Bulletproof 's Jorijn Harms explains how the agency's partnership with some of Amsterdam's top universities generated a campaign that highlights the increasing gender gap in the Netherlands and demands legislative action toward closing it.
Design has always been a key element in inspiring social change – from the Suffragettes to the Black Panthers to Extinction Rebellion, strong and recognisable visuals have played a crucial role in making critical social movements seen and deeply felt.
Bulletproof, which has offices in Amsterdam, is leveraging this week's celebration of International Women's Day, alongside the city's upcoming provincial elections on 15 March, to launch Amsterdame.
The campaign deploys a collection of bold graphic posters, banners and custom stickers fusing symbols from gender politics and the city's history to publicise three critical gender equality demands.
Two of these demands are addressed to the government: to implement an Equal Pay for Men and Women Act and to fund research into sex differences to improve healthcare for women. The final demand goes out to all eligible voters in the Netherlands: to vote for women on the 15 March to increase female representation in government.
Bulletproof has designed six graphically striking posters to go live in 125 locations across the city, as well as "wildplak" – or flyposting – locations. The studio has also created street sign stickers that will be placed over the names of the most famous canals - Herengracht (Gentlemen's Canal), Prinsengracht (Prince's Canal), and Keizersgracht (Emperor's Canal) – transforming them into their female counterparts, Damesgracht (Dame's Canal), Prinsessengracht (Princesses' Canal) and Keizerinnengracht (Emperesses' Canal).
"Our campaign was inspired by everyday elements in Amsterdam's streets, especially how the large majority of our streets are named after men," Bulletproof's Jorijn Harms told Creative Boom. "Making people more aware of the continuous, often subconscious, confirmation that we live in a societal structure that was not created by and for women was a key point for us to address. I'm proud that we have managed to do that in a way that feels both bold and impactful but also positive and inspiring. I hope it puts gender equality firmly at the top of the agenda."
The reimagining of Amsterdam's streets is only one part of a larger concept designed to disrupt the city's status quo.
The campaign's wordmark redesigns the city's emblem, superimposing the female symbol over Amsterdam's recognisable three crosses. "The idea was to represent a takeover, a seizing of control by the city's women that demonstrates how they will no longer stay quiet," Harms told Creative Boom. In combining two such well-known symbols, this icon becomes an effective shorthand for the campaign without the need for any additional context, therefore making it an ideal logo to plaster across the city and drive momentum.
By adopting the city council's colours – red, white and blue – and enhancing them into a trio of more vibrant shades, Bulletproof injected fresh energy to inspire people to get involved. At first, the accent pink felt like an all too obvious choice of femininity. But the team decided to embrace and harness its connotations, applying it in a way that felt powerful rather than pretty.
The campaign's contrasting typefaces are reminiscent of historic protest placards and create an interesting tension that allows for moments for emphasis.
Jorijn told Creative Boom: "Our design was derived from the activist visual language of the suffragettes who used unapologetic, punchy statements that inspire urgency and real action. We also wanted to reference the hand-painted signs often seen at feminist marches worldwide to capture the rawness of emotion we feel. It isn't just a design project; it's our future."
To support the three central demands of the Campaign, Amsterdame will host a panel discussion at VU University on the 8 March, International Women's Day. Split into two parts. The first half sees influential Dutch women, including Marieke Samallo and Zahra Runderkamp, reflect on their experiences of the gender gap. The second half is an interactive Q&A, where Dutch political leaders will be asked what they're doing to create change going forward.
"This will not be a one-off campaign that ends in March," said Harms. "Amsterdame will continue throughout the year, every year until the gender gap is closed in this country".
"Our hope is that by creating an identity for the Dutch fight for gender equality, we give the cause meaning beyond words and inject an energy into it that unites the people of Amsterdam to take action," said Harms.