Avenir becomes the new face of Amsterdam and this is unofficially the longest press release we've ever posted...
Linotype Press Release: Avenir, the future for Amsterdam
By Henk Gianotten, August 07th 2003,
In recent decades the capital of the Netherlands has
experienced both, rapid growth and the decentralization of
its local government and all in a period when the
expectations of its citizens and visitors were becoming more
varied and demanding.
With all these changes the city council and its allied
services felt an increasing need for a unifying visual
identity that would be inextricably bound to the culture of
their organization. An identity flexible enough to represent
the diverse services within the municipality, yet links each
of these with the larger whole. This unifying style also
needed to make a confident visual statement for use on
printed material, packaging, clothing, website, and a fleet
of city-owned vehicles. Certainly the search for this new
and clearly defined "face" would be an almost impossible
task to present to designers.
Deciding on a new "visual identity" for non-profit and
government organizations, then developing and maintaining it
is an extremely difficult process, that is largely dependent
on the components that make up the total identity.
It is far easier to create a unified appearance for two
hundred shoe stores than it is to create a visual style that
links tens of distinctly different departments and services
of one local authority. To fully appreciate the complexity
of this image-change it is necessary to look at the history
of Amsterdam. It has always been a very liberal city, and
its municipal services, like its citizens, have evolved
within a system long accustomed to a great diversity of
opinionated "faces". The challenge for Amsterdam was not
only to visually link all its services and utilities, but to
also create its own corporate image.
The project was begun more than four years ago when the city
council made a thorough study to determine the
distinguishing characteristics of its citizens and services.
Based on the results a "character and face" were established
for Amsterdam: straightforward, daring, friendly, explicit,
reliable, headstrong, imaginative, enterprising and
authentic. Any typography or design used to express this
"face" would also need to be clear, direct and
Once this was established the city council had enough
information to invite designers to present their ideas
within an organized competition. Design bureau Eden emerged
as the winner and was asked to create the complete
house-style. However, the task proved of such magnitude that
the Amsterdam design studio Thonik was called in to assist.
For the basic house-style a number of characteristics had to
be agreed upon. The three St. Andrew's crosses and the
colour red are the most distinctive symbols. The red rosses,
well-known throughout the world, are set one above the other
in a vertical pattern. In addition to red, the colours of
the basic house-style are black and two variants of grey.
Using this as a base municipal services and city districts
are allowed the addition of extra elements and a palette of
16 extra colours to create their own sub-housestyles. A
surprisingly simple system for the use of these extra
colours has been set up by the designers.
For all these "brands" or "products" the Avenir typeface
must be used. This "symmetrical", straightforward sans-serif
of Adrian Frutiger is well suited to the identity of
By choosing an established font instead of having one
specially designed, the designers have given availability
top priority. The Avenir is used in the roman, medium, heavy
and black weight.
For straight text a choice can be made from Avenir and DTL
Documenta designed by Frank Blokland of the Netherlands. For
budgetary reasons the Arial and Times New Roman are used for
internal communication on PC's, while Verdana is the choice
for the small sizes of types on the website. In the latter
choice, screen legibility prevails over style.
For products such as reports, brochures, presentations,
websites, posters and vehicle logo's, basic layout designs
have been created. All product descriptions, EPS and GIF
files are stored in the intranet and are available for
participating partners via the internet.
Over time, the more than fifty different house-styles now
being used in Amsterdam will be replaced by the new
sub-house-styles. No compulsory time-frame has been imposed,
thus allowing each department or service to decide
autonomously the date of implementation.
If a service or department needs to have its own "identity
on brand level", it is possible, after consulting with the
municipal project bureau, to develop a specific logo.
Departments are free to use external designers and there is
relative freedom given for the application of additional
design elements. There are, of course, some very specific
The extra symbol must be placed under the three St. Andrew's
crosses to form a continuous pattern. Further it must be a
two-dimensional flat symbol which is easily recognized by
the citizen as a link with the sender.
