Declan and Garech Stone on the roof of A’DAM Toren – Photo credit: Lizzy Ann.
Since last week A’DAM Toren has openend its doors. The tall building, opposite Central Station, on the north shore of the IJ river, has been transformed into a “vertical city offering 24-hour entertainment”. The partners behind this project, Sander Groet (Club Air), Duncan Stutterheim (ID&T), Hans Brouwer (MassiveMusic) and developer Lingotto, asked The Stone Twins to design the brand identity for the iconic building that is centred around the music industry. The twins came up with the name, look and feel, tone of voice and many of the design details that adorn A’DAM Toren. After a personal tour through the top floors of the building we sat down at their brand new office on the 9th floor and asked them how they approached this monster assignment.
First of all, how did you win this assignment?
Declan: One of the four partners/developers, Hans Brouwer (MassiveMusic) introduced us to the team behind what was once ‘Toren Overhoeks’. We know Hans because our agency helped build the MassiveMusic brand over the last 15 years.
What was the briefing?
D: The initial brief asked us to devise a new name and brand strategy for the planned tower that would create a buzz in the city and, ultimately, generate brand value by attracting brand partners and investors.
Garech: Or, in short: create a new icon for Amsterdam and build anticipation and excitement over two years before opening.
The Stone Twins in the elevator taking them up to the lookout point. Photo credit: Lizzy Ann.
You came up with ‘A’DAM Tower’. Did they immediately embrace that name?
D: Well, we presented some other options… but, the simplicity and the power of A’DAM was acknowledged almost immediately. It was surprising that no one else had claimed the city for a building.
G: In addition, A’DAM also stands for ‘Amsterdam Dance And Music’ which seemed natural, unpretentious and a perfect distillation of our strategic ideas. Duncan [Stutterheim, AAB] immediately loved it and gave the name a ten. [Garech smiles proudly, AAB]
Can you tell us something about the logo?
D: The logo itself is relatively straightforward. It is set in Helvetica, a typeface that echoes the design ethos of Arthur Staal’s modernist masterpiece. The wordmark employs a tilted square-shaped apostrophe to suggest the 45 degree position of the tower when you look at it from above – in Dutch ‘Overhoeks’. For the last 2 years, this diagonal shape has permeated almost every aspect of the communication collateral and much of the details of the interior design such as panelled and tiled walls, and even the placement of the interactive screens.
G: Yeah, right…
‘Hello, I’m Adam’ reflects the welcoming tone of voice of A’DAM Toren – even from the sky (photo: Jan Jensen).
What was the connecting proposition in all your designs?
G: Amsterdam + Music are the basic ingredients and inform everything that has been created. Added to this, are typical ‘Amsterdammer’ attributes such as informality, directness and openness.
D: Of course, A’DAM speaks like a person – which is unique in property development – and this tone was set with the message of our launch banner “Hello, I’m A’DAM”.
Can you give other examples in your designs that reveal this mentality?
G: For a start, the tone of the copywriting is straightforward – yet playful and irreverent. These values are also informing the interior design. And so, one ends up with raw concrete interiors for the 8-story hotel and ‘the Loft’ mixed with signature design pieces. It’s an unpretentious design approach and certainly not like the gaudy interior of some new Amsterdam hotels…
D: After all, this is ‘Noord’, no bullshit. To the point. As creative directors, we wrote the design briefs for the creative parties involved and oversaw the design pitches for each of the public floors. In terms of music references, there are many nice touches throughout the building: there’s a disco ball and dance floor in one of the elevators, a carpark decorated with song lyrics (done by Niels Shoe Meulman), an ‘A’DAM & the Ants’ carpet in the members club, wayfinding with song lyrics and an experience centre that celebrates, amongst other things, the great clubbing culture of Amsterdam.
G: And don’t forget the entrance sign for the carpark which announces ‘Welcome to the Pleasuredome’; probably one of our favourite albums.
I think there were three meetings with Gemeente Amsterdam just about the text ‘Make Some Noise’
We personally really liked the huge, colourful banner you created, full of iconic songs and lyrics. Was it the biggest banner you ever created?
D: Of course! It was so big that it needed planning permission. I think there were three meetings with Gemeente Amsterdam just about the text ‘Make Some Noise’. Pretty hilarious, if we think about it now. In the end, the banners were hanging for 9 months, and were the first bold sentence in a conversation with the public.
