Sweden Enlists Söderhavet to Design A National Typeface

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How do you brand a country? A hard task, to say the least. Hot on the tails of Bobby’s post on Norway’s exceptional passport and currency design, another country has been catching the eye’s of designers: Sweden. This year, Stockholm-based design firm, Söderhavet, took on the challenge of reimagining their home country’s identity. The whole package is clean, modern, and oozes Scandinavia, but to me the most important part of which is the typeface they designed. It’s about time countries start putting more emphasis on type to aid in creating a national identity, because the ones that have done so in the past (Switzerland) have come to see phenomenal results.

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Nations are most quickly recognizable through their anthems, music, and food. But perhaps most important to a nation’s identity is the flag. There’s an old saying in design that specifically relates to branding, “if it works in black, it will work in color.” Yet, apply this to most flags and you’re left with unrecognizable monochrome results. This won’t do, there needs to be more to a country’s look. In redesigning Sweden’s image, Söderhavet went a step beyond and created a national typeface inspired by Swedish signs of the 1950s. They named that typeface “Sweden Sans”, a modern, geometric sans serif font.

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“Aesthetics are very important in Sweden and we have a long tradition of great architecture, furniture and design – so this was the natural next step,” said type designer Stefan Hattenbach of Söderhavet, who worked on the font. “It was a big responsibility to be representing our country, but we were really proud to be asked.”

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To create the typeface, the designers started with the Swedish flag. “We started to think about how it would work with different typefaces, then started mood boards with different fonts and pictures—especially of old Swedish signs we’d seen from the 1940s and 50s,” says Jesper Robinell, Söderhavet’s head of design. Six months later they were left with the clean, classic, minimal typeface that reflects Sweden. Little touches, like the capital Q’s tail pointing downward instead of slanting to the right, add a touch of modernity and originality to the concept.

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Not only did the team capture the look of Sweden, but they also captured the nation’s attitude. One of my favorite words in Swedish is lagom, meaning ‘not too much and not too little,’ something in the middle of being content. It’s a word, that as far as I have come to understand, more or less reflects the attitude of Sweden’s people. Hattenbach explains that, “lagom is what we’ve aimed for with Sweden Sans… It’s all about Scandinavian minimalism. If they notice the typeface too much, it hasn’t worked.” Success, if you ask me.

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Sweden is far from the first country to employ a national font because Switzerland has been doing so since the 60s. Their branding goes beyond an emblem, a color, or a national dish, but is instead immersed into the writing and language of the nation. What am I talking about? Helvetica, of course.

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Helvetica comes from Helvetia, the female national personification of the Swiss Confederation, and is an integral component of the International Typographic Style that swept the face of 20th-century graphic design. From train timetables to bank notes, the Swiss have accepted and employed this clean, simple character set with great success. Not only does it concisely reflect the nation’s identity, but it is recognized and used worldwide, working the front lines of Switzerland’s soft power.

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So, how do you brand a country? As Söderhavet and Switzerland have taught us, you need to think beyond a flag or colors. Consider application, as it’s your best means to having the concept used, remembered, and adopted by citizens.

You can find Sweden Sans for download here, as well as guidelines for working with the Swedish brand.

Nick Partyka

December 2, 2014 / By

The Carry On Cocktail Brings Proper Drinks Back To Flying

Carry On Cocktail

It certainly feels like the glamorous days of flying are over. Free checked bags are history, seats are getting smaller inch by inch, and the food is certainly never going to get better. Thankfully W & P Design and Punch have teamed up to create the Carry On Cocktail, perhaps the cure to inflight mediocrity.

Carry On Cocktail

The kit contains a recipe card, bitters, sugar, a combination spoon & muddler, and to class things up even further, a linen napkin. And because you’re plane bound everything was designed to meet FAA regulations, so there’s no fear of a cranky agent dropping your stash in the trash.

Bobby Solomon

December 2, 2014 / By

Add Some Color to Your Life with Unique Hand-painted Ceramics by Martinich and Carran

Martinich and Carran - 1 Small Dish

Martinich and Carran - 1 Small Dish

Typically I like things that are simple, minimalist and restrained but every now and again I’ll see something like these amazing dishes by Martinich and Carran and realize I might just need to get a little more fun back into my life. Hand painted and finished with a gloss apoxy resin, these are a real celebration of color and they’re bound to liven up any dining room or kitchen.

Martinich and Carran - 1 Small Dish

Hand-painted by Rowena Martinich, each dish is made from high fired stoneware and each one is a unique one-off piece. Often blurring the boundaries between art and design, Martinich and Carran are a Melbourne-based duo who work both independently and collaboratively. If you haven’t guessed from the work here, both of them have a strong interest in color!

Martinich and Carran - 1 Small Dish

These dishes are available to buy from the Martinich and Carran shop.

