There is—literally—a man behind the design of the post office in Pieter Brattinga’s (1931-2004) De Man Achter de Vormgeving van de P.T.T. This poster is for a 1960 exhibition by the Dutch postal service, the PTT (then the Staatsbedrijf der Posterijen, Telegrafie en Telefonie; now the Koninklijke PTT Nederland). The PTT, founded in the nineteenth century, has promoted contemporary art since the 1920s through stamp designs and by sponsoring exhibitions. To create this poster, Brattinga innovatively used printing technology to create a layered design. Brattinga used the image of a man as the base of his design. Over that, he printed a translucent layer of white ink, using it to create a pattern with PTT logo above the exhibition title and to convey exhibition details below the title. Brattinga then emphasized the exhibition title by overprinting in a bold red. This poster is characteristic of Brattinga’s work, which balances his design aesthetic with the clear presentation of information.
De Man Achter de Vormgeving van de P.T.T. is just one example of how Brattinga was able to meld aesthetic harmony with commercial design. Brattinga learned printing at an early age in his grandfather’s printing company, and his upbringing in both art and printing made him a highly effective mediator between printers and clients. Brattinga manipulated techniques used during and after World War II to create his designs. As a result of wartime shortages, some printers began overprinting basic colors to create a range of colors while saving ink. They also adopted rotary presses and used offset lithographic printing in lieu of traditional lithography. In this particular design, Brattinga plays with layering as the basis of his design concept.
Brattinga is a main figure in both postwar Dutch graphic design and the illustrious history of Dutch printing. His distinctive approach to printing technology has had a major influence on contemporary graphic design.