The colourful banners with songs and lyrics even clearly visible from the centre side of IJ River (photo: Ivica Drusany).
Indeed, it had quite some stopping power!
G: Very often, banners for new developments are pretty generic, and full of aspirational slogans, CGI imagery and real estate details about square meters and future tenants… We convinced the partners to create a visual statement that would build real excitement.
How did you collaborate with the various interior design specialists such as TANK? Were there ever any arguments over you designing stuff that was part of TANK’s mandate or the other way around?
G: As CDs we wrote the design briefs and gave direction. The overall collaboration with TANK was really nice – and ideas bounced back and forth continuously. And we should mention the other design teams that have been involved; Northern Light (Experience Design), NEXT Architects, ICRAVE (from New York) and Rapenburg Plaza (Lighting Design).
D: I’m happy to say that there was ample room for us to design some of the signature interior pieces such as the screens in the revolving restaurant Moon and the carpet in the private members club A’DAM & Co.
And how was it to work with four partners, who are successful entrepreneurs and probably all have their own strong view on things?
D: Of course, they all have different opinions and different tastes. But it worked well.
G: Also, the mentality and passion of the A’DAM partners was very inspiring at times.
The Stone Twins on the roof of A’DAM Toren. Photo credit: Lizzy Ann.
Then there’s also you two. You are twins. Do you often think as a single entity or do you sometimes have arguments as well?
G: Listen, we all have arguments – sometimes a bit of dusting is healthy, and keeps things fresh. But, as mentioned, good relationships (business or private) are founded on mutual trust, respect… and the occasional beer.
Listen, we all have arguments – sometimes a bit of dusting is healthy, and keeps things fresh
Different parts of the building have a different look and feel. Was it difficult to make the different design elements align or did you just approach each venue completely differently?
D: The second phase of the assignment involved the creation of the individual sub-brands. As it is a vertical city, there is a hotel, there are offices, cafés, restaurants, an observation deck, a members’ club, etc. It was important that these different floors would each get their own identity. And so, we created the different brand names and characteristics for each. For example, the revolving restaurant Moon offers a fine dining experience with a spectacular 360 view of Amsterdam. This is a complete different offering than that of the members’ club A’DAM&Co.
Even when you look up in the elevator you see the tilted square – and experience a visual and musical trip (photo: Dennis Bouman).
Even before the renovation of A’DAM Toren had started, you were spreading artist impressions with small little twists on social media. It shows how broad the assignment was; you created a brand name, a design vision, a visual identity, event invitations, and many other sorts of communication assets. Is this the broadest assignment you ever took on?
D: Yes, for sure. The project has lasted for almost 3 years and we’ve been responsible for all the content. We believe in the power and value of creative communications that embraces PR, advertising, social media, interior design, branding… If a project asks you to design a brand from scratch, with no media budget, then you have to be resourceful and see potential in mundane things like: the colourful perimeter construction fence, artist impressions with CGI imagery and happy hard-hats.
G: It’s really simple; it’s got to be a holistic approach. Everything is brand and has the potential to trigger a conversation.
What’s the most important lesson you took home from this project?
G: The Gemeente doesn’t like the word ‘Hell’, our original proposal for the underground nightclub. [Which became ‘Shelter’, AAB]
D: Creativity has limits at floor 7.5.
Can you elaborate on that?
It was definitely a dream assignment, to build a brand from scratch and deliver real brand equity is very satisfying
When you look back, has this been your dream assignment or did the amount of work and freedom you got also make you relieved that it’s over?
D: It was definitely a dream assignment. To build a brand from scratch and deliver real brand equity is very satisfying. Besides, much of the work will potentially live for decades rather than weeks, like much advertising, or years, like design.
G: But it’s also like a pregnancy; we’re happy that we’ve now conceived this baby together with the partners; the doors are open and visitors will hopefully embrace and take the brand to the next level.
So, ready for a well-earned vacation?
D: Almost. It will probably be another two months before the building is finished and all tenants have moved in. We heard yesterday that the wayfinding and lifts won’t be ready until June… so, we guess our baby is actually still in an incubator. [Declan laughs broadly, AAB] But seriously, we’ll continue with the creative communications and act as brand guardians or consultants for A’DAM, and some of the sub-brands.