Philip Kennedy

December 1, 2014 / By

Lladro & Friends With You Create A Series of Irresistible X-mas Ornaments

Lladro & Friends With You Create A Series of Irresistible X-mas Ornaments

Lladro & Friends With You Create A Series of Irresistible X-mas Ornaments

Friends With You, the art collectivex of super minimal, yet maximally cute beings, have teamed up with Spanish porcelain makers Lladro to create a series of X-mas ornaments that make the occasion more contemporary. I’m partial to the tree toppers personally, especially the beautiful white and golden versions, though the whole collection is downright adorable.

You can view the collection here.

Bobby Solomon

December 1, 2014 / By

Flawed One World Trade Center Is a Cautionary Tale

Flawed 1 World Trade Center Is a Cautionary Tale

New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman takes the design and concept of the new World Trade Center building to task, disappointed by the lack of vision for such an important New York building/monument.

Instead, the building, built as if on a dare to be the tallest, required unprecedented fortifications at astronomical costs, on an immensely difficult site. Mr. Childs faced a nearly impossible task: devising a tower at once somber and soaring, open and unassailable, dignified but not dull. He envisioned an elaborate antenna and a tapered base. Both ideas were vetoed, among much else. The building didn’t end up exactly as the architect pictured it. Few buildings do. I’m not sure that the differences are what tipped the scale.

Uninspired and more like a bank vault than a space for culture to thrive. As Kimmelman rightly points out, this “idea was brushed aside by the political ambitions of former Gov. George E. Pataki of New York, a Republican, and the commercial interests of Larry Silverstein, the developer with a controlling stake at the site, among other forces pressing for a mid-20th-century complex of glass towers surrounding a plaza.” Missed opportunity.

Bobby Solomon

December 1, 2014 / By

Norway Leads In Governmental Design with New Designs for Passports and Banknotes

Norwegian Banknote by Snøhetta

Designing for a government, such a massive, headless beast, seems like the ultimate challenge. I’d imagine the bureaucracy to make true change would be incredibly difficult, though there’s one country that’s pushing the boundaries of design where few other countries have ventured forth. I’m speaking of Norway, the northeast of northern nations who is bucking the trend of boring design.

In the last month Norway has updated the designs of both their passports and their currency, getting the sort of loving redesign that we all wish we could give to our place of origin. For their new banknotes they’ve chosen to create a unique blend of styles, with the design firm The Metric System offering a more traditional front (below), and a pixelated back created by Snøhetta (above), who are most well known for their architecture and interior design projects.

Norwegian Banknote by The Metric System

The first of the new notes will be issued in 2017 at the earliest. I’m looking forward to seeing how the general public responds to the designs, and if it’s positive, that we see a ripple effect happen across many other currencies.

Norwegian Passport design by Neue

If that wasn’t enough they’ve also decided to give their passports a facelift. There are three unique colors for each of the passport types: a pink-ish tomato for citizens, a beautiful jewel tone teal for diplomats, and a crisp, clean white for immigrants. While the covers may be minimal the inside pages feature an illustration of the Norwegian landscape. What’s more, when you hold the pages under a black light the scenery lights up with a representation of the Northern Lights.

Norwegian Passport design by Neue

Norwegian Passport design by Neue

Bobby Solomon

December 1, 2014 / By

London Fields Soap Company Package Design by One Darnley Road

London Fields Soap Company Package Design by One Darnley Road

London based design agency One Darnley Road have made bar soap sexy, which in my mind is quite a challenge. Thinking of bar soaps I’m reminded of craft fairs, or worse, the sickly green lumps of Irish Spring soap, which to me look more like industrial cleaning products. With their project for the London Fields Soap Company they’ve wrapped the bars in beautiful geometric patterns that melts away any ideas of “bad craft”, bringing a truly contemporary vibe to the natural looking bars. The inspiration for these patterns comes from the location of their factory in Hackney, London, where there’s a history of fabric making and weaving.

The East End of London has a long tradition of textile design and manufacturing, including Warner & Sons, who were working in the fabric trade in Spitalfields since the early eighteenth-century, and who had a reputation for excellent weaving work of both traditional and modern patterns – through to the twentieth century. We drew on the visual grammar of craft as a way to define this new brand.

You can see more by visiting One Darnley Roads website.

London Fields Soap Company Package Design by One Darnley Road

London Fields Soap Company Package Design by One Darnley Road

Bobby Solomon

November 18, 2014 / By

The Fox Is Black UK Adventure

The Fox Is Black UK Adventure

Every now and then I have some amazing opportunities offered to me and my upcoming week is no exception. Thanks to the fine folks of Jameson whiskey I’m wandering about Ireland for the next few days spending time meeting local artisans, trying my hands at leather crafting and glass blowing, and of course drinking fine whiskey. I’ll be sharing a few posts about the experience on here though my Instagram will probably be updated the most.

I’ll also be spending a few days in London this weekend so I’m thinking it could be great to do a TFIB Bar Meet-Up somewhere in the city. More information to come!

Bobby Solomon

November 17, 2014 / By

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