Launched in 2006 after a competitive tender by New York City marketing department, the stylised NYC logo is now emblazoned on the side of 13,587 yellow cabs as well as t-shirts and signage around the city. Wolff Olins designed the “one singular brand for a city with infinite opinions, identities and initiatives”.
Two year’s later the Belfast ‘B’ logo was launched. It looks a warm heart or a bum depending on your perspective. At the time the Sunday Life reported that Belfast City Council “spent £180,000 on the creation of its logo” (and an additional £250,000 on advertising, launch events and showcase promotions).
Nine years later and Belfast City Council is in the process of launching its new branding. There was a big fuss on a radio phone-in and some newspapers about ‘leaked’ details of the new design. I use ‘leaked’ in inverted commas because the design was already out in the wild, on the new Metro timetables, the hoarding around the George Best Hotel, the latest Belfast City Guide for tourists and even on the front of a racing car at Silverstone.
The council tender ‘worth up to £50k’ was won by local firm McCadden (whose office perches on the roof of Bedford House). Its managing director Glenn Stewart swept aside commercial confidentiality at a media briefing yesterday morning and confirmed that McCaddens bid £45k for the prestige project which has involved a dozen staff and become a labour of love whose effort has far exceeded the contract value.
— Alan in Belfast (@alaninbelfast) September 19, 2017
The ‘starburst’ design is a visual approximation of the city boundaries, with the Titanic Quarter cut out in the top left pointing back to the city’s origin. The word ‘Belfast’ can appear within the starburst and if used alone will keep the cornersa cut off the end of some letters, “giving Belfast its literal edge” as Stewart explained.
The old ‘B’ was static and while prominent in some council and tourist marketing, it was often relegated to a logo in the corner of a poster or a report. The new starburst design is meant to be dynamic, can be used across public, community and private sectors.
The starburst design is the antithesis is a normal corporate brand. The normal rules that constrain a logo to being reproduced only in a couple of set colours, positioned in a particular place with a fixed gap around it are largely thrown out the window. The palette is open, colour fades are encouraged, as well as patterns and graphics – static or animated – can fill the starburst. Alternatively the lines can appear more subtly, hinting at the city brand without dominating the overall imagery.
— Slugger O’Toole (@SluggerOToole) 19 September 2017
Organisations will be ‘on brand’ if they use four or more out of the six aspects of the new design: brandmark, colour, typography, tone of voice, imagery and graphic language.
The generation of a new brand, whether for a city or a corporate concern, comes with a process to define the brand’s values and tone. While the overall message is about an energised and energising city, words like unpretentious, ambitious, imagination, self-belief, positive, dreaming and hard working are associated with the Belfast’s new mark.
A website will be launched towards the end of this month to explain more about the branding and allow the public to submit imagery that can become part of the catalogue underpinning the algorithm that will cycle round and animate the online version of the branding.
In the near future look out for the quirky starburst appearing on hoardings around both public and private building sites around the city as the new brand is gradually rolled out and the old ‘B’ becomes less visible. Look out for well known organisations adding elements of the brand alongside their own existing branding to ‘partner’ with the city. It’s likely to appear on the side of the pink Metro buses. Also look out for imaginative parodistic versions of the branding as people play with the format and inject some mirth.
£45,000 for a flexible brand that lasts ten years would be a pretty good investment.
Quantas believe that “Belfast is the emerging capital of cool”. The city now has a logo to match that plaudit.
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about and reports from civic, academic and political events, reviews cultural performances, chairs discussions, and live-tweets, streams and records lectures and conferences. He delivers social media training, coaching and consultancy, produces podcasts, is a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, FactCheckNI board member, and is a member of the Corrymeela Community.