Opinion by Richard Baird Posted 6 November 2017
14 Islands is a Swedish digital development studio that focuses on the design and build of distinctive and creative user experiences for companies such as Google, Adidas and Plume. Although its products are diverse, and include websites, apps and web-based games, these are linked by the studio’s commitment to balancing good design principles and technical performance with natural and playful interactions across all devices and screen sizes. The studio also experiments with emerging technologies, often gives talks and runs development workshops. This mix of play and technical insight is expressed by their new visual identity, designed by Stockholm-based Bedow, through colour, form, animated logo and dynamic on-screen elements, paired with the technical rigour of Monokrom’s screen-only font Aften. Visual identity runs across and connects assets such as business cards, t-shirts, tote bags, signage and website.
Bedow’s work for 14 Islands delivers a strong sense of the dynamic and playful. This comes through clearly in the build of the logotype, the use of interaction and animation online, both slight and prominent, and in the choice of colour.
The name, and the number of pieces that make up logotype, is informed by the 14 Islands of Sweden. This coming together of individual and basic pieces to create a distinctive and memorable whole is a broad but intelligible metaphor well-suited to digital development and an international team, while the 14 islands reference layers this with a subtle sense of place.
There is something of a made quality to the logotype, a cut and arranged perspex quality in the colours, layering of forms and creation of overlays, which then plays out and is emphasised by the construction of signage and the parallax effect it employs in its layers and transparent coloured foils.
Physicality given to digital services is a recurring theme. Check out Bunch’s brand identity for digital design duo Sebazzo, and the work of Lungdren+Lindqvist for Roger Burkhard. It is not skeuomorphic, but more along the lines of expressing the hands-on, the experimental and playful using a more universal analogy, when code craft is often hidden.
The 14 Islands logotype displays a degree of flexibility and a strength in form language. It remains legible and distinctive as a single glowing orange on a dark background as part of an interactive component online to celebrate Halloween.
The loose build and composition of letterforms, pushing legibility a bit on the 4, is cheerful and youthful. It works well on-screen and in print. The use of plenty of space around this and other details, the structure of website, and the choice of Aften, a font with a technical rigour specifically developed for screen use only offers a counterpoint and brings balance to the conviviality of logotype. This intersection of play and technical insight also comes through in the mix of vibrant and modern hues inspired by the island themes Beach, Volcano and Subtropical, as well as softer pastels, and alongside black text and white space. More work by Bedow on BP&O.