Dressing up Scandinavia’s largest department store

Partners Underware in collaboration with Kokoro & Moi Date 2012

Still in use today, Stockmann’s custom typeface Stockmann Sans—designed by Underware—is turning 10. Here’s how it remains current through changing times.

Source: Underware. All rights reserved.

Founded in 1862 by Georg Franz Stockmann, the Stockmann department store has grown to a commanding position in Finland, Estonia, and Latvia, serving tens of millions each year in eight company-owned locations.

To celebrate and commemorate its 150-year anniversary in 2012, Stockmann approached creative agency Kokoro & Moi to refine and unify their visuals, leading to new packaging, graphics, and a custom typeface by foundry partner Underware. Ten years later, we’re looking back at what made Stockmann Sans so enduring.

Source: Kokoro & Moi. All rights reserved.

To understand the typeface, it helps to examine the design system in which it lives. Successful in blending in with the traditional brand of the stores while adding a contemporary voice, Kokoro & Moi’s system was nominated for a Design of the Year 2012 award by Design Museum London and won gold at the Best of the Year 2011 show in Finland.

The approach started with Stockmann’s highly-identifiable ‘S’ mark and incorporated decades of inspiration from Stockmann’s corporate archives, especially those pieces dating back to the first half of the 20th century.

Scandinavian patterns and bold colors, including Stockmann’s own British Racing Green color, were integral to the aesthetic. Underware’s charge—to unify the retailer’s communications across not only media but also borders—relied, too, on Stockmann’s existing DNA.

Source: Underware. All rights reserved.

The sans serif typeface includes eight styles across three weights, with the inclusion of Italics and tabular Roman figures for the regular and light weights. Across all styles, Underware sought to add “a little touch of glamour and jolly luxury,” something reflected in its angled stroke terminations and peculiarly flowing ‘g’.

While Stockmann Sans does the bulk of the brand’s typographic heavy lifting, it isn’t asked to do everything. The brand guidelines explain that as the primary typeface, it should be used “for all body texts in brand-related material,” yet a secondary face is used to set the headlines. This allows Stockmann Sans to support the brand without appearing stale and too familiar over time, a phenomenon which can happen to branded display faces.

Source: Underware. All rights reserved.

Underware was able to create a robust Nordic design with plenty of OpenType features and support for more than 40 languages using the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. The capitals were designed to function both in sentence initials (in the typical manner) and in all-caps text, frequently used in catalogs and in-store signage.

“Because the custom type family is applied in all marketing materials and in all department stores throughout Finland, the Baltic countries, and Russia, Stockmann Sans is seriously being put to work. From window letterings to magazines, from carpets to signages and price labels, across their websites and mobile shops.” — Underware

Source: Underware. All rights reserved.

The result is a typeface which has been read and trusted by nearly everyone in Scandinavia for a decade. Stockmann’s decision to commission and use a custom typeface protects its brand, honors its 160-year history, and prepares for 160 years more.

If your company wants to unify its visuals with a unique durable visual system, there may be no better solution than custom type. Contact us to start the conversation with the designers at one of our partner foundries.

Related projects

Coffee Company

Born of its founders’ love for artisanal coffee, the Coffeecompany opened its first Amsterdam location in 1996. Jasper Uhlenbusch, brand director and green-coffee buyer at Coffeecompany, approached Amsterdam Signpainters to paint “Sinds 1996” (translation: Since 1996) on their affiliates’ shop windows by hand to celebrate the company’s twentieth anniversary. Retype’s Ramiro Espinoza was there to help.

Read more

Het Parool

In 2016, Amsterdam-based daily newspaper Het Parool launched a new design. The printed paper and accompanying website were overhauled to mark the organization’s seventy-fifth anniversary. One of the most striking changes was the new logo and masthead, expertly lettered by Spanish type and graphic designer Laura Meseguer of Type-Ø-Tones. The final mark adorns not only the newspaper and website but also all expressions of Het Parool’s identity.

Read more