The City of Amsterdam wanted to clearly portray its identity to citizens, companies and visitors. Back in 2003 when we started the design process, this was easier said than done. No other municipality in the Netherlands is as complex and fragmented as Amsterdam. Almost 60 different visual identities had to be consolidated into one clear and unambiguous style which would resonate with all those involved.
To keep the individual identities connected, we developed the ‘Shape Alphabet’, a system of shapes designed to be added to the three red Amsterdam crosses taken from the city’s 15th century coat of arms. These shapes allowed the multiple organizations to create personal brand identities while ensuring the appearance of one unmistakable brand.
Between 2003 and 2006, all city districts and services chose a design agency and an appropriate timing to create and launch their own suitable sub-identities. All designs and applications came together on a shared online identity portal called “Stijlweb”, open for everyone to use. The central body that governed this gradual process didn’t use force; coached by us, they used seductive design presentations and a very flexible stance to foster and guide the required change.
We are very satisfied with the Amsterdam Style after 10 years of use. The style is flexible, communicates powerfully and contributes to a recognizable government.Egbert Wolf, Design manager City of Amsterdam (2013)
The approach we chose in 2003 proved to be very successful in bringing an immensely dispersed organization together under one shared identity system. But over time, the city organization wanted to represent itself more and more as one single organization.
By the end of 2013 – in the wake of a large reorganization – the city was ready to take the next step towards a more monolithic identity. Edenspiekermann and Thonik worked together again to simplify the identity system while at the same time keeping it as colorful and lively as it was before. We added two new visual icons to the identity toolkit: Adam and Eve, modular iconic figures that can be used in static and dynamic applications to support storytelling and complex information transfer.
The update of the Amsterdam Style in 2013 created quite a stir in the Dutch press. We published this blog post as a reaction to the press coverage, mainly to show and explain what we really did for the money that the city invested in this update. One thing is certain: the city identity toolkit can last another 8 to 10 years with this update.