How We Designed Visual Identity to Celebrate City’s 303rd Anniversary
Hi! My name is Sasha Lopatyuk, I’m the art director at Rosberry. In this article I will tell you how our design team created alternative identity design for the city’s anniversary. This is a new and vitally important experience which I would like to share. Perhaps this article will help you do something similar in your city.
Design for the City
A City day is an important holiday that fuse all residents of Omsk together. Traditionally it takes place on the first weekend of August and for each holiday the municipality designs some festive decoration and dresses the city streets and buildings with flags, banners, outdoor advertising and other assets featuring newly-designed visual identity of the holiday. Also, the designers of the municipality prepare a guidebook and some printed matter which can be used by any businessman to dress up their outlet for the holiday.
It’s a wonderful initiative that we share in every way. It’s great when the city is decorated for the holiday, but unfortunately the design which is proposed by the municipality does not always meet the requirements of a particular business.
In Omsk there are many young businessmen who rely on the design, quality of the product and service, so they can not take advantage of the visual identity that the municipality offers. But the need for the consistent holiday decoration and good design has always been there.
Collaboration with the Local Business
Skuratov Coffee, originally from Omsk, is one of the largest brew-bar networks in Russia which we have long been cooperating with. Shortly before the city day they came to us with a proposal to make a A City Day Visual Design Guidebook which could be used by any entrepreneur to decorate their shop, restaurant, bar or cafe for the holiday.
We had to develop the concept, the logo and accompanying graphics, as well as prepare the guidebook and some printed matter. Skuratov Coffee in its turn made the pledge not to limit our creative freedom, to use our final design to dress up their brew-bars and to ensure good media coverage of this event.
We were really excited here at Rosberry. Visual identity design was interesting as such: we wanted to try something new, to go beyond the screens of smartphones and, of course, to accept the challenge and meet the tightest deadline ever. And, of course, we just love our city.
Since there was very little time left, we decided to ‘throw all our designers to to the wolves’ and hold a kind of design hackathon. We thought it to be the type of creative vacation and team-building activity for the whole design team.
In addition our Scrum Master decided to organize the process as design sprints, that was the kind of experiment. The process was based on the book “Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days”.The lessons learned and the story behind it can be found here.
We often do digital branding for our clients: we develop icons, logos and visual identity for mobile applications and websites and we are well versed in the development of digital products. But to develop something for the real world and at the same time make the design and the guidebook that anyone could use — that was something new and interesting.
Process and Constraints
The whole development process was divided into several stages:
- Searching for ideas.
- Elaboration of the concept.
- Preparation of printed matter.
- Preparation of the guidebook.
- Preparation of the website with a story about the project.
A point of significance in the whole process was the story of freedom and limitations. On the one hand, we had complete freedom of creativity and on the other — only 2 weeks. Therefore, we had to invent our own limitations, set the tasks, focus on one goal and distribute responsibilities. We immediately defined our framework at each stage: from the target audience to the number of stickers in the Telegram.
Searching for Ideas
A good visual identity is about finding a metaphor that could convey and bring all the important meanings and implications together. To find an idea our design team first went to see and take pictures of building facades and then banded together in a coffee shop to come up with the very idea that would get them in tune with each other.
We knew immediately what we wanted the identity to convey. It was important for us to knit together the city and the business which does care .
The target audience was a creative community, young people who were regular customers of those outlets that we were going to decorate.
It was important for us not to go into design for designers, but to create a holiday mood with those who would look at the signs, shop windows and visit places. Therefore, we had to say ‘no’ to Helvetica, Swiss modular grid and even brutalism :-)
In addition, the graphics had to contain and convey something inherent with Omsk, something recognisable and peculiar to our city. It was important because otherwise there would be no ‘Omsk’ in the design, and it could be applied to any city.
Idea of Symbol
To show the love of business and the city we decided to take the brand of any company and blend it with the city symbols. Everything is pretty clear with the business — almost any company has a logo. And Omsk Fortress is one of the main symbols of the city with a few gates surviving to this day.
We realised that the archway of each gate is exactly the symbol we need. First off, it is a direct reference to the historical part of the city. Second off, an open gate is a symbol of freedom, and third off, any symbol can be placed inside the gate, that is, inside the city. Well, we really liked the metaphor that the gate would be a portal bridging the past and the present. What remained to be done was to somehow show love through the symbol chosen. Fortunately, if you cross two arches together, you get a heart that suited us perfectly.
When the main idea was found, the whole team started elaborating the concept. It was necessary to make a logo, choose a typeface, determine the colours and, most importantly, understand what would the decorative elements be, because one logo was not enough for decoration. Moreover, all those elements had to be in harmony with each other as well as with the colours of those brands which would finally use our artwork. Also the decorative elements had to be diverse enough that the business could use our style in a variety of situations and interiors.
