Robin Uleman series of stamps for PostNL celebrate the 100 year anniversary of NOC*NSF (Netherlands Olympic Committee * Netherlands Sports Confederations).
There are ten different designs, all at Dutch post value 1 – for letters up to 200 grams, from 1964 Olympic champion skater Sjoukje Dijkstra to 1988 rowing gold medalist Nico Rienks.
We asked Uleman about the brief: “For the design I chose to focus on the experience and emotions of Dutch Olympic champions while playing their sport. Experience and emotion is something the recreational sportsman has in common with the champion. The 'pro' gets the medals, the 'am' probably not. But the pleasure, the passion and, sometimes, the pain is probably shared. On top of that, these heroes serve as role models to inspire others to take up a sport too. That's why I didn't use any pictures of cheering champions at the awards ceremony or right after winning the game, but to portray them in the act instead. One face shows strain and effort, the other reveals concentration and perseverance.
There were, of course, general guidelines in order to design a valid stamp, like the little angle in the bottom right corner used for scanning in the logistic process and the clear validation '1' on each stamp. This led me to the idea of actually using it both as a validation mark and as a reference to the gold medal. Apart from that, there were a few subject specific guidelines. For example, I wasn't allowed to use the Olympic rings, not even in a subtle way by allusion. This is due to international guidelines issued by the International Olympic Committee, which the NOC*NSF has to adhere to - a pity, but also interesting, because there are other ways to strike the Olympic chords. So I gave the Olympic colour palette a theatrical twist and the spotlight in the back framing the champion in action has a circular shape. And of course the typefaces ITC Machine and Foundry Gridnik have a bold freshness to them and refer to type used on sports clothing and game displays.”
Uleman’s images come from the long-established Dutch news agency ANP and photo agency Hollandse Hoogte. “I had quite a lot of freedom in selecting and arranging the type of sports and medal winners. Of course this series doesn't pretend to give a complete overview of a hundred years, that's simply not possible. Not least because the photographs that suited my concept — the ones taken in action with a lot of gesture and facial expression on display — are hard to find in any stock shot before World War II. However I tried to present a nice slice of the sports the Netherlands are generally good at, also bearing in mind that this series had to inspire for the future. I also wanted these ten stamps to go from past to present while at the same time working as an overall composition. More precisely, the selection of images was an essential part of the design process: all the decisions made, like which picture would go where and how to crop them when juxtaposed to each other, determined the outcome of the overall design.”
Amid the pageantry of last Friday’s opening ceremony, entitled Isles of Wonder, could be seen hundreds of dancers wearing costumes created by three upcoming East London based designers, including Michael van der Ham. The designers were chosen by Suttirat Larlab, Creative Director of the Olympic opening ceremony to fit with the vision of the Artistic Director, the filmmaker Danny Boyle. With a signature style of mismatching colours and patterns, Van der Ham’s designs were ideally suited to the jumble of cultural references alluded to in the almost four hour showcase.
With regard to the inspiration for the outfits, Van der Ham said: “ I loved the way Danny and Suttirat wanted to focus on individuality within the ceremony and therefore the 250 plus costumes are divided up in to so many different designs and fabrications. Rather than uniformed dance costumes, I basically collaged together references in each look that had to do with youth culture: striped jersey t-shirts, polo shirts, denim pencil skirts: really, everyday garments. But those are fused and mixed with elements of party dressing (as it was a party scene). Those elements include sequinned dresses, ruffled silhouettes, brocades and draped details. All those elements collided together meant that all the pieces were completely different from one another.”
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