Bielke&Yang uses a balance of playfulness and precision for Barneombudet’s new identity
Bielke&Yang provides a vast and inclusive identity for Norway’s Barneombudet in this unique redesign.
- Lucy Bourton
- 18 September 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
In 1981, Norway became one of the very first countries to instate an Ombudsperson, an impartial person who investigates complaints for free, specifically for children. Titled the Barneombudet, it acts as an advocate for children and young people’s rights, ensuring that “the options of children and young people are heard”. Every six years a new Ombudsperson is chosen, and with this new appointment also comes a shift in Barneombudet’s identity. This year however, it’s received a complete overhaul (and one that will last), by Oslo-based design studio Bielke&Yang.
The most immediate change to the identity is a dramatic shift in style, leading with illustrations by London-based Elliot Kruszynski. Seeking a creative “who had a good balance of playfulness without becoming childish or too abstract,” the studio settled on Elliot as someone also “engaged and excited by the project, seeing the potential for a long term collaboration,” says Martin Yang Stousland and Evan McGuinness, designer and partners at Bielke&Yang. “Elliot is all of these things and more.”
In turn, Elliot’s illustrations replace a central motif in the Barneombudet’s identity. Previously featuring a bear waving inside a shield, the team have elevated this illustrative approach, after feeling the previous motif “was considered too closely associated with smaller children” – an issue considering the Barneombudet supports children up to the age of 18.
This criteria for Elliot was also the case for the supporting photography in the redesign, supplied by Hinda Fahre, but also in the development of a custom typeface. Working with type designer Bobby Tannam, the resulting Barneombudet Display is “drawn with the understanding that all children are unique and have different needs,” continues Martin and Evan. Consequently, the typeface is one the designer describes as “rich” for its many options, “with a playful display weight, and an accessible text weight family, inspired by typography created to make it easier for people that experience reading difficulties to understand.” Also including an extensive character set, the typeface is able to be to utilised in the official Norwegian written languages, as well as three other Saami languages.
This level of consideration for inclusivity appears to the driving force of Bielke&Yang’s redesign. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by how vast an audience the Barneombudet communicates with, “from key decision-makers in parliament to toddlers in kindergartens around Norway,” it instead taps into all age groups with design precision and just a pinch of flair. Its decision to focus on illustration is a key example of this. It provides the Barneombudet’s team with “a flexible tool that they can use in any scenario to immediately add identity and make what they are communicating recognisable”.
Definitely a result of Bielke&Yang’s creative consideration, the studio itself praises its client for being so openminded during the process. “The main reason we could get through such a complete overhaul of the identity was the close collaboration with the project team,” the pair explains. “They had big ambitions for the project and were very open to new ideas around how the new identity could work for them internally.”
To do the team’s ambitions justice, Martin and Evan explain that the identity went through a lengthy thinking phase, full of workshops with both the Barneombudet’s employees, “who ranged from lawyers, journalists, councillors and receptionists” to the younger people it represents. Getting to know each other well in the process, this close relationship “was key in getting the identity to be so well received internally, and also address the needs of each department,” says the designer. “For example, changing the logo of an organisation like this, with so many different people involved, could have been a very controversial move.” Yet, as everyone was continuously on the same page throughout various discussions on details such as the size, or how it may appeal to target groups, this hurdle was fully avoided.
Released into the world this week, Bielke&Yang concludes that they hope the identity represents the “boundless energy and enthusiasm” children and young people have. “These groups can see themselves more in the identity, making the wealth of information and support that Barneombudet offers more accessible to them and in turn making Barneombudet’s job in helping children and young people easier.”
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.