How Barkas brought the Danish National Film School into a new era with a fresh yet faithful look
Since it was founded in 1966 by film director and theorist Theodore Christensen, the Danish National Film School has maintained its legacy as a globally recognised film school. With notable alumni including film director Lars von Trier and filmmaker Susanne Bier, among many others, the Danish school has attracted aspiring directors, scriptwriters, editors, sound designers and cinematographers for over 50 years. In 2022 however, it was time to rethink the brand strategy – how could the film school present itself in a way that retains its DNA, whilst bringing it into a new and more open era? As an independent creative company, Barkas (located in both Stockholm and Copenhagen) understood the need to create a welcoming image for all audiences – both Danish and international.
“Historically, the school has been closed off and is almost a mythical place in Copenhagen, with a very limited number of students and rigorous admission enquiries,” Founder & Creative Director Mike Wittrup explains. In fact, the school only has 96 students. “With the new strategy,” he continues, “the school is opening to the public with events, a film club curated by students, masterclasses and much more. We strived to make an identity system that is flexible enough to contain all of those needs while staying true to the curious spirit of the school.”
Barkas have introduced a colourful new direction, symbolising this diverse new era. It embraces flexibility with a bilingual modular system, providing endless compositions within one frame. To accommodate this, the typographic direction was intentionally straightforward, for the sake of legibility and versatility. “To keep things simple and easy to work with we use one typography and one weight,” Wittrup tells us.
“The type is called Reply and was made by Kasper Pyndt,” he clarifies – a Danish designer and typographer (Approximate Type Foundry) who was educated almost next door to the school at the Royal Danish Academy. “The same way as the school wants to support and develop young talent within film, it was also a big wish to go with a young and independent type designer like Kasper Pyndt for the typography,” Senior Designer Marie Dissing adds, “his minimalistic yet subtly detailed sans serif was the perfect choice to balance out the expressive colours, different styles of photography and edgy motion, and add a timeless modern feel to the identity.”
As part of the research process, the creative team delved into the universe of film and found inspiration across the board – from the modular system’s screen-shaped dimensions, to the bright and unexpected colour swatches derived from editing software. “One of the goals of the visual identity was to create an inviting and colourful identity,” Wittrup states. “The colour profile has a technical expression. Combined with the squared modular layout system, we have a lot of flexibility to make unique expressions that are still coherent and feel contemporary.”