The Hague - Design and Government

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Ed Annink on The Hague Design and Government

Pieter Boddaert, Ontwerpwerk

Priska Wollein, Fuenfwerken (left) and moderator Lucas Verweij

From left to right: Jerszy Seymour, Cornelia Horsch, Pieter Boddaert, Karsten Henze, Priska Wollein

German police officer explains the uncomfortable fit of the new uniform

Photos: Saskia Nagel | © IDZ Berlin


Police uniforms from Bulgaria, Germany, England, Finland, Slovakia, Italy, Luxenbourg, Letland and the Netherlands, click here to see more uniforms.

Proposal of the design studio Fuenfwerken, Berlin for a 'European police identity'.

Proposal of the design studio Ontwerpwerk, The Hague for a 'European police identity'.















Lively discussion in Berlin

Lively discussion in Berlin


Friday 8 October our exhibition Politie-Polizei-Carabi... opened in the Internationales Design Zentrum (IDZ) in Berlin. In this exhibition differences and similarities can be seen between police uniforms across Europe. The central theme of the opening was the idea of one visual identity for the police in Europe.
The evening started with a short introduction by Cornelia Horsch, director IDZ, and Ed Annink, intendant The Hague Design and Government 2010.
Thereafter two presentations took place on the possible identity of a European police car. Pieter Boddaert from The Hague based design studio Ontwerpwerk and Priska Wollein from Berlin based design studio Fuenfwerken explained the designs that were made by both studios and that have been realised on a car.

The design by Ontwerpwerk makes use of symbols; a shield representing protection and defense with inside a star representing power, derived from the symbol for the sheriff, and a heart, symbol for friendship and connectedness. The design is based on two colours: blue and pink, especially the choice for this last colour evoked a lot of reactions in the audience. Why does he use the provocative pink? A lady in the audience replies to this that a large German company, Deutsche Telekom/ T-Mobile also has chosen a pink logo, but has never stirred any discussions with this, maybe because they dont call it pink, but ‘magenta’.

The design by Fuenfwerken shows a system of forms from which the national police forces can choose their own colour and pattern, assembled from one diamond shaped base form. Countries can express their own identity this way and the pattern can be used to create heraldic figures, like a star.

After the presentations a podium discussion started with Erik Spiekermann (director design agency edenspiekermann), Cornelia Horsch, Jerszey Seymour (designer) and Karsten Henze (Manager CD/CI and Creation Deutsche Bahn). Lucas Verweij moderated the discussion on the desirability and possibilities of one visual identity for the police in Europe.
Erik Spiekermann loves the differences in Europe. He can imagine a uniform signage, like the EU logos on number plates. However a uniform police is not an option for him, due to the different history the police has in every country. The starting point has to be the functioning of the outfit, according to Spiekermann, is has to be a work uniform; allowing the policemen and women to walk, sit and run in a comfortable way. After that the colours and symbols will follow. A female police officer present in the audience agrees; the blue pants that is part of the new uniform of the German police, has to be cleaned many more times than the former brown-green uniform. The hairband and the cap do not fit comfortably with her hair and the uniform does not contribute to the pride and self assurance of the officer that has to wear it.

In the end the discussion concentrates on the relation between the citizens and the police, and this is a touchy subject. The importance of the visual identity of the police becomes clear: it clarifies the role of the police to the people, it is recognizable, it can make officers proud and give them self confidence, makes it easier to approach the people.
Lucas Verweij asks which role there is for design to establish one European police force. Is it possible for designers to take the lead? Karsten Henze believes designers can set an example.
Jerszey Seymour is asked as a designer whether he would accept the task to create a visual identity for the European police. He answers he would only do so if he would be involved in the decision making preceding the actual design. Priska Wollein states that a possible European police force has to function as one organisation first of all, it has to start with the desire to be one force. Only after that one visual identity will follow.