On its website, agency New! says that its brief was to show Lithuania as “a forward-moving, contemporary-thinking nation, not the look-how-great-we-once-were kind of nostalgic ideal. So no more heraldry, we agreed.”
The idea was to create an identity that incorporated the concept of ‘Lithuania celebrates 100’ and that could also stand up to being one of country’s most publicised logos in the run up to the forthcoming celebrations of 2018.
The Vilnius Conference of September 18 1917 began the process of establishing the independent State of Lithuania, according to lietuva.lt, resulting in the Act of Independence of 1918 and the convention of the Constituent Assembly of Lithuania on May 15 1920. Following the Second World War, the country was reoccupied by the Soviet Union – and in 1990, Lithuania became the first republic to gain independence from the USSR, which itself dissolved a year later.
Last year, New! were asked to create an identity that would celebrate 100 years since Lithuania’s existence as an independent state.
The solution, according to the agency, was to keep things simple with the local name for Lithuania – ‘Lietuva’ – became the starting point for a design that would use each letter of the word (L, I, E, T, U, V and A ) as a building block for an illustration style.
“It wasn’t the first idea but from the moment one of our designers had it, everything else moved to the background,” says New! Creative Director, Tomas Ramanauskas.
“We were fascinated by its simplicity: independent Lithuania – or ‘Lietuva’ in our own language – became a collection of letters as building blocks, a DNA sequence if you will, which was essential for our 100 years of restored freedom.
“Hence, the letters as geometrical shapes turning themselves into ‘100’ and other symbols of this identity,” Ramanauskas continues. “It suited us well, as we decided to go against the usual route of using anything from a set of official state’s symbols with some nationally approved make up, i.e. colours derived from the flag.”
Ramanauskas says that while, of course, the designers of the Lithuanian flag in early 20th-century were “not thinking about it all fitting seamlessly together, very often local graphic designers are forcefully constrained within this sporadic three colour (yellow, green, red) palette.”
New! has toned down the colours and introduced grey – “then all those letters started forming not only the logo, but pictures,” says Ramanauskas, “which can be applied for various types of events, celebrating freedom.”
“We want to make it as DIY as possible,” he continues. “We have already, in agreement with the government, shared all the brand guidelines, logos, icons for anyone to use freely.
“The next step, because it will hopefully be an ongoing, shifting, mutating project – as we have almost a year until the big celebrations begin to [be unveiled] – is to involve designers and wannabe designers, students and enthusiasts to play with it, to remix it. It is crucially important for nation-wide things like this to be as involving and as open, as possible.”
In 2018, a series of cultural events, concerts and activities will mark the anniversary and for many Lithuanians it will be an opportunity to look forward rather than back.
“Being a small country we have this inferiority complex of complete insignificance on a world map,” says Ramanauskas. “So what we do is turn back, way back to remind ourselves how great we once were – would you believe that in 14th century the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe?! – and this mindset of historical rearview mirror starts to get tiresome.
“Why can’t we create who we want to become, how we want to look, what new values can we share? The frenzy of start-up culture, outstanding connectivity, ambitious new generation of people born after the fall of Soviet regime changed our outlook of ourselves and our homeland.
“We tried to tap into that – this is the Lithuania we want to see, respecting where we came from yet with firm focus on looking forward.”