Europa - Peace, The Highest Value of Humanity
NB: Orders containing Stamp Booklet will be delayed.
The cooperating postal companies in Europe have been issuing stamps with a common theme for over 65 years. In 2002, a design competition was introduced for the creation of this issue: the EUROPA Stamp Best Design Competition. The competition is organised by PostEurop, the organisation in which all of the European national postal operators collaborate. Originally the theme for the 2023 common European stamp issue by all postal services was ‘underwater world’. Because of the war in Ukraine, PostEurop, the organisation in which Europe’s national postal operators collaborate, made a different choice during 2022. The underwater topic was moved to 2024 and the new theme became ‘Peace - the highest value of humanity.’ PostNL decided to publish the Peace, the highest value of humanity stamp sheet on 9 May 2023. The stamps are marked ‘Internationaal 1', the denomination for items up to 20g in weight destined for delivery outside of the Netherlands. A sheet of six stamps costs €9.90.
The United Nations Charter sets out the main principles for international relations. These principles are the sovereign equality of states, the prohibition of the use of force in international relations and the basic human rights of all. To this end, a variety of objectives have been formulated, the first of which relates to maintaining international peace and security. To achieve this, the United Nations may take joint measures to prevent and eliminate threats to the peace and suppress acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace. Other United Nations objectives relate to:
o the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples
o co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character
o harmonising the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.
Just like in 2016, PostEurop decided to prescribe a common design motif for the 2023 issue. This means there are two competitions attached to this year’s stamp issue. The 1st, for the design motif, took place in 2022. The 2nd is the EUROPA Stamp Best Design Competition for all stamps that incorporate this design motif.
PostNL’s Peace, the highest value of humanity stamps feature Post Luxembourg’s winning design motif: colourful infinity knots linked together in a double heart shape. The knots end in stylised intertwined hands. The colour palette used symbolises all the nations of the world. According to PostEurop’s jury report, the motif is a visual metaphor for a peaceful society in which cooperation with respect for each other's culture takes centre stage. The design of the Dutch stamp sheet was created by Bart de Haas from the Hague.
The typography of the texts uses the Nobel font, designed by Sjoerd Hendrik de Roos (1877-1962) and Dick Dooijes (1909-1998) for the Lettergieterij Amsterdam between 1932 and 1935. In 1993, Andrea Fuchs and Fred Smeijers released a digital version for Dutch Type Library (DTL). This is the version that was used for the stamp sheet.
In 2022, PostEurop launched a competition for the mandatory common design theme ‘Peace – the highest value of humanity.’ Post Luxembourg’s winning entry was created by Linda Bos and Runa Egilsdottir of A Designers Collective. All participating countries must incorporate this motif in their own stamp design, supplemented by their own postage value, country of issue and other postal information.
The design of the Dutch version of the Peace, the highest value of humanity stamp sheet was created by Bart de Haas from the Hague. He incorporated Post Luxembourg’s design motif into the Dutch stamps and gave it his own twist with, among other things, the typography and the design of the sheet edge. Using the work of other designers was not difficult in the case of this motif, De Haas explains. ‘On behalf of PostNL, I had also submitted a proposal for the design motif. Our entry and Post Luxembourg's were actually very similar. They both had a predominantly graphic character, with the same principles of interconnection, colourfulness and universal values. There were also similarities in the form, such as the diagonal orientation with infinite knots, hands and heart shapes. Even the colour palette was almost identical.’
The design motif on the Peace, the highest value of humanity stamps consists of a colourful infinity knot whose corners have been replaced with intertwined hands. ‘The knot has been interwoven in such a way that it creates two hearts,’ says De Haas. ‘The infinity knot is an ancient and universal motif. Also called the Celtic knot, it denotes connection, harmony and compassion. The illustration uses primary and complementary colours, with the colour pairs red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange. The multicoloured nature of the illustration is a reference to diversity and cooperation between peoples. The word complementary pretty much says it all: you complement each other. The open hands, also intertwined, form a familiar gesture of peace.’
After various experiments, De Haas decided to let thin lines that are based on the infinite knots return at the bottom and the top of the sheet border. De Haas: ‘I divided the sheet border into vertical strips by extending the perforations with gradient colour bands. In these bands, diagonal hairlines transition into circular shapes. The light blue, orange and green of the bands are based on the shades of the colours on the stamps. They are also graduated to create more three-dimensionality. The light blue bands run down the sides to nicely blend in with the dark blue of the Priority logo. The light blue also has a colour gradient on the stamps and on the tabs, but on the stamps it is horizontal and on the tabs it is vertical. This creates a lattice, just like the infinity knot on the stamps.’
Clear and crisp
For the typography on the stamps and the text on the edge of the sheet, De Haas chose the Nobel font. ‘It’s a Dutch letter from the 1930s. Clear and lovely and crisp. This adds a nice contrast to the soft gradient in the background colours. Also, the name of the font is the same as that of Alfred Nobel, the man the Nobel Peace Prize was named after. The clarity of the letter also matches the content of the text on the sheet border. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes no bones about its purpose. It tells you exactly what those rights are.’
About the designer
Bart de Haas (1966, The Hague) graduated from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. After working for several design agencies, he established himself as an independent graphic and typographic designer in 1993. He has a strong preference for book design, but has also designed posters, magazines, websites and visual identities in the past. Bart de Haas has designed books for Huis Marseille in Amsterdam, the Army Museum Delft, nai010 publishers, Brill publishers, de Buitenkant, Clio, SUN, THOTH, Vantilt, W-Books and Waanders, among others. For PostNL, he previously created the Underwater landscapes (2021-2023) and Primeval Species stamp series (2021-2023) and the stamps for Snaarinstrumenten (2022), Dutch castles (2017), Apple and pear varieties in the Netherlands (2016), National musical instruments (2014) and Long live the woods! (2010).