 2 (Gerard Unger, 2011) and the sans serif font Futura (Paul Renner, 1927).
On 30 April 2023, it will be 10 years since King Willem-Alexander succeeded his mother Queen Beatrix and became King of the Netherlands. Willem Alexander Claus George Ferdinand (known as Willem-Alexander) was born in 1967 and is the eldest son of Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus. He attended Atlantic College in Wales, worked in the Dutch Navy and studied history in Leiden. The future king served on the board of the International Olympic Committee and worked in international water management. Since taking office in 2013, King Willem-Alexander has formally chaired the Council of State (Raad van State). Over the past 10 years, the king made many hundreds of work visits in the Netherlands and 25 foreign state visits. King Willem-Alexander is married to Queen Máxima. They have three daughters, Princess Catherine-Amalia, Princess Alexia and Princess Ariane. The royal family has lived at Huis ten Bosch palace in the Hague since January 2019. Like his mother before him, King Willem-Alexander uses Noordeinde Palace in the Hague as his working palace.
The design of the 10 years of king Willem-Alexander stamps was created by studio026 in Velp. Anne Schaufeli and Huub de Lang of studio026 previously designed stamps for PostNL with a ‘royal’ touch, the 2022 Juliana of the Netherlands and Het Loo Palacestamp sheets. ‘This assignment was extra special for us, after all it is about the king and his jubilee,’ says Schaufeli. ‘For the anniversary stamps, we wanted to create a design that does justice to his kingship and to his personality. King Willem-Alexander is approachable, open, and enjoys making contact with people. He is a very human king. This is reflected in the way he carries out his duties.’
When developing the concept for the 10 years of King Willem-Alexander stamps, the designers took the concepts of unifying, representing and encouraging as their starting point. Schaufeli: ‘These are the key words that are given on the Royal Household website as a guide to how the king wants to engage with the people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. We used them as criteria for selecting images of defining moments from the past 10 years. We could have decided to show the king in all sorts of official capacities. But we wanted to show the king as he always shows himself: active and engaged. The overview does not represent a 10-year chronological timeline of the king’s reign; it is an ode to how King Willem-Alexander has interpreted it. And is still interpreting it.’
A huge pile of pictures
Schaufeli and De Lang ploughed through a huge pile of pictures to find five moments that stood out. ‘The concept was leading, which helped us make a selection,’ Schaufeli explains. ‘SO many photos have been taken. We wanted to use the photo of the King’s Games to highlight the unifying aspect. The King’s Games are very important to him. The picture shows the king having breakfast with primary school pupils in Lemmer in 2019. Unifying is also the motto of the photo of the work visit to Saint Martin in 2013. King Willem-Alexander plays an important role in maintaining ties with the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. The king’s encouraging role is again evident in the picture taken during a work visit to the Netherlands Institute of Ecology in Wageningen in 2022. King Willem-Alexander has a passion for engineering and science. This picture shows that he is actively involved in current developments.’
The pictures of the so-called ‘Speech from the Throne’ in 2022 and of the state visit to Indonesia in 2020 reflect King Willem-Alexander’s representative role. Schaufeli: ‘While the Speech from the Throne is a formal event, it is an important part of his duties as a monarch, so it should not be left out. The stamp featuring the state visit to Indonesia also highlights his representative role. Moreover, it is a beautiful, human, affectionate picture of the king and queen together. By placing this stamp in the centre, we were able to let the typography continue upwards and embrace the crown above it.’
The three key words were placed on the stamps using a layered font that casts a drop shadow across the pictures. ‘It looks like they are embossed. It makes the words come alive,’ Schaufeli explains. ‘That took some doing. We wanted the typography to have a clear presence, but it should not clash with the portrait of the king and the situation in which he was photographed. We solved this by adding more white to the image and more shadows to the letters, and also by working with transparency in both the typography and the image. As a result, each stamp is composed of many different graphic layers. We kept going until we achieved the desired result.’
The characterisation of King Willem-Alexander as a real human being was emphasised by using quotes from speeches on the sheet border. Schaufeli: ‘On the stamps, you see images of how the king gives substance to his work as a monarch. We do the same on the sheet border, but using his own words. They are iconic quotes, for example from the much talked-about and praised speech at Dam Square on 4 May 2020. It was a very personal, open speech. We cast these quotes into a king’s crown, which covers the border of the sheet. They are jubilee stamps, so we went to town. The crown again refers to the royal connection of these jubilee stamps. By linking the quotes in the crown to the key words on the stamps, an overall picture is created that reflects Willem-Alexander’s work as a monarch. Putting together the typography of the quotes and key words was a painstaking task. Both the bands of the crown’s arcs and the letters, which were used in multiple sizes, were inserted by hand, letter by letter. We did not want to automate this process because it would make the whole thing feel artificial. It had to be much more refined than that.’
Classic and modern
The photographs used were originally in colour, and Schaufeli and De Lang converted them to monochrome orange. Schaufeli: ‘By working with just one colour, you are tying pictures from different photographers in different situations together. Orange can be dull, so we chose a bright orange that really pops. We used embossing in the sheet border background, which makes this issue feel extra special. Embossing is a unique printing technique that makes parts of your design stand out. All this put together reinforces the concept, giving the design stature and poise, while at the same time being modern. So it is classic on the one hand and contemporary on the other. Just like the king.’
About the designer
studio026 is a graphic design studio in Velp, consisting of Anne Schaufeli (1987, Warnsveld) and Huub de Lang (1980, Arnhem). Both studied at ArtEZ University of the Arts in Arnhem from 2004 to 2008. Since 2009, the agency has focused on designs that are conceptually, editorially and aesthetically sound. The agency’s graphic designers believe in conceptual thinking and take plenty of time and space for research, experiments and innovation. Anne Schaufeli and Huub de Lang designed the Juliana of the Netherlands (2022), Het Loo palace (2022), The Netherlands from the Air (2022), Historic Motorcycles (2021), Old postal routes(2020) and 150 years of the Red Cross in the Netherlands (2017) stamps for PostNL.