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Work / Graphic Design

NB Studio push the decorative limits of typography for African food start-up Jambo!

London-based studio NB offers a unique solution to those with a design problem, an approach it recently applied in the creative direction of a new start-up, Jambo!

When approached by an entrepreneur in need of help with branding and marketing on a tight budget for an African food delivery network in London, the studio suggested a so-called Creative Courage Day. “This is where NB unleashes everyone in the studio to solve a creative challenge in a ridiculously short space of time,” Sam Pittman from NB tells It’s Nice That. “It’s intense and fun rapid prototyping for brands, and this one led to a new name — Jambo! — and gave us the foundation for design development.” Having a large team focused on one project, with the founder in the room too, allows NB’s Creative Courage Day to do as the name suggests. It creates a productive and equally exciting environment to develop an initial concept, which can then be fleshed out by the NB team further into a cohesive identity.

Changing the name of the start-up from Afriigo to Jambo! kickstarted this and led to the overall tonal language of the brand. “The idea was about celebrating culture, so our challenge was to capture the spirit of Africa in a fresh and accessible way,” says Sam. “Jambo! translates as ‘hello’ in Swahili, the most widely spoken language in Africa. We wanted the brand to start the conversation around the world’s last great undiscovered cuisine.”

With a word mark being the graphic focus of the brand, establishing an apt and stylistic use of typography was key for the Jambo! identity. Initially looking at African sign writing for inspiration, “we decided that to base it on existing examples could become a pastiche and would become impractical for a start-up business to apply,” Sam explains. This is due to the fact that a start-up with a small number of staff needs to be able to implement a typeface simply, but with maximum impact in order to be noticed. The chosen typeface also needed to adapt across a number of different ephemera, from its online presence to packaging and uniforms. “One of the aims of Jambo! is to improve the standards of African food delivery by providing small restaurants with the practical tools they need, while at the same time working with larger chains to raise the profile of African cuisine,” Sam continues. “It was really important that the identity could be easily applied across bespoke or mass-produced packaging.”

As a result NB scouted for the elements that it loved about hand-painted typography: “the slightly off balance, quirky nature of the characters” for instance, but in an already developed typeface. The studio found this unique balance in Separat, a typeface by Icelandic foundry Or Type. The stylistic tendencies of Separat was also ideal to develop into a pattern which could add a decorative element to the identity, using “each individual character in the name to create a rich set of repeat patterns inspired by the intricacy of African woven fabrics,” highlights Sam.

Consequently NB’s Jambo! identity pulls from cultural references to create a modern graphic outlook, particularly in its use typographic detail pushing it to be aptly ornamental.

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NB Studio: Jambo!

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NB Studio: Jambo!

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NB Studio: Jambo!

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NB Studio: Jambo!

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NB Studio: Jambo!

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NB Studio: Jambo!