In early 2014, the Grey Group advertising agency opened a new Singapore division in order to run campaigns for GlaxoSmithKline's numerous brands. Forming a multinational team comprised of people from a dozen different countries, Grey Group Senior Graphic Designer Luís Fabra decided to do something to reflect the combined stamps of the office's international passports: create a custom typeface to brand the new division.
But how can you design a typeface that resonates with the more than 100 countries where the firm has clients, and symbolizes a multinational cooperation? You take your inspiration from the shapes and colors on display in flag pavilion outside of the United Nations.
"When you set up a new hub to work with the rest of the world, it kind of makes sense to install a multinational team to do so," explains Fabra. "We invented a design tool to brand this team, and to communicate our mindset and vision—the world's first multinational typeface."
To create the typeface, Fabra deconstructed a flag into different abstract shapes—stripes, dots, half-circles, triangles, and cornices—that could be reconfigured into alphanumeric characters. What makes the typeface multinational is that each of these elements can be colored to resemble different flags' schemes: an "A" that screams "USA"in red, white and blue can just easily reconfigure itself in green, yellow, red and black to say "Zimbabwe."
"The typeface was inspired by the team itself," Fabra tells Co.Design. "We come from 12 different countries, have experience in 49 markets, and our work runs in 106 countries." And each of those 106 countries has its colors reflected. "Each country we work for is represented, and we hope that through combining them, our unique multinational perspective comes through."
The result is a vibrant geometric font that uses colors and shape to symbolize a synergy between the many different cultures and nationalities lending their expertise to Grey Groups branding efforts in Singapore.
In the Grey Group offices, the finished typeface has been used to distinguish everything from the conference rooms to the signage to the mission statement. Can a font truly be multinational, though, just by painting it with the colors of 106 flags? Fabra thinks so. "Just as a typeface only has meaning when each letter works together, so does our company."