Opinion by Richard Baird Posted 2 February 2017
Structure is an exhibition of Norwegian contemporary crafts and design that began its European journey at Milan Design Week in April 2017 and is currently being held at Norwegische Botschaft in Berlin until April 2017. The exhibition features the work of 26 designers and studios, and covers a variety of products and prototypes; from furniture to lighting, to ceramics, textiles and home accessories. Structure intends to bring to the light the designer and manufacturing partnerships, and the intersection of craft and design, artistry and innovation that characterises the Norwegian creative scene. This intersection is expressed by the exhibition’s brand identity, created by Oslo-based graphic design studio Bielke & Yang, through type and typesetting, illustrative texture and art direction, proportionality, layering and materiality.
Clearly informed by name and the intersection of design and craft, artistry and innovation, Bielke & Yang have created an identity system with a strong structural quality and a well-resolved duality. This can be seen quite literally in the portfolio sized magazine, the layering of old-style type and modern image, and more subtly, in the use of grid-based layouts and within the art direction of photography, an approach that emphasise simple form and draws out material detail.
There is a lovely tension between the contemporary favour for sans-serif body copy, simple layouts and plenty of space alongside the old-style and stone cut origins of wordmark, and the organic qualities and texture of illustration. An immediate juxtaposition of these components has been used to effectively emphasise both, making the most of their associations with individual craft and artistry, design and manufacture. This juxtaposition can been seen in the intersection of photography and type through the proportionality of page (literal but impactful), and the setting of illustration (which calls to mind the flecks and seam face of rock) right next to areas of space.
The meeting of craft and design, material detail and reductive form continues in the pairing of the sharp stone carved serifs of GZA alongside the geometric shapes of plinths and placement and proximity of objects within photography, as well as a mix of structured layouts (above) and more free-form layering and arrangement (below).
The way in which different sheet sizes punctuate type and imagery establishes a strong visual language rooted in the intersection of disciplines, materials and processes. This layering is a particular highlight and a prominent and consistent feature of visual identity that is explored both in print and online, across website and social media profiles. Further examples include the animated Instagram posts that build up type, shape, illustration and image, and the overlapping of posters.
Colour works well to bring everything together, with a clear relegation formed in the choice of dyed and uncoated papers and the approach to photography. There is a pleasant move from the crafty to the contemporary, with solid colour emphasising material detail, and art direction that makes great use of lighting to cast shadow, giving objects a strong sense of depth, stressing form, and establishing continuity between quite disparate objects without undermining their individual qualities. More by Bielke & Yang on BP&O.