History is serious business. You don’t fool around with an institution as old and renowned as the Royal Danish Academy. You don’t go with gut feelings or current design trends. Instead, you double down on research, park your ego and go all in on co-creating a change that is respectful and dignified but still has the foresight and relevance needed to sustain the next chapter of history.
And the next chapter is one of change – just as the world around us is rapidly changing and demanding more and more of architects, conservationists and designers. Today, the Academy is unified, strong and accessible and their new identity enables it to communicate, influence and bring about real change.
As strategic designers of the new identity for the Royal Danish Academy we were acutely aware of standing on the shoulders of design giants – and so we took it upon ourselves to revitalize the giants and craft an identity with a strong sense of legitimacy and authority worthy of the Academy.
What’s in a name?
The previous name KADK was a household name for many people. Regardless of the fact that nearly no one remembered what it stood for. In many ways it was symptomatic of an institution weighed down by historical baggage and internal complexity. So in order to reflect the great changes made from within, the new name is much shorter, more accessible and – most importantly – sends a clear message of unity and common ground.
Signed, sealed, delivered
Clarity and flexibility are operative words in the over-all design concept of the academy. How to allow for a high degree of complexity while taking on a clear and transparent position? We designed a basic grid containing the redesigned seal, logotype and an adaptable space for the specific sender or owner of each message and occasion, it being a faculty, a person or the entire academy itself.
With clear and energetic communication being the main objective, the over-all design system is conceived as a tribute to the world famous legacy of Danish architecture and design.
The ability to seamlessly combine functionality with aesthetic simplicity is at the core of our shared tradition. With more than 3000 highly creative and critically thinking people as its daily users, our design needed a sturdy framework. Text, image, seal – and a very limited yet strong colour palette – are the only key fundamentals in the entire design system, allowing for range of expression in a tightly defined communication space.
A shared toolbox is a good toolbox
What better way to spark change from top-down and bottom-up than to provide each student, teacher and member of administration with the same tools and guidelines for design and communication? Our design guide demonstrates the potentials and ground rules of the new identity – when to add focus to the seal, when to downplay it, when to go all in on orange and when to use restraint.
Approval of the seal
Legacy brands are all about incremental changes and historical consistency. Dealing with more than 250 years of history, modern-day heraldry and the final approval of Her Majesty the Queen is as legitimate as it gets.
The history of the academy is a veritable treasure chest, each small change in design a direct consequence of large-scale change – always poignant and purposeful. With a heightened sense of respect for the artistry and symbolism of the seal, we chose to enhance and polish rather than disrupt the meaningful continuum.
Getting nerdy with it
If you can’t get enough of deeply nerdy design talk, this is the video for you! Join CEO Mads Quistgaard as he indulges in the delicious details of the design challenge and solution.
If any institution deserves its own customized typeface, it is The Danish Academy - home to one of the founding fathers of Danish typography, Knud V. Engelhardt, and a unique tradition of linking typography to architecture in a holistic design mindset.
More workhorse, less show pony
We pay homage the fundamental mindset of the academy and the vision behind Engelhardt’s legendary Gentofte alphabet with the creation of a new typeface that is more work horse than show pony. It is designed to be dynamic and adaptable to all uses, touchpoints and circumstances. The inherently pragmatic and functional approach to typography – the modularity, consistent reuse of shapes and low contrast – has given us a point of entry for the design of the Academy’s new typeface, aptly named Akademi.
Akademi Display is designed to grab your attention. It is used for short butlarge: headlines that are distinct and easily recognizable. Display is designed to perform well within a “box system” due to its high x-height and low ascenders and descenders that allow for close kerning and line height. Akademi Text is used for body copy or smaller headlines. The typeface emphasizes readability and is designed to work well in long bodies of text.
Terms of engagement
The danger of having first-hand knowledge with a client is the tendency trust your own assumptions. In order to make sure that no stone was left unturned, we based our strategic work on an inclusive and diligent workshop method that allowed a multitude of voices to be heard and contribute to the over-all vision.
Emilie Holm Sandholdt
Cecilie Kirkeskov Knudsen
Mads Christian Sandholm
Birk Marcus Hansen
Michaela Pihl Olsen
Ricky Storm Braskov
Rasmus Hetoft Hansen
Akademi Display is designed to grab your attention. It is used for short butlarge headlines that are distinct and easily recognizable. Display is designed to perform well within a “box system” due to its high x-height and low ascenders and descenders that allow for close kerning and line height.
Akademi Text is used for body copy or smaller headlines. The typeface emphasizes readability and is designed to work well in long bodies of text.