Starting at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Dutch Postal Services strove for fine designs for all their activities; it was the first state-owned enterprise to pursue such a policy. Stamps played an important role in this respect, together with advertisements, mailboxes and furniture. Jean François van Royen, a man of many talents, is credited with initiating this policy. He was of the opinion that the state ought to play an active, educating role in society, particularly with regard to design.
In 1904, J.F. van Royen joined the Dutch Postal Services and, after a lightning career, he rose to the position of General Secretary of the Central Board in 1918. He also became a skilled printer of bibliophile publications, as evidenced by the books printed and published by his privately owned companies Kunera Pers and Zilverdistel. In addition to his high position with the Dutch Postal Services, he was on the board of many art committees and artists associations.
Out of his love of typography, J.F. van Van Royen took an active interest in the stamps the Dutch Postal Services issued. Thanks to his efforts, many leading artists became directly or indirectly involved in creating designs for stamps. Some time after his death in 1944, the Dutch Postal Services’ design policy attained official status with the creation of the Dienst (A)Esthetische Vormgeving (Esthetic Design Department), later to be called Kunst & Vormgeving PTT (Postal Services Art and Design), which was closed down in 2002.