If you live around Amsterdam, you've probably already seen the work of Studio Bas Koopmans for the likes of Into The Great Wide Open, Pitch Festival and Down The Rabbit Hole. But he does a whole lot more too, constantly creating a steady stream of identity-driven work across digital and IRL that lives on the intersection of contemporary culture and commerce. The Ambassadors branding refresh – luckily enough for us – being one of them. Our logo isn’t going anywhere, but with the help of Bas we injected some fresh new color and readied the brand for 2021 and beyond. Justin Blyth spoke to Bas about the lore of Dutch Design, death scrolls through Instagram and his design process for our project.
We love your work Bas! Is there an overarching theme or style that encapsulates your design and practice?
I’m so the wrong person to ask this... I always have a problem with unifying the different projects I work on. Most often projects are very idea-orientated and I try to collaborate closely with the client. So the outcome is always coming from a different idea and therefore my style always adapts. If you see an overarching style in my body of work then that is probably the limits of a visual skillset, this is kind of how far my limits take me I guess.
Do you feel that your work carries on the tradition of Dutch Design, or fits into what is considered contemporary Dutch Design?
If you consider Dutch Design as minimalistic, experimental, and with a sense of humor (this is what Wikipedia says), yeah sure I work in that tradition. But to be honest, I don’t really think there is such a thing as Dutch Design anymore, at least not in graphic design. There is a certain longing for clarity and a flair with modernism in contemporary design, but at the same time, it is influenced by so many more global inspirations because we live in this global age.
I think there is a certain attitude in design here, and like everywhere that has to do with where you grow up and what you are surrounded with. So clarity and straightforwardness is probably a Dutch quality. But for me personally, it means Ootje Oxenaar is just as big of an inspiration as the title sequence of the '80s Transformers is.
There is a certain longing for clarity and a flair with modernism in contemporary design, but at the same time, it's influenced by so many more global inspirations because we live in this global age.
What's your design process like with branding?
It does differ per project of course, but because my go-to tool is type, I use that tool to explore and trigger a visual brainstorm. We just start sketching at the studio and see where it takes us. Trying different angles through which multiple ideas or concepts arise.
For me, branding and campaigns are really part of identity work. So it's almost like taking a client to the hairdresser and seeing what fits. I could really fancy a Jheri curl but I should consider what that would do to my face. Therefore most of the time the client is very invested in the process. Ideally, I can see the client as a partner with whom I’m collaborating on the project, instead of someone who will tell me if something is wrong or right.
From the initial explorations we usually find different options to the brief, really from a gut feeling, and often those ideas live in their own conceptual relationship to the brand. From there on it’s mostly pick, choose, and craft.
Tell us about your process for the Ambassadors branding refresh?
The Ambassadors process was a bit unusual in the sense that the initial brief was for a presentation deck only. But the exploration of the deck floated some issues in the presentation of the brand itself, rather than just solutions that could be fixed in the deck. We started out refining the original logomark – which is a great logo – for small screens and touchpoints. And from there we took it step by step, undressing the logotype to a more subtle custom undercast, adding a header type and adding color. Lots of it. Like a rainbow. Or like a unicorn. But a bit less glitchy.
To be honest I get really depressed when I’m on Instagram too long. There is so much great work out there, but I don't know if it’s productive seeing all that stuff all the time. I really start to question my own qualities and capabilities if I’m online too long.
Any current design trends that bug the hell out of you?
If I’m being cynical, and it's not really a design trend, but like everybody, I get sucked into the eternal scroll so now and then. And to be honest I get really depressed when I’m on Instagram too long. There is so much great work out there, but I don't know if it’s productive seeing all that stuff all the time. I really start to question my own qualities and capabilities if I’m online too long.
I’m not really invested in the whole online social sphere that much myself, I’m really bad at it and that is just stupid and I should do better. But you also see the impact that tech has on people's career choices within design and I’m not sure if that is a good thing. Obviously, it's great that a big company can now engage with what a student is doing and give them opportunities, that's awesome. But the side effect is that you see designers make a very deliberate style choice and stick with that because it works on that platform. That could potentially take you very far, but it is also very limiting.
Besides that, I think the current design environment is rather nice though. I don't really care about the ‘you bit my style’ discussion that seems to be always going on. There is such a wide spectrum in design at this moment and everything gets a bit fluid, so trends are really quick to come up and to be adapted by everyone and your nephew. And I think that is great, the more people do the same thing, the more will try to break away from that.