Sweden in a nutshell: Scandinavian country in Northern Europe; population of 9.5 million; capital is Stockholm; home of Ikea, Volvo, and Ericcson; cool. In charge of promoting these (and many other) aspects of Sweden is the Council for the Promotion of Sweden (Nämnden för Sverigefrämjande i Utlandet in Swedish and NSU for short) which is made up of five government agencies: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Visit Sweden; the Ministry for Enterprise, Energy and Communications; Business Sweden; and the Swedish Institute. After a public procurement process NSU recently introduced a new logo and identity designed by Stockholm-based Söderhavet to help the five agencies communicate cohesively and to represent Sweden.
The new identity reinstates the Swedish flag as the country’s primary identity bearer, reflecting the flag’s enduring status as Sweden’s most recognized symbol internationally. “We tried every possible permutation of every possible symbol, from crowns to crosses to abstract shapes, but we always came back to the flag,” says Mattias Svensson, Creative Director at Söderhavet. “It’s audacious to choose such an obvious symbol as the foundation for an identity, but I’m proud we did so — the flag will be just as relevant 20 years from now as it is today.”
“We chose not to use ‘Sweden’ as our textual mark,” says Joakim Nor&ecute;n, Brand Director at the Swedish Institute, a government agency. “Every time we use ‘Sverige’ we have an opportunity to tell the world something about ourselves. And by also using the local name for Sweden, we can connect more deeply via a person’s mother tongue, rather than through their second or third language.”
We wanted a distinct typeface that can stand alone, but which also works well with a broad range of other typefaces. […] We decided to go with the feeling of old signs, of mono, of a classic sans serif with a Scandinavian heritage. In collaboration with Swedish font expert Stefan Hattenbach, we then engaged in a long process of polishing the font.
At first glance the project might not seem like much: it’s just the existing Swedish flag with a monospaced font. In execution its appreciation hinges on whether light monospace fonts whet your appetite or not. I’m not a big fan of monospace sans serifs but I can appreciate a cool one when I see it and this one establishes a contemporary Scandinavian design look that feels right at home in Sweden and is “strange” enough in other countries to stand out.
Compare it to another popular country brand like Peru’s — one that is more graphically (and relatively) extravagant — and this feels exactly like the IKEA version of country branding. It’s a most economic suite of elements and comes with a set of instructions just like an EXPEDIT. Weak metaphors aside, the strength of this project lies in its role as a unifier for five separate organizations, each with its own logo, tone of voice, and audience from tourists to politicians to business people — they will still each do their own thing but with the flag and the word Sverige as the endorsing elements.