How design is bringing new places to life

The past year has created a new emphasis on our surroundings, leading to an acute awareness of whether areas really serve their communities. We explore how place branding and marketing have been adjusted to reflect this

“No one had ever really explained to me that places are in competition,” says Simon Yewdall, strategy director at dn&co. The studio has worked on place branding projects for a number of locations, predominantly areas within cities such as Birmingham’s creative quarter Digbeth, the Royal Docks in London, and most recently Brent Cross Town in the north of the city. “A city relies on attracting investment, it relies on attracting people or businesses to move there, or tourists or visitors. A successful place relies on out-competing other areas, and therefore we try to look at what makes this place really special. What is its essential story? How can it begin to connect with people?”

This is the crux of what Helsinki agency Bou is aiming to tap into with its new project for the city’s marketing department, which set the challenge of attracting new tech talent from overseas while adhering to global travel disruption.

“If you’re relocating to a new city for a new job, there are a lot of big factors to influence your final decision, especially if you have to consider moving with your family to a new place. When you get to visit a city, you get to experience the city through services, commuting, education, safety, nature, the overall city culture and so on,” Bou CEO Alexander Pihlainen says. “Now that travelling is not possible, cities and companies have to get really creative. How can you make people believe and see this is actually the city that we’re telling you it is?”

Top: Brent Cross Town identity by dn&co. Above: Helsinki in a box by Bou