Gustav Almestål by Bedow, Sweden2 October,2017
Opinion by Richard Baird
Gustav Almestål is a Swedish still life photographer who has built an extensive, high-profile and international client list that includes the likes of Electrolux, Wall Street Journal and Hermes. He now works from Stockholm, following several years in London, on projects that range from advertising and editorial to food and interiors.
The design of Gustav Almestål’s visual identity, which rested in the hands of Scandinavian design studio Bedow, touches upon his personal and innovative approach, use of light and shadow, and his frequent reference to enduring still life themes and historical art. These are expressed through a distinctive and individual monogram, its sculptural and dimensional qualities, an unusual multi-coloured foil, the chiseled serifs of Portrait and the broad monospacing of sans-serif Heimat Mono.
Gustav Almestål’s work is described as being innovative and personal with a keen sense of detail—evident in the subtle reference to historical art and still life themes—and often brings a multi-dimensional quality to his images. He elevates the everyday through arrangement, light and shadow, and a frequent use of contrast, be that through colour, form, or in the juxtaposition of object and context. Check out more of his work here.
There are just a few graphic elements that make up Gustav Almestål’s visual identity, and a distinctive material detail in printing. Although these are rooted in the layered and nuanced context of the photographer’s work the initial impression given is one of a unique, quirky and creative character.
The authorship that runs throughout Gustav Almestål’s portfolio is conveyed through a monogram, a symbol which has its roots in craftsmanship and the arts. Its reference to light and shade, an important and fundamental component of photography, the sculptural and dimensional qualities of its rendering, a nod to still life, and the subtle blackletter / carved stone qualities, a historical cue, draw a lot of equity from what is also a simple yet satisfying union of letters.
There is personality and idiosyncrasy in the angular lines and balance of monogram, and a neat duality, much like Gustav Almestål’s own work, in the addition of the shadow “a”. This is well-rendered. Neatly avoids gradients and although there is a slight liberty taken in the creation of the “a” the effect and relationship between letters is clear.
The ideas present feel intelligible, given time and consideration, but the initial stylistic impression, the smile in the mind moment, is memorable and distinctive, defying Scandinavia simplicity or the neutral frame often employed by photographers. This continues through to logotype.
The themes of art and craftsmanship, inherent to monograms, and the classical art references that run throughout Gustav Almestål’s work, also seem to be explored in the choice of Commercial Type’s Portrait Condensed Regular, a typeface of triangular serifs and extremely condensed forms. Not only is its selection grounded in the subtext that proliferates much of the photographer’s work, but like the monogram, delivers strong individual character. Gustav Almestål and his images, even for large corporations, are inseparable, so strategically, the prominence and overt personality of visual identity feels appropriate.
This sense of idiosyncratic character is also articulated materially in the use of a variety of multi-coloured foils. There is an interesting tension between what is an enduring and historical printing technique and the more recent innovations and variety in foil production. Again and thoughtfully, there are layers worked into a single and simple graphic expression.
The monospaced characters and broad spacing of Atlas Font Foundry’s Heimat Mono introduces significant contrast to the irregular carved forms of the monogram, the cheerful colour of foil, and the triangular serifs of Portrait. Where the former articulate character and craft, Heimat Mono is methodical, mechanical and impersonal. This introduces a further layer and dual expression to the typographical components of visual identity, perhaps one that touches upon the technical aspect of photography. This stylistic difference, while having visual impact, serves to enhance and make acute the communicative agenda of visual identity.
Other highlights include how logotype intersects and runs over photography rather than framing it online. An animated rendering of the monogram which sees the shadow move and really drives home the principles of object and lighting. Also, the more edgy relationship between fine type and heavy black underlines, and the juxtaposition of colourful foil, and a more classical cream substrate.
The result, in its simplicity and character, delivers impact in form, colour and creativity, and is memorable, relevant and smart in the layered and nuanced visual language it employs, and the relationship this has with Gustav Almestål’s work. More work by Bedow on BP&O.
What do you think of Bedow’s work for Gustav Almestål. Share your thoughts in the comment section below or get the conversation started on Twitter. Never want to miss a post? Sign up to BP&O’s once-weekly newsletter here.
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