To us their time even more effectively, each team member took on one separate assignment.
Typeface and Logo
We quickly decided that the typeface should be a display one and festive, so we abandoned the options with strict grotesques despite the fact that we wanted to use them. Obviously, it was not an easy task to find a beautiful and high-quality typeface, and particularly Cyrillic. The search and experiments took a lot of time but in the end we found leOster, which met most of our requirements.
This typeface had many advantages. For example, the digit 3 looked like two arches which supported the idea of our visual identity. In addition, the live font line allowed us to make interesting patterns out of it which we later used. In addition, there was a funny combination of digits 030. It was like a very funny face with eyelashes which we used as an idea for the sticker pack.
The things went better with the font — the only thing we had to do was to arrange a nice composition.
Looking for the colour it was very important to choose a bright palette that would be in accord in terms of tonality, would be festive and look good when printed. Choosing a color we were inspired by the works of Malika Favre, a French artist based in London. Her work with color and shape blows away with its contrast, elegance and minimalism.
We worked with the colours and picked the appropriate shades of Pantone. We tried to work through more colours so that people would not see the same colours around during the holiday. In the end we had 5 bright colours which offered a large number of excellent combinations.
We experienced a special difficulty with the selection of blue and red, as pre-print colour proofing returned the shades we did not expect. That made us conclude: early stage colour proofing is absolutely necessary and testing should be done at those print shops where you are going to print the final artwork.
Moreover, since we focused on business, the whole concept implied that users would have an opportunity to recolour everything using their corporate colours with the imagery still retained.
Since we based our style on the gates of Omsk Fortress, the team drew all of them: the Tara gate, the Irtysh gate , the Omsk gate and the Tobol gate. We were lucky, they all had different architecture, so we broke them down into constituent parts to turn them into graphic elements which could dress up shop windows and interiors of different outlets and shops. And to make them look more elegant and festive, we filled them with patterns.
The font itself helped us a lot to create patterns. As mentioned earlier, its symbols had a very lively form which inspired us to bundle them together into endless line patterns. The result was a set of different patterns which we used to fill in the gate- and column-like shapes. That ensured a great variability of graphic elements and made the general style impression even stronger.
JVCR is something we want to tell you more about. It’s a community of photographers, artists, designers and illustrators in Omsk loved by us and many other people. In all but name “JVCR” is “Омск” — the name of the city but typed with the English layout on. You can buy postcards, badges, stickers and patches with the works of this community in all the brew-bars by Skuratov Coffee as well as in many other outlets.
For the special benefit of JVCR fans we made an alternative version of the logo. To support the idea of JVCR we replaced the digit 3 with the # symbol which comes up if you press shift+3 with the English layout on.
Since we quickly found an interesting image of the face conveyed by ‘030’ symbols, we designed a set of stickers that we called “doves”. We used them to make stickers for Telegram, as well as a printed version of them which was distributed among colleagues and friends.
A large and complex part of the work was to develop a guidebook and printed matter that could be used by marketing expertы or full-time designers with even little knowledge of how to work with graphics. In a 33-page document we explained how to insert your logo into the holiday logo (hello, xzibit!), how to choose colours, how to compose graphic elements, design cases and social network accounts.
Landing Page Development
In order to have a single point of contact with potential users of our newly-designed visual identity, we developed a landing page which was there to tell about the idea of the project, show examples of use and feature the link to download the final artwork.
To develop the landing page we used Tilda. The corporate website for Skuratov Coffee was also developed by us on Tilda, so it was not a problem to quickly design and develop a page about the project. Generally speaking, we like Tilda. On the one hand, it allows a designer to quickly make websites from ready-made blocks and on the other — provides some flexible functionality to fine-tune website design and animation.
We were pleasantly surprised by the support of Omsk companies. Almost all Omsk news outlets either wrote about us or told on TV. Lots of companies used our artwork to design their social network accounts, decorate shop-windows and outlet interiors. They also printed our stickers, etc. Some people had fun changing their social network avatars by enclosing their portraits into the heart instead of logos. All this has incredibly motivated us as there is nothing more pleasant than to see that the initiative is picked up by a large number of completely different people and companies.
We can definitely conclude that the prank was a success. We got a lot of new experience, decorated the city, drummed up some local hype and just had fun. Of course, the process was rough, not all the ideas were implemented, the team worked hard and was pretty tired afterwards, but, damn it, it was worth it.
Thank you for reading to the end. Please, share what you think about the result we delivered. If you have any questions, we will be happy to answer in the comments.