For Omgivning, the mission to foster revitalization in downtown Los Angeles goes beyond design.
When leaders at Omgivning decided it was time to evolve the look and feel of their growing architecture firm, they wanted a solution as unconventional as the firm itself.
Omgivning was founded to transform tired old buildings into usable and vibrant spaces, primarily through adaptive reuse projects in Los Angeles’ demanding downtown market. Their architects and interior designers create bars, restaurants, hotels, and much more, improving on existing structures to help revitalize neighborhood economies.
In Swedish, omgivning means environment or ambience—the way a space feels. But their existing brand didn’t feel like much of anything. Faced with a web platform that couldn’t keep up and a look that they’d outgrown, firm leaders knew they needed a replacement, but they hoped to avoid the highly templated, cut-and-dry world of architecture-firm branding and websites. They wanted something special, to reflect their values and convey the history and future of their urban context—all in time for the firm’s 10-year anniversary. Before long, they were introduced to a New York-based creative agency in called YummyColours. And a collaboration began almost immediately after.
YummyColours was founded by Denize Maaløe and Diego Marini. Their goal—to shape well-articulated brands and experiences—is reflected in the ethical stance they take as a company. “We believe there is a responsibility in the creative community. We help promote companies that can do something good for the world,” says Marini. “We don't work for pharma. We don't work for the military. We don't work for brands that test on animals."
For Omgivning, the mission to foster revitalization in downtown Los Angeles goes beyond design. The firm’s founder and principal, Karin Liljegren, AIA, IIDA, is involved in the creation and advancement of policies that directly affect architecture projects across the city and county, from the adaptive reuse ordinance to pool enclosures and seismic retrofitting. Liljegren’s goal is to see her policy innovations for Los Angeles take hold in reuse projects across the nation.
These two firms, so driven by their respective missions, found a true bond when working together. For Omgivning, this was a chance to build a brand that reflected the firm’s iconoclasm while conveying its highly regarded presence within LA’s design industry, with a website that could support its expansion in the coming years. For YummyColours, it was an exciting challenge to reflect the firm’s hundreds of projects in varying stages of completion, and to match their clients’ architectural mindset through a rigorous emphasis on precision and order, balanced with elements of true fun.
The transformation began with YummyColours' research into how Omgivning saw its past, present and future, followed by an initial presentation of the new brand’s system. YummyColours says, “The key goal with this work was to make something that you wouldn’t find at any traditional architecture firm.” Ultimately, they settled on a mark that united the playful geometries of Art Deco typography, of which there is plenty in downtown LA, with an elegant, faintly futuristic glamor.
Three interacting shapes—a slash, a circle, and a column—create the entire logotype. Those three components can be seen as Omgivning’s areas of expertise (architecture, interior design, urbanism).
The effect is that of a mature brand, but one that has retained the quirkiness of its original personality and direction. “A bold and lively logo conveys the people and personalities that make up Omgivning’s culture and its projects,” says YummyColours. “With a clean, eye-catching O to start, two incised Gs, linear Is, Ns, Ms and Vs, the newly energized logo and visuals maintain elegance amidst playfulness. They convey Omgivning’s character across all its brand touchpoints, strengthening the firm’s overall communication through its visual identity.”
When approaching the website’s design, the team focused especially on the project pages, using a two-column layout that uncovers some of the work’s history and secrets. As a visitor scrolls down these pages, a narrative unfolds, supported by images, text, even 3D models. Each item is intended to bring the project’s background to life. Even first-time visitors can easily understand the impact that Omgivning’s work has made on a building and its surrounding community. Elsewhere across the site, the logo’s slash, circle and column elements are seen in isolation, and are respectively associated with the pages titled Projects, About (with team bios and the firm’s history), and Culture. The firm’s identity depends on the unity of all three components, as the full logo seems to imply.
For Omgivning, storytelling is more than a visual statement of the firm's capabilities; it shows to potential clients that they can do beautiful things with complex scenarios. To master the complexities of designing in a place like Los Angeles is a real achievement. And to convey that mastery, as YummyColours has done, is just as impressive.