How to brand a place

Today’s place branding is about much more than logos. Rachael Steven talks to five experts about the challenges and complexities of designing visual identities for countries, cities and neighbourhoods

Place branding is by no means a new phenomenon: Olympic host cities have been commissioning temporary graphic identities since the late 19th century, German designer Otl Aicher created a pictogram-based design system for the German town of Isny am Allgau in the late 1970s and Joan Miró created a logo for Spain back in 1983 – an image that conveyed the idea of Spain as a colourful, expressive, vibrant place.

But now, it is big business, with countries, cities and neighbourhoods from Peru to Wales investing in new identities to boost investment and visitor numbers. Brussels, Bhutan, Ukraine, Liege, Chattanooga, Stockholm and New York’s Meatpacking District are just some of the dozens of places to have invested in new branding in the past few years.

“More and more we’re being asked, whether it’s in New York or here in Europe, to do what we call place branding,” explains Brunfaut. “Cities are competing in the same way as brands are competing because they want to attract people: tourists, students, investors and future inhabitants.”