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Design: Studio Dumbar (NL)


On January 1st 1989, the house style for the newly-privatised Dutch postal service ‘PTT Post’ was launched. The new identity, designed by Studio Dumbar, was part of an integrated design scheme for the holding company Royal PTT Netherlands (KPN) and its Post and Telecom divisions.

The logotype of PTT Post was composed of the letters ‘P T T’ in a modified Univers 65 typeface set in white, within a red square box. Adjoining the box was a rectangle with the division title and a row of five dots, that suggested the postal process, or the perforation of stamps. Although this typographical logo is rather rigid and unremarkable, it was the fulcrum of a celebrated corporate identity scheme.

Studio Dumbar specified that the house style did not have to be applied dogmatically and unimaginatively, provided that the design of the items in question met the highest professional standards. They explained that it was not the logotype that formed the main component of the corporate design, but the basic shapes derived from it: the lines, dots and squares. The resulting patterns resembled some-thing of De Stijl; and the different geometric extrapolations decorated post offices, parcels, vehicles, trains, brochures and uniforms.

Over the years, the playfulness of the PTT Post identity would evoke equal measures of admiration and criticism. Some saw the designs as little more than empty decoration, whilst others celebrated its graphic vitality and anarchy. According to design critic Rick Poynor: “The identity’s presence as an ordinary part of life, encountered wherever you turn, contributes to a culture of possibility in which other kinds of freedom and experimentation can also flourish.”

In 1998, the telecommunications market in Europe was deregulated. KPN was split, with its Post and Telecom divisions continuing as separate independent entities. With both companies requiring new distinct identities, the pioneering house style of PTT Post was dropped. Studio Dumbar, who were once again chosen for the mammoth task, discarded much of its predecessor’s playfulness and created a simpler design solution that was noted for consistency rather than adventure.

Unbelievably, considering its long commitment to the patronage of design, the Dutch postal services has undergone three rebrands since 1998: from ‘TPG Post’ (2002) to ‘TNT Post’ (2006) and ‘PostNL’ (2011).

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