In the past, we’ve described Amsterdam’s Main Studio as both“timeless and timely,” and we’ve marvelled at the graphic design practice’s meticulous and methodical approach to branding and identity systems. Founder Edwin van Gelder’s process is more rigid formula than abstract philosophy, where “the right typeface + the right grid = the right design.” Easy peasy, right?
Main Studio’s new identity system for De School, made in collaboration with fellow Dutch designer Jeremy Jansen, is a perfect realization of Gelder’s design formula. De School is a new gallery, club, gym, restaurant, and general arts venue based in Amsterdam and situated in a looming, Brutalist structure built in 1973 by iconic Dutch architect J .B. Ingwersen. As soon as Gelder and Jansen saw the impressive space, they knew its shape and structure would inevitably inform their design.
“The building is also very important for the client,” says Gelder. “Every few years they move to another building and adapt their name accordingly.” That’s another reason the visual identity and architecture would need to be intimately connected.
Gelder and Jansen decided to base the identity on Ingwersen’s precise floor plan. “We made an abstract grid derived from the architectural gestures (mainly the squares),” they explain. This modular system is then used for the venue’s five identities (for the club, gym, restaurant, café, and gallery), and the grid allows for multiple variations and possibilities.
They chose a mono-spaced font that jived well with the time period the building was designed in, and it also suited the boxy design. “The font balances everything—the identity creates a dynamism within the venue’s public ‘face.’”
The resulting cards, posters, and printed paraphernalia are all produced via Risograph, and the speckled surface and rough charm of the prints evoke the thick concrete of the De School building. “Risograph is also just practical, as there are so many different events on every week,” adds Gelder.
A light sculpture at the venue’s entrance created by Children of the Light, two local installation artists, also references Gelder and Jansen’s grid-based identity—which means that every single element of the venue’s design somehow relates to the structure, building on and celebrating Ingwersen’s original vision and strong architectural forms.