For Gabriela Namie and Jun Ioneda, graphic design means one thing above all: curiosity. “We want people to travel with us and reach a different place,” say the two designers from São Paulo. Which is why they named their studio Barca, Portuguese for boat. What they are interested in is playing with change. Instead of fixed logos, they develop graphic alphabets that generate identity through diversity. To achieve this they use strong colours that often break with visual habits – making them all the more appealing to the senses.
São Paulo seems like the ideal place for this – the only megacity with a ban on advertising in public spaces, banishing all billboards, neon signs, and logos from view. “Now you can see the buildings again and not just a forest of signs. I think this has made people far more attentive to the graphic materials they encounter,” says Gabriela Namie. “Perhaps that’s why we prefer things that are not quite so direct, that sometimes only become clear at second glance,” adds Jun Ioneda.
To avoid office routine, the duo has written a ten-point manifesto. “Creativity against the odds” is one of their principles, for solutions beyond the obvious. “Speak graphics so you speak with all” is an appeal to listen. “You mustn’t forget that you’re addressing people whose ideas and opinions are important,” says Jun Ioneda. Fittingly, their manifesto also declares “Nobody likes automatic replies” and “Be bold. Or die trying” – a call to face forwards and continually improve one’s work.
Gabriela Namie and Jun Ioneda had their breakthrough with a student project at the Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado, an art academy in São Paulo. They were working on a fictitious relaunch for the Brazilian cosmetics brand Catharine Hill that specialises in professional products for make-up artists. “It was the first thing we worked on together,” Gabriela Namie recalls: “Funnily enough, in 2014, directly after we had set up our studio, the company called and asked us to actually realise the project.” Catharine Hill’s original mountain logo was translated into delicate lines that conveyed a clear, purist image. At the same time, the black design of the packaging was broken up with touches of colour.
“Colour is the first impression of any design. Which is why much of our discussions revolves around this topic. We are positively obsessed with colour,” explains Gabriela Namie. The location of their studio probably also plays a part in this. “São Paulo is quite a grey city,” says Jun Ioneda, “since we don’t see much colour in our everyday lives, we try to compensate for that.” The quality of the new design for Catharine Hill was demonstrated not only by several design prizes and an invitation to the 2015 Brazilian graphic design biennial, but also by a 50 per cent increase in their client’s turnover within just one year.
Barca also prescribed a dose of aesthetic refreshment to Veravin, a Brazilian wine dealer that mainly supplies large events. Using lightweight bag-in-box packaging, French wines can be shipped to Brazil far more affordably than in conventional glass bottles. “The brand wants to appeal to more than just connoisseurs,” says Gabriela Namie, “which is why a fresh image was important.” Instead of golden lettering, the packaging features colours less commonly associated with wine like pink, petrol or sand. The logo – three Vs, each rotated 120 degrees, one with a crossbar turning it into an A – looks dynamic and mysterious at the same time: like the writing of an earlier highly sophisticated culture meeting with the worldly pleasures of today.
Also, the funk band Vó Tereza were interested in a change. “They were looking for an image that is easily recognisable,” Gabriela Namie explains: “Their previous logo was great. But it wasn’t flexible enough due to its vertical orientation.” The designers took inspiration from São Paulo’s Italian quarter, famous for its coloured tiles: out of the band’s logo, they created a collection of different square forms that can be combined like tiles, side-by-side, rotated or upside-down. In this way, their corporate identity became an alphabet that can be used flexibly for posters, record covers, and merchandising.
“We don’t want to commit to a single medium, style or technology,” says Gabriela Namie. For Barca, thinking conceptually is just as important as working with their hands. There is no division of labour. This results in a broad range of projects: at present, they are designing the corporate identity for a sex shop that wants to appear anything other than crude or sexist. At the same time, they are working for a legal practice with mainly start-ups as clients that would like to distance itself from the rigid, conservative image of their profession. Another project contains the corporate identity for a new school in São Paulo. “The building is under construction at the moment and it will have movable walls so that the children are no longer restricted to a fixed classroom,” explains Jun Ioneda, “and we also want to reflect this aspect of flexibility in our design.”
With their “Carne ao Molho Madeira” campaign for Greenpeace, Barca has proven that their work can also take on a social dimension: as well as the visual identity, Gabriela Namie and Jun Ioneda also designed the website, a video, and all of the printed materials. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of the depletion of the rainforests that is being caused by livestock farming. The goal was to persuade enough consumers to sign a declaration that they would no longer buy rainforest-farmed meat: “We wanted to communicate this message not aggressively but in a clear and understandable way. And it worked. We got the signatures we needed and all of Brazil’s supermarkets adjusted their range. Making such an impact with one’s own work is a great feeling.” It looks as if Gabriela Namie und Jun Ioneda’s ship is beginning to gather speed.