Elements x Nicole Dalton | Branding a Building

For Graphic Design Month so far we’ve published in-depth interviews, an Archives mini series and a few of our weekly Wednesday lists. Today we’re sharing the first instalment of a new feature called Elements, which aims to look more closely at some of the various facets in the extensive field of graphic design. To do this we’re calling on the knowledge of a few designers whose practises (or a large part thereof) centre on one of the following sub sections of graphic design: typography, branding and packaging. The guidelines were simple; choose and discuss one project – from any country, and any era – that epitomises this aspect of the craft for you.


In this Elements graphic designer Nicole Dalton talks us through one of her favourite examples of a corporate identity. Her own impressive portfolio of branding work has had her intermixing magic and logic for photography duo Elford/De La Forêt and designing a Loerie-award-winning logo for authentic mexican restaurant El Burro. Nicole lives in Cape Town and is currently employed as head of design at bespoke design studio Jane Says. “I’ve always enjoyed clean, classic design with little subversive details sprinkled on top” she told us in an interview last year and with that, we’ll hand things over to her.  


The only constant in 21st century branding and design is change. A brand’s ability to stay fluid and constantly update itself is essential. Taking inspiration from the theme Elements, I chose a project that showcased many different moving parts all coming together to form a brand.  

Anagrama is an international branding firm with offices in Monterrey and Mexico City. If you’re a graphic designer and you have the internet, you more than likely have come across their work. Browsing through their portfolio is like strolling through a delicious design candy shop, and also not unlike willingly pummelling your ego.  

I chose Sofia because it first introduced me to Anagrama’s body of work, and three years on it still looks fresh.  



In their own words:  

“Sofia is a building designed by architect Cesar Pelli for One Development Group. Located in San Pedro, Mexico, this building not only was designed by an internationally renowned architect, it also has the most generous specifications in every aspect: from automated appliances, to Leed certifications.  

Our task was to communicate such sophistication and exclusiveness to their potential buyers. Therefore we created an identity that was the exact opposite of what we usually see for this kind of project.  

Sofia’s identity is formed by three very important axes: Logotype, Typography and Layout.  

Both the attention to detail and the brand’s elements convey the greatness of Sofia’s architectural project.”

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The city of San Pedro, founded in 1596.  


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The keys and the coat of arms are inspired by San Pedro’s coat of arms. The antique styled crest and engraved keys are a nice nod to Sofia’s location amongst 400 years of history. The logos have a subtle hand rendered quality to them, which makes them feel practically rich and luxurious in comparison to the more common monoline illustrations we see everywhere these days.  


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Anagrama developed a custom typeface designed especially for Sofia, inspired by British sans-serifs. This clean typeface offsets the intricate crest and keys, capturing Sofia’s modern architecture set against the historic vista of San Pedro.  


Above: Circular | Nanami | GT Walsheim  

The last few years have seen a proliferation of these sorts of very geometric yet endearingly awkward sans faces. These geometric sans-serifs are constructed of straight, monolinear lines and circular shapes. They can tend towards being clinical, but are also quite simple. The most recent take on this style sees some stilted and often unusual characters thrown in to define and differentiate typefaces. The starkness of these sans-serifs make for great headings, but they usually don’t work in long paragraphs.  


A large selection of fonts completes the rest of the typographic set. Its sort of a font-for-any-instance sort of approach, but it works given the restraint Anagrama uses when mixing these faces together.  



The layout arrangements were inspired by the type treatments used before grids were popularized by the Swiss grid system. They are clean and minimal, while being extremely playful. Generous amounts of white space are complemented by large type elements and tight justified paragraphs.  

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The colour palette captures the region, gives a distinct fashion feel, and adds a feminine touch to balance the more masculine logo and type.  




The materials and textures used are luxurious and well appointed. Plentiful gold foils, textured and uncoated cream and navy paper stocks, a few unique die cuts thrown in all combine to give a feeling of luxe sophistication. They even developed an eau de toilette that captures the essence of the project.  

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Sofia is basically an identity for a building, but it feels like so much more. Anagrama generally seems to approach every project like a fashion brand, which you would assume would be a limiting, skimming-the-surface move. Yet somehow they have the knack of making all their projects trendy-but-not-just, unique and substantial.  



All image copyrights belong to their respective owners.  

Visit Nicole’s website to see her work and follow Graphic Design Month on 10and5.  


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