The brief for the visual identity of Ljubljana’s 2022 design biennial required we gain and impart local knowledge. Curated by Jane Withers, BIO 27 took the title of ‘Super Vernaculars: Design for a Regenerative Future’, exploring the potential of vernacular intelligence, indigenous architecture and design traditions to address 21st-century social and environmental problems.
The project came with the added challenge that we were unable to go to Ljubljana during the pandemic. How could we still imbue the design with a strong sense of place?
These constraints led to various strands of research, including into the history of BIO’s poster design, what makes a typeface environmentally sustainable and into Jože Plečnik, Slovenia’s celebrated modernist architect, who inflected his designs with traditions, vernaculars, craft processes, decorative patterns and typography specific to Ljubljana.
For BIO 27’s visual identity, these concerns coalesced into a new open-source eco-friendly font informed by one of Plečnik’s hand-drawn alphabets. From this we created a series of dual-language logotypes. We made the typeface freely available and passed on what we had learned during the design process to designers in Ljubljana through a mentorship programme.