The symbol may be of either abstract or figurative design
and must confirm to regulations on colours and size. The
word 'Gemeente Amsterdam' must always appear in the Avenir
typeface. The designers have also established "suggestions"
for sub-house-styles for use on internal and external
reports, brochures, magazines, posters and other carriers.
All this may seem to impose too limiting for creative
design, but the products created thus far by a variety of
in- and external studios and Dutch designers provide
evidence to the contrary. The guidelines prevent chaos and,
in the hands of professionals, can result in surprisingly
The pace of change
In the past few months more than ten different sections have
taken the first steps into the changeover to the new
house-style. The transformation is especially visible on the
completely restyled website www.amsterdam.nl.
For this, highly innovative navigation and information
structure techniques have been used; with simple symbols the
user is led to internal and external links, anchor links and
The website was a use for which the new house-style could be
implemented in a relatively short time. The new style will
also quickly find its way to latest reports, posters and
up-to-date printed information. But, for most of the
services and departments the implementation will be gradual.
Like most cities, Amsterdam is publicly funded and must use
these funds with care. A clean sweep to put a new visual
image in place would create unnecessary - and therefore
unacceptable - expense.
So, existing printed material will first be used up, city
vehicles will only be provided with new logos as necessary,
and individual city districts will not change their style
until they themselves come to recognize the advantage of
doing so. Design bureau Eden and the municipal project
bureau are available to guide the various services and to
ensure that both internal and external designers are able to
make the most expedient choices.
Although there was some initial scepticism, the various
partners involved are now extremely satisfied with what has
been achieved. The city council has successfully established
guidelines for visual representation, and in doing so has
enhanced the dynamic image of the city. Nor, as some feared,
has creativity suffered.
A large number of designers and DTP-professionals at studios
and printers have discovered that working in accordance with
clear guidelines can raise the quality of their designs and
elevate their reputation. The challenge of a difficult
assignment can lead to a finer result.
In fact, the city of Amsterdam and the designers received
the Netherlands House-style Prize 2003; a gratifying
The Avenir is a great success in the Netherlands
Adrian Frutiger, the internationally successful type
designer of, among others, the Apollo, Centennial, Didot,
Frutiger, Glypha, Icone, President, Serifa, Univers and
Versailles, worked for more than two years on the
designing of the Avenir. He is highly renowned for his
successes in the design of sans-serifs, and with the Avenir
he proved that he could master even the most difficult ones.
Design studio Thonik has used the Avenir for many years and
with great success on both the design of individual printed
material and complete house-styles. Nikki Gonnissen and
Thomas Widdershoven show their work, complete with many
examples, in the book Thonic which is available in
The Avenir is issued by Linotype Library and is made in
PostScript, TrueType and OpenType in the weights light,
book, roman, medium, heavy and black. Six oblique weights
are also available. The city of Amsterdam's website is
From November 2003 on Linotype Library GmbH will be offering
the new Avenir Next, a product belonging to Linotype's
Platinum Collection. Avenir Next then offering many more
options for professional use, like a range of 48 weights,
containing the necessary fine graduations, true Obliques,
Small Caps and condensed weights. Avenir Next has been
reworked by Adrian Frutiger himself in cooperation with
Akira Kobayashi, Type Director of Linotype Library GmbH. For
details, orders and pricing please contact Linotype directly
We are available if you would like further information or if
you would like us to send you a digital photo of the event:
Linotype Library GmbH
D-61352 Bad Homburg
Phone: +49 (0) 61 72 484-24 60
Fax: +49 (0) 61 72 484-499
You will find more information as well as typeface
application samples on the Internet at www.linotype.com.
Linotype Library GmbH, a member of the Heidelberg Group, was
founded 116 years ago. Its headquarters are in Bad Homburg,
Germany. Based on this long tradition Linotype Library
develops state-of-the-art font technology, and today offers
more than 5,500 original fonts, covering the whole
typographic spectrum from antique to modern, from east to
west, and from classical to experimental. Because of the
browser and the navigation system FontExplorer, all of them
(in PostScript and TrueType format) are available not only
on CD, but also can be ordered online for instant download
In addition to supplying digital fonts, Linotype Library
also offers comprehensive and individual consultation and
support services for font applications in worldwide