13 November 2006
Corporate Identity and Orientation System
Corporate Identity and Orientation System

This week's feature highlights one submission from Worldwide Identity, by RL Peters. It offers a deeper story of design development, branding, and identity construction. Studio Ständige Vertretung developed the identity for the Berlin-Schönefeld Flughafen Airport. Nick Kapica, one of the art directors for the project, agreed to divulge more details about this project in an email interview with Icograda's Communication Intern, Brooke van Mossel-Forrester.

We were particularly interested in the unusual evolution of the Ständige Vertretung studio which their founder, Nick Kapica, describes as follows:

"I moved from London to Berlin in 1989, just after the Berlin wall fell. It was my intention to live in Berlin for a year and observe the changes in the city. Like many others I was absorbed into the city itself and, 16 years later, I am still here. Shortly after arriving in Berlin I met Tim Richter and together we founded the first Techno club in East Berlin, called St ndige Vertretung. Shortly after the club opened, many other clubs were founded, and soon the project that started for fun was becoming a serious business. Seeing an increasing opportunity to produce publicity material for the other clubs, we closed our club down and began the Studio Ständige Vertretung (SV). Flyer magazine, Tresor and E-werk were amongst our first clients and were the mechanism to get the studio known. The studio at this time was more of a cooperative than a company, but studio members changed and SV became known to a wider client base. The techno mini magazine 'flyer' that we were producing, and my previous experience with The Independent in London, got us a job creating an airport magazine for the Berlin Airport Authority. At the same time plans were being made for the first 'Karneval der Kulturen', and the studio was approached to develop the identity because someone working on the project knew us from the 'scene'. Both the Berlin Airport Authority and the 'Karneval der Kulturan' have continued to work with the studio and consequently introduced us to other clients.

Tim Richter left the Berlin studio in 1998 and moved back to Sydney, where he established SV02. He concentrated on moving images and was responsible for the on-screen graphics in the Matrix films. In 2000 I was able to attract Andrew Lawrence from London to Berlin. He made the transition of working for 'Imagination', one of Londons largest design offices, to one of Berlin's smallest. We had studied together at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication so our individual understanding of design was very much aligned. Ilka Kapica also took over the management of the studio from me, which was a good thing for everyone, enabling projects to be completed within budget, and for me to concentrate on the quality of the design we were producing. While myself and Andrew are both from England, it was a pleasant surprise for us to be one of the 'German' entries in the book 'Worldwide Identity,' as we were both educated at a college that took its inspiration from Ulm, where we were introduced to a modernist German/Swiss approach to design."

With such a unique history, it is no wonder that SV had the skills required to redevelop Berlin Airport's image.

"The Airport approached various design companies in Berlin with a design brief and requested a bid and design proposal. It turned out that our presentation was more thorough and explored more possibilities than the competition. We won the competition and were given the contract to develop the identity and to implement various stages of the project."

Studio Ständige Vertretung draws upon a wide variety of outside skills to successfully create various corporate identities, orientation systems, exhibition design, interior design, posters, interactive design and moving images. For example, "an exhibition designed for the Bank for International Settlements in Basel required that filmmakers, musicians, designers, architects and writers all work together. It is important then that the full time studio partner keep each area informed and communicating with the others. As the projects become more diverse the function of a full time member working with different associates who have specific skills becomes increasingly important."

For the Berlin Brandenburg Airport however, "all the team members had the necessary skills to complete this project. It required an understanding and knowledge of wayfinding, research techniques, spatial design, de-coding and history of signs and symbols, legibility as well as typography, icons design/drawing and colour theory."

The Berlin Airport design team was broken down into several positions: project leader, full-time studio partner, part-time project manager, design assistants and studio manager. Nick described how these positions related to one another in order to develop a successful identity:

"The project leader oversaw the whole project and kept in close contact with the client via regular weekly meetings, making presentations, explaining ideas and approving budgets. All ideas were first presented and discussed in full with the leader. He would instigate work flow, join in with design concepts and help with generating ideas and visualizing. The project leader was also in charge of other projects at the same time, whereas the studio partner and the project manager were focused mainly on the airport project.

"The part-time project manager attended meetings with the client, acted as a mediator, planned deadlines and stages in the design schedule and oversaw the production. The part-time project manager also liaised with production companies, supplied offers and researched possible suppliers.

"The full-time studio partner was responsible mainly for the creative side of the project, allocating work to assistants, implementing design concepts, drawing icons, developing the logotype, organizing team meetings where decisions would be made regarding typographic and colour choices and general development. The full-time studio partner was also responsible for preparing work for presentations, preparing artwork and overseeing production.

"The studio manager worked on all the studio s projects at the same time, coordinating, organising finances, budgets and general office work."

This team completely overhauled the Berlin Airport's visual identity, developing both a new name and a new orientation system.

"Our competition proposal included a suggestion to shorten the existing name 'Berlin-Schönefeld Flughafen' to 'Berlin SXF'. Although the client was very positive about this proposal, the political implications were too large and pressure came to develop a name incorporating the state Brandenburg. Various proposals were explored until finally a name was decided upon that maintained the SXF idea with the addition of 'Berlin Brandenburg Airport'. The benefit here was that it enables the Airport to smoothly transition to 'Berlin Brandenburg International' in some years when the planned new airport is completed."

"Transition was an important aspect of the design, as we wanted a solution that could be animated because airports are all about movement. We were also aware that the identity had a limited life span because a new airport was already planned therefore we 'built-in' the possibility for the SXF identity to transition into the new airports identity."

"The aim was to produce a sign system that would be as clean and uncluttered as possible, to contrast with the rather chaotic environment. Simple, bold, striking sign boxes without frames, creating clean, smooth lines. Budget played a key role, we needed to produce signage that required no additional lighting but worked with the ambient light of the terminal environment. The boxes were custom designed, worked on a meter module system and were produced locally. The boxes looked good, had a certain quality about them, yet were relatively cheap to produce, required no electrics and were therefore quick and cheap to install, and easy to maintain."

The aesthetic of the chosen fonts is continued throughout the entire design and orientation system, an aspect that makes the whole identity cohesive. Nick describes the harmony created between the images, the dot matrix font and the complimenting Foundry Sterling font:

"Various colour combinations were presented before yellow and blue were decided upon, various typefaces were also put forward. Our favourite was the newly designed typeface Foundry Sterling font, which is friendly, very readable, flexible and modern looking. Once Foundry Sterling was agreed upon we needed to design a series of icons or pictograms that worked in harmony with the font. Foundry Sterling has soft lines and is quite curvy so the pictograms reflected this, creating a unity between the font and the icon. Tests were conducted to determine the optimal size of pictogram and typesize."

"Dot matrix fonts provided us with way to animate. Once a particular dot matrix font was finally chosen, it was decided that we would re-draw our own matrix of dots, which had the added benefit of allowing us to create other elements from the same matrix, giving a unified look. Dots had positive associations for the airport, runway lamps, a dynamic, modern and sexy look. The dots could also be animated easily and formed a very flexible design system."

The images above illustrate this smooth continuity between font and graphics, which Nick Kapica and his team at Studio Ständige Vertretung worked hard to maintain. For more samples of design identity, please browse our other features or visit our online galeria.

For more information, contact:

Nick Kapica
SV (Ständige Vertretung)
Aufgang A, Köpenicker Strasse 48/49
Berlin, Germany
T: +49 30 30 87 28 18
F: +49 30 2 79 59 02