What you won’t be seeing in Barcelona today

There’s a general strike in Spain today which means that, among other inconveniences, design fans will be denied the chance to see Mario Eskenazi’s brilliant identity system for the city of Barcelona in action. I recently had the chance to speak to Eskanazi about a piece of work that is a daily part of city life

There’s a general strike in Spain today which means that, among other inconveniences, design fans will be denied the chance to see Mario Eskenazi’s brilliant identity system for the city of Barcelona in action. I recently had the chance to speak to Eskanazi about a piece of work that is a daily part of city life

Eskanazi’s identity for Barcelona pel Medi Ambient, the environmental services department of the municipal authority, was actually introduced in 2009 but has been rather overlooked in terms of international coverage – which is ironic given its visibility in the city. Its huge dotted B adorns all the vehicles used for street cleaning, patrolling the beaches, parks and so on in the city. Different coloured and patterned Bs represent different departments – light green for parks, light blue for streets, dark green for refuse collection and so on.

I was in Barcelona to take part in the PromaxBDA conference. There, I chaired a panel of designers, one of whom was Eskanazi, so I had the opportunity to talk to him about the project.

You might expect a city council to be a difficult client but Eskanazi says that the opposite was true. He also says that, having moved to the city from his native Argentina more than 30 years ago, his intimate knowledge of it meant that he already had a deep understanding of what would be appropriate.

The patterning of the B letters at the heart of the scheme was created using the Processing open source programming language. A script sampled images of the city to create the patterns.

These are then applied to white vehicles alongside the Barcelona pel Medi Ambient name in black type with the individual department name in its appropriate colour below.

It’s a very effective, instantly recognisable scheme that, in its confident modernity, expresses the values of the city very well.

It’s also very flexible – here, for example, it is used reversed out on a blue bin.

And on a beach patrol vehicle.

Hopefully by tomorrow things will have returned to normal in the city and, once again, Eskanazi’s Bs will be buzzing about its streets, parks and beaches once again.

See more of Eskanazi’s work here.



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  • Tony

    Pure genius – Council vans that make you feel good.

  • A Bunchism ?

  • Chris C

    I like it too – simple identities always work well with repetition and a well thought through palette. I would however like to know when anybody last saw a council vehicle/bin/other looking so immaculate – that always helps!

  • HueyQ

    Did Bradford College steal this? Or is it purely coincidental?

  • Okay, that’s it! I so want to learn Processing! Once again amazing result. Love this.

  • BRAVO Eskenazi !!
    and thank you for making the city of Barcelona still a bit more beautiful !

    Art on wheels 😉

    Un abrazo!

  • mickeywya

    This would be an excellent logo for Birmingham! The letter B made from the selfridges building. :)

  • jason

    Am I missing something? is this nice? looks like an old photoshop halftone filter – Processing? Looks like the CI for an 1980’s print shop. Not cool in my eyes, sorry.


  • Emma

    I thought of the halftone filter too. I understand from reading the article that the patterns come from images of the city, which is nice, but it’s something you can only appreciate once it’s been explained to you. It looks fine, but I wouldn’t think anything special of it if I saw it in the street.

  • Somehow this B does suit the city and is reminiscent of it’s grid-like city plan and at the same time Gaudi’s Park Guell iconic mosaic patterns.
    However, I feel like I am expecting something more surprising, that could take the city to another level. Tell me something I don’t know about Barcelona. Tell me something better.
    On that note, this is also very similar to the Barcelona Design Week logo with its fat letters.

  • Tammy, what exactly are you expecting an identity such as this to tell you that you didn’t already know, bearing in mind it would need to tell everyone who who encountered it / used it (mostly on a daily basis) something equally surprising. As with any other city / town / village / building / location etc, There are as many Barcelonas as there are people living there, as there are people who visit the city, or people who are just aware of its existence — cities etc are no longer purely geographical, nor are they the sum total of their tourist hotspots, iconic buildings and / or organisations; (international) cities can’t be dumbed down to one feeling or aspiration (i heart manchester, for example) without appearing trite or over-spun. I’m not saying I think it’s the best design in the world ever, but what it says to me is that Barcelona is a forward thinking, design (and by association culturally) aware city that cares about the quality of it’s appearance (and possibly, by association the quality of other activities). Compare the Barcelona identity with the aspiration gap which flaws the majority of civic and location branding in the UK – have a day out in Sheffield for example spotting the ‘everything wrong in the wrong place’ logo our city council flaunts not just at the rate-payers but the considerable creative talent forced to live in its shadow… right, i’m off to right some other wrongs… thanks for reading

  • Dear Ian,

    . . . And it was well worth the read! Interesting, stimulating, and correct points on cities.
    – “There are as many Barcelonas as there are people living there . . .etc.” Love it! So true and well put.

    And I must admit that after looking up the Sheffield City Council Web site, I realize I may have been a bit hard on that B.

    Still – I know one thing about design, and it has to excite me. Some say that branding a city is impossible. However, if you can’t brand a city, then you can’t brand a soft drink or jeans. Anything could be a million and one things, but you take it in a direction that people can relate to, and still find some magic and something new in.

    When Wolff Olins branded New York City, they decided that NYC can not be just one thing. So they made THAT the brand. I found those three letters more typographically interesting than this B.

    The B is good, could be better. I guess it does say that BCN is a “forward-thinking design-aware city” (as you mentioned) – and that’s a lot, but not enough to make exciting design.

    Thanks for writing.