As is usual for our BNConf identities where we like to mix and match a number of ideas that are specific to the location of our host city, Amsterdam has proven to be quite difficult. Because there are so many references to draw from, ideas to expand on, and visual idioms to embrace. In the end we chose three-slash-four elements to build this Amsterdam-specific identity.
Adopting the ××× visual device used throughout Amsterdam as part of the City’s official identity and a key design element of its coat of arms is borderline cliché and an expected design solution but we love×’s and we weren’t going to deny ourselves the pleasure of using them as long as we made sure to offer a new take on it. From the very beginning we settled on this as the main identity element.
Another element is the distinctive Canal Ring structure at the heart of Amsterdam where each canal — Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht — grow in diamater as they span away from the center. We love ×’s at UCllc but we have room in our heart for concentric circles just as well.
The third element… well, how could you avoid this?
No, we are not talking about the photogenic letters but about what’s behind them: the Rijksmuseum, home to over 8,000 objects that “tell the story of 800 years of Dutch art and history, from the Middle Ages to Mondrian.” Apart from its significance as a museum, the Rijksmuseum has an amazing digital collection that not only showcases some of the masterpieces that people travel the world over to see in person but makes them available for download. In HIGH resolution. For anyone to use as they please. No strings attached. All images have been placed in the public domain. Few other museums — let alone cities or whole cultures — have such a generous collection available for use so it was a source we simplyhad to take advantage of somehow.
The last, fourth-ish element are the bicycles of Amsterdam. We say it’s an -ish element because you could build a whole design language on bicycles in Amsterdam alone but we just used it as a small nod to that aspect of the city.
So how do these things come together?
The three ×’s are used as the starting point for a grid of 9-by-9 individual ×'s or 3-by-3 Amsterdam ×××’s. At first we laid out the ×’s all at the same size but that looked bland so with the idea of the concentric circles we let the ×’s become smaller or bigger as they radiated from the center.
The concentric circle element also has a role in the animation of the grid, staying in constant motion, radiating off the center.
From the 9-by-9 grid, each with its own radiating animation, we started carving away ×’s to create “BNCONF”. The first step was simply to come to a consistent set of letters. At first we even thought that these were going to be the final letters for the logo, but something was missing.
The letters above weren’t the most dynamic and it started to look more like embroidery than anything else. This is where the nod to Amsterdam’s bicycles comes in: we gave the letters a slight tilt, like a person leaning forward on a bike, to give them more motion and break away from the squared look we had above.
All this amounts to the final BNCONF logo:
We added a simple frame at the end to include “AMSTERDAM” in the lock-up and a small “20” / “16” on the corners.
And there are a few configurations we can use.
The logo is animated on the website through a single SVG file and CSS animation, so it will scale across any browser and keep the load time to a minimum (to make up for the XL background images!). The different configurations also allow it to work in the responsive layout of the site (which is best seen on a desktop with the browser window quite wide).
Since the logo on the website has a fully transparent “background” that’s where the Rijksmuseum images come into play, seeping through the ×’s and the transparent navigation (that has a built-in background on rollover for, you know, readability). We like the notion of these images as the backgrounds representing the Brand Nieuwe Conference coming into a city and culture with such a rich tradition in art and history and contributing something new to it, even if it’s just for a fleeting couple of days. A complete list of the images we used is below the end of the explanation.
The identity will use Grilli Type’s Sectra which is a beautiful serif with hard corners that reminded us of the more strict turns the canals take when seen on a map and Font Bureau’s Titling Gothic Wide because it’s not a geometric sans.
That’s all we have at the moment and now it’s time to figure out how this translates into the rest of the materials.