If we were pressed to make a list of studios churning out super smart, ever on-point branding, Foreign Policy would likely top it. Their fresh identities never fail to take blogs by storm when they emerge online; they were even recently at the helm of a Singapore-based brand guide. In their ongoing exploration of how to extend holistic and narrative-driven design to the everyday, they’ve got a new venture that has literally taken on a new dimension. For the past few months, Foreign Policy creative directors Yah-Leng Yu and Arthur Chin have been focusing on how wayfinding systems can translate their 2D branding concepts to the shape and flow of winding buildings and crowded spaces.
Earlier this year Foreign Policy designed the identity for The Working Capitol, a co-working space modelled on the likes of Shoreditch and Soho House that’s located in Singapore’s vibrant Chinatown. After creating the identity, their next step was to transport its sense of cool and considered ease to the physical site.
They began by wandering the spiraling Working Capital building. “The interior was unexpectedly big and maze-like,” says Yu. “And because it was a prewar shopping mall, there were lots of strange partitioned areas.” There were also hidden rooms and mysterious stairways; it was a huge labyrinth that took time to navigate and understand. To deal with a building full of architectural confusion, Foreign Policy decided to create their own visual tricks and geometric partitions.
The Working Capital identity was based on the Euclidean Principle, a mathematic concept developed by the father of geometry himself that suggests there can be many outcomes. Yu and Chin translated this idea to the space by creating a design that changes depending on your vantage point: the 3D view of the building can collide to create cohesive 2D images, creating a subtle but impressive anamorphic spectacle.
The use of wooden shapes blurs the boundaries between 2D and 3D further; wooden bathroom signs and arrows jut out from muted yellow or white walls inconspicuously. Blue lines snake around the rooms and staircases, inviting you to visually interact with areas that you might not normally take notice of. “We’ve made it purposefully fun and unconventional,” says Yu. “We want the people who work there to get ‘off the conventional track,’ and create something great in their line of work.” For Foreign Policy, shaking up the way we work and think goes hand in hand with shifting how we perceive and navigate space.
Foreign Policy then took on another wayfinding project for Bottura, an Italian restaurant and food company based in Singapore. Their branding was inspired by the idea of an Italian grandma’s (or “nonna’s) cooking, so it used nonna-like patterns (the kind you might find on her dress or scarves) as its foundation. Tiles from Bologna, the hometown of the restaurant’s owner, also fed into pattern designs.
Foreign Policy mixed the warm hues of Bolognese food and its iconic brick roofs together to create a hearty palette, finally chopping all of these patterns and colors together for a modern twist. Their Bottura logo also reflects a combination of the traditional and the modern—bringing together Platform Medium (a contemporary sans serif) and X Didoni (a traditional serif). This identity was extended to the bright signage scattered around the Bottura restaurant and shop, seamlessly mixing brand with space so that it feels as if you’re drifting through a modern nonna’s kitchen.
“We love wayfinding projects,” says Yu, excited by the extensive potential of these commissions. “We love making sense out of complexity and breaking space down to the simplest forms so that you know where you are. For us it’s about making sense from a maze, about building signals that every person can understand.” As well as the clarity that their designs afford, Foreign Policy’s wayfinding systems wrap visitors in the stories and atmospheres evoked by their astute identities.