Dezeen Magazine

Thonik and Pieke Bergmans create flags based on Brazilian architecture for design biennial

Dutch designer Nikki Gonnissen and artist Pieke Bergmans have created a series of flags for the 2015 Brazilian Design Biennial that reference the colours and shapes of buildings around the host city of Florianopolis.

Florianopolis Design Biennale flags by Thonik

The designer, who is the founder of Amsterdam studio Thonik, collaborated with Bergmans to base the 28 flags on the exterior decorations of houses and buildings found around Florianopolis in southern Brazil, where the biennale was held earlier this year.

Florianopolis Design Biennale flags by Thonik

Each flag in the series portrays a feature from a different local building, focusing on details including perpendicular railings, window arches, and distinctive architectural mouldings.

Florianopolis Design Biennale flags by Thonik

The flags pick up on the bright colours of the buildings, turning individual sections of the houses' exteriors into graphic motifs.

A dark and light blue flag depicts the shadows created by a set of balcony railings, while another flag turns decorative plaster into an orange and white symbol.


The pair visited the residents of each building featured in the series, using the flags as a "catalyst" to uncover local stories, histories and political perspectives.

Residents were later photographed holding the flags outside their respective buildings.


"Normally you make a flag for a nation, and we made a flag for a single person," Gonnissen told Dezeen. "They expressed that citizens have more rights than the state. People started to talk because of them."

Florianopolis Design Biennale flags by Thonik

Gonnissen and Bergmans were invited by Jorn Konijn, the curator of the Dutch pavilion – held in the Palácio Cruz e Sousa in Florianopolis – to contribute.

Florianopolis Design Biennale flags by Thonik

The project was prompted by research into Florianopolis' history as the site of the first large-scale public demonstration against the military regime in Brazil, which took place in front of the same building the Dutch pavilion occupied.

Florianopolis Design Biennale flags by Thonik

"As graphic designers we always use clear images and colours and bring back chaotic information into a clear symbol which is a starting point," Gonnissen said. "From there we communicate through diverse media. In this instance the flag is the medium."


"When you make a new symbol for a flag, if you take a whole building it's not strong enough so you compress it into a very clear and bold symbol," she added.


In addition to the flags, which were just a single part of an overall project entitled JÁ, Gonnissen and Bergmans created banners for a site-specific performance at the museum, as well as designing a set of 'letter-dresses' that brought together words celebrating "democracy, free speech and creativity".

Florianopolis Design Biennale flags by Thonik

The 2015 Brazilian Design Biennial took place from 15 May to 12 July 2015.

Flags are currently also a hot topic in New Zealand, which is asking residents to vote for which one of four designs by members of the public could replace the country's existing national banner.