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The idea that we are in a different world has three references which were presented as an absolute: the supposed end of the history, the concept that our identities are fluid and the growing presence of non-places [1]. However, this perception of staying in an ethereal scenario, hits against the reality of the periodic crises faced by nations, as they unmasked the fact that most mortals do not have wings but just floor to walk on. From there, many people illusion of being world citizenship or the feeling of belonging to multinationals faces boundaries, producing their bouncing to their communities or places.

And on the floor, we find with the good and bad of the need to identify with a place and a social group, as well as the claim to be part of a collective body that gives us a certain organization. Something that helps us to ensure what we understand as our rights. That is a place where you can share feelings of belonging to a group. I also refer to a feeling of transcendence, where there is material evidence of our origin or arrival and an imagined projection towards a possible future beyond the current generation. This is why children are who most require the containment of a place, so from there to understand their world.

But one of the thing in which I agree about the idea of ​​being living in a different world, is that our current scenario has changes the habits and expectations of certain social sectors: There is now a wider audience of people looking to interact with other places rather than in the nineteenth century s [2]. They are tourists, investors or buyers of mere objects and stories, eager to taste the particularity of others. They are those who will take testimony showing that they have been part of foreign places. In this group of people, individuals and businesses are seeking permanently their north and to find a proper sense of being.

As a first balance, we can still argue that everything comes and goes to somewhere, besides, that we are all from somewhere. This also reinforces the fact that most things are still classified by their place of origin, the same parameters to objectify people and things by their place of extraction. We accepted to hear about the existence of Swedish furniture, Hindu meditation, German policy or Brazilian joy. So, the needs to interact, to belong and to be different, is what design must provide. Because we all need a place, our key is how to represent that place.

 

What are and what happens to those places?

Actually a place is something that can only be interpreted. That has no life in itself because its truth is just the result of how it has been analyzed or imagined, an entity without inherently meaning in itself. Second, a place becomes socially significant if the interests of various groups are woven there. In this regard, national states have been which represent and structure the physical places during last centuries. Accordingly, there are only a few places, like the north and south poles, which have not yet been legally awarded to a particular nation.

But under the dominant economic model of present time, places have limited their autonomy and ability to structure integral development policies. In this situation the regions or cities are forced to take the initiative in pursuit of attracting capital and thus work for its inhabitants. Means at their disposal are to stimulate the arrival of tourism, direct investments or achieve greater management framework. Thus, cities like Melbourne, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Bilbao and Amsterdam do not wait for others to define the future but they are taken actions on their image and communication, in order to achieve and successfully positioning.

At the same time, producers are clustered and managed the designation of origin of their products under its bid to separate from others, and for directly combat for gaining new markets. So it may seem to be a situation typical of the Middle Age, whereas cities, producers and local merchant leagues are joining to compete in the world, and using their brands as a badge of origin and figurehead.

As well as that, local entrepreneurs start to understand that the association of their products with positive attributes of their places helps them to be identified, decoded and valued abroad. My work was dominated in recent years by this issue, since the expression of the variable of origin became strategic for most businesses: Irish companies needed to show traits of their culture, seeking their products to be accepted in Scandinavia or England, products from Iceland that have to reflect something from its amazing nature, looking for selling more in the United States. Companies from Turkey and Russia which required setting their location to attract customers who want to interact between Europe and Asia; businesses from Emirates eager to be associated with the Muslim Diaspora; even airports which required justifying their status and strategic location as articulators of worlds. I found then that images which refer to the cultural or natural attributes of my client’s countries are essential to my work as brand designer.

But that’s not all on this issue: the present and future inhabitants of these areas also need these marks. Why?, Because brand make visible not only institutional policy strategies, not just a message to occupy niche markets, but will be also interpreted as part of the resources that symbolize the social bond that unites members of the place.

 

What is the design contribution?

I believe that as designers we are storytellers: our brands are images that project a story to whom understands it. A story that talks to other stories that viewer had acquired about a particular place, affecting therefore the interpretation he or she finally makes. Thus, the focus of our contribution is to find, interpret and embody a story that has to be scheduled by its audience as the essence of the place. This leads us to create brands which appeal to receivers, helping to anchor a set of characteristics so attractive for foreign as for our own people. The “Cosa Nostra” [3] that others want.

Moreover, since there is no identity if it is not translating into an image, we have to realize that we are actually the holder of this topic. We are then in the centre of this issue because the action of materializing what is formless, is our task. No other discipline can expect to be responsible.

Thus, and using the design of an event (Olympics, Fair, Fiesta, etc.), or by the direct creation of a brand presentation as the media of our work, is where the designer has to assumed its role as a political actor. An actor that will affect the way people looks and being looked by their audience.

 

How should be the brand?

When you are speaking on behalf of the place you have several options: You can cast it as a stage without actors, which is to choose to only be the one who cleans the theatre and turn off the lights. Cast the brand to be like a music box that repeats the same dance (Tango, Waltz, etc.), which would be anchoring the place in a single story or joke. It can also associate the place with a company, that is tie down the place with the future of one business. In this regard, I recommend:

. It is relevant that the brand of the place is the consequence of an agreed strategy. One that offers to all social segments a clear point of reference, while it is transmitting inclusive values ​​ values both to the internal as to the external context.

. It is important to create a politically correct brand, to not leave unnecessary injuries.

. This is brand that have to be conceptually understandable, that conveys a defined insight. A mark that can work alone or with a supportive slogan, but that is always saying clearly what the place claims to be, uncomplicated.

. It has to be a symbol that manages to get the soul of its audience, pushing people to reflect about the meaning of the place, affecting hence their prejudices.

 

Conclusion

We can think that the brand of a place has to do not only with some businesses, not only with others but also with one or another way to see the place. With open or closed projects of life, with local culture, ideal modes of relating to the world and with the assessment we make of ourselves. It has to do with making something visible. It is also concerned with the meaning and shape of collective identities and last with dreams of people.

 

© Sebastián Guerrini, 2013. www.guerriniisland.com

 

[1] Francis Fukuyama, Zygmunt Bauman and Marc Augé
[2] For instance, the presence of English porcelain in Buenos Aires in the ´1600; Viking bronze in Newfoundland in the twelfth century, or of Chinese jewellery in Byzantium in 1400, shows us that global exchange and social mobility have always existed.
[3] Zizek, Slavoj. El acoso de las fantasías, México D. F, Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1999

 

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