Squidgy, unicorn-coloured lettering, holographic foil and some hand-drawn illustrations that look like the inner workings of a particularly puzzled psyche – there’s a lot to love about Atelier Brenda’s identity for Beursschouwburg’s Spring programme Normal Schnormal. Working with Amélie Bakker, the Belgian studio has developed a “playful and abstract approach” for the Brussels cultural house’s programme of music, performance, art, screenings and talks, which aims to analyse, question and dismantle the idea of ‘normality’.
“The [Beursschouwburg] team is very on point when it comes to forecasting things on a socio-cultural agenda,” says Atelier Brenda’s Nana Esi. “We all seem to be aware of the world that is shifting towards new paradigms and so it’s about being aware of those many points of references that are levelling up and shifting around.” Amélie adds, “It was a challenging subject, as are many of the subjects in the Beursschouwburg. We couldn’t work with clichés.”
Initially the trio wanted to create playful illustrations but soon decided that this approach was too explicit. Nana says, “We created figurative beings, undefined forms. They all had boots – that was the only thing that unified them, a bit like the Mr Men and Little Miss series by Roger Hargreaves.” Amélie continues, “But that referred to something too physical and the concept of what looks normal or not. [The client] didn’t want to claim what is and what isn’t normal so that’s when we decided to transform the squidgy beings into squidgy letters.”
The letters were drawn intuitively and deformed as much as possible and then accompanied by “classic sans serif” Optima. “The end curves in the Optima typeface are nice,” says Nana. “We experimented with a bold version first, but it created too much contrast with the drawings. It’s low profile and can bear quite a lot of adjustments in spacing and it stays elegant.” The idea of shifting paradigms was echoed in the studio’s use of materials. “The texture of the foil has the identity to change according to the light and the angle you look at it from. We thought this fitted nicely with the idea of perception of what is normal or approved. It’s never the same. And, who doesn’t like glitter?!” says Atelier Brenda’s Sophie Keij.
The identity has been used across print publications, digital, posters, advertising and window graphics. “It is important for us that the vibe of every identity lives throughout the whole building,” says Amélie. Sophie adds, “We like to see an identity as a person. We like to play different roles like in outfits but when you change outfits you still are the same person. Also it’s an identity for half a year in a centre that has different disciplines and audience. People don’t have to get it straight away. Thats also impossible I think.” Nana adds, “We hope that people are reminded to celebrate their own uniqueness and of those around them.”