SDG’s identity system for Fagbokforlaget sets a new precedent for academic textbooks
Norweigian publishers Fagbokforlaget look to be the most stylish purveyor of academic textbooks in history, following the release of their identity and editorial system designed by Oslo-based design agency Scandinavian Design Group. Producing non-fiction and educational books, SDG have implemented the thematically appropriate Universal Design aesthetic – creating a system that is both stark and innately approachable through intelligent use of colours, typography treatment and understanding. “In 2021, Universal Design might be a given,” Nicklas Haslestad, Creative Director at SDG explains, “but we had to take it specifically into account since this brand is first and foremost designed for vocational education students at junior high school,” he adds.
With a lot of students dealing with learning difficulties, SDG looked to produce something understandable and non-threatening; subsequently including not one but two friendly and frolicsome styles of illustration. “These illustrations let the students understand abstract thematics (e.g. fiction) in a more engaging way,” Haslestad tells us, noting how the styles had to also cater to the implementation of instruction manuals as well as academic textbooks. “This is where a second style became relevant,” Haslestad recalls, “a highly technical, detailed and refined style set in an isometric perspective.”
The diversity of the editorial system’s application also led to the selection of 23 colours across the identity – following the lead of Universal Design’s modular direction, with each individual section being colour-coded. Needing to be flexible, Haslestad notes that “all 23 colours had to carry enough contrast between each other,” explaining, “strict rules applied for grade level and master branding,” such as each text’s primary and accenting colours. “We created a digital design programme that made it easy for everyone working with the identity to behold control,” Haslestad recalls.
Going for the obvious but thematically perfect typographic choice, SDG elected Helvetica Neue as their primary typeface, providing the legibility and familiarity needed to work across printed matter and digital space for the variety of the audience. Acting successfully contrary to the typical, cringy, graffiti-style of typography used to ‘relate’ to children in school textbooks, SDG looks to have set a new precedent in the publishing field with intelligent design that treats kids like they’re children, but not like they’re stupid. “The books have now been tested more in-depth,” Haslestad concludes, “and continue to impress.”
Helvetica Neue by Max Miedinger and Edouard Hoffmann