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Mexico: Alphabetical

© Alphabetical / British Council

5 November 2015
by João Guarantani and Bob Young

Following a competition, London-based graphic design studio Alphabetical designed the visual identity for the 2015 UK-Mexico ‘Dual Year’, a bilateral initiative launched to build, strengthen and celebrate the growing connections between the UK and Mexico across multiple sectors, including the arts and creative economy. As the work is nominated for a Design Week Award, we speak to Bob Young at Alphabetical about the experience of developing the visual identity and possible reverberations for their work more broadly.

What was your inspiration for the identity for the Dual Year?

There was so much to inspire us from these two nations that the main issue was narrowing it down. Both countries are so rich in history and have such exciting and dynamic stature in modern culture our job was to find the common ground that could connect them. The solution we developed from this research centred around open communication and aimed to give both nations the ability to speak in a single unified voice through the dual year. This was brought to life through a custom typeface that visually connected both cultures and allowed them to speak as one no matter the language or the context.

Any challenges in terms of the brief or particular applications? 

The biggest challenge was the very core of the brief – truly understanding both cultures. We knew that our reference of UK culture was going to be strong as it was an insiders view, but we were sure to build connections with friends and colleagues in Mexico City and Monterrey to make sure that we avoided anything contentious and cliched in our work as it’s easy to fall into that trap when you make presumptions on cultures you don’t know.

Which applications do you think have been the most successful?

In our eyes the most successful part has been seeing the use of the identity and custom typeface being evolved beyond anything we could imagine. This is a result of the identity not only being used by us but by other design teams working on communications for the festival around the world. The brand truly has a life of its own and is constantly surprising us with new executions that are completely on brand but something we never expected.

Now the dual year is almost done, do you feel you’ve fostered any links with Mexico in your practice leading to longer term collaboration?

Definitely, we’re much more aware of the creativity coming out of Mexico at the moment and are much more likely to reference or collaborate with creatives from there in the future. We’ve also made a lot of friends during the project, spanning from the team at the Mexican embassy to all of the attention and followers we’ve received online from Mexico as a result of the project being a shared across the web, it’s been a great experience.

The Design Week Awards will be announced on 25 November, at London's Roundhouse.