“We got the idea of the arrow when checking out diagrams of magnetic field behaviour,” explains József Gergely Kiss of Classmate Studio who recently designed the identity for candidate European Cultural Capital 2023, Debrecen. The identity focusses on the city’s ability to gather people of all nationalities and backgrounds, using the arrow as a visual motif.
Classmate is formed of graphic designers Attila Ács, Eszter Misztarka, Fruzsina Fölföldi, József Gergely Kiss and Lili Köves living in Hungary and Finland, who all met while studying at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts. Although initially starting out as friends, the group quickly formed a working relationship and close community leading them to collaborate on several projects. Since 2014, they have been working to create “great ideas for big or small brands in order to help them make a difference in their field,” fully established themselves as Classmate this year. Although mainly working on visual identities, Classmate also have years of experience in editorial, packaging and web design between them.
Classmate were invited to enter the open competition to design Debrecen’s identity, which they later won, by the director of the city’s modern art museum, MODEM. The brief was to create a set of cohesive visuals with an emphasis on highlighting Debrecen’s main goal as a cultural capital: to attract and play host to a diverse range of nationalities and backgrounds.
The studio visualised this attraction of participants and visitors working in a similar way to the opposite poles. Upon deciding that the arrow was the perfect way to represent this magnetic field behaviour, it created a system to generate posters, stationary and collateral material where visual elements act as opposite poles, each attracting different arrows. To make this possible, Classmate developed a web application that filled any available space on an asset with arrows based on parameters such as the number of “magnetic poles” (an image or the logo, for example).
Alongside this, the studio developed custom typefaces Debrecen Sans Regular and Debrecen Sans Bold. Having searched for a suitable typeface while working on the proposal, Classmate felt there was nothing out there that could truly represent the personality of the city and so it developed its own. Debrecen Sans is a display typeface that’s easy to read and has a strong, distinctive look. The typeface will also be made available via open source so that participants and organisers can download it during the events of the cultural capital year to generate their own materials.
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