A progressive identity for a forward thinking city
Everything about the Eindhoven City Branding project was unconventional. It is a case study in what can happen if the status quo is challenged and new methods of working are embraced. And how a relationship of trust with an open-minded client can lead to truly excellent results.
Today, visitors to Eindhoven find themselves in a Brand Store, complete with merchandise and a coffee shop, rather than a traditional information office. They might navigate their way around the city streets by the giant red arrows that point to stores and restaurants of interest. They’ll certainly feel the energy of the place. Not only on the streets and in the people they meet but projected through the Eindhoven logo; a representation of energy bolts, that recurs across city-wide communication. They also might be thankful not to have to suffer empty slogans posted everywhere. In their place is a dynamic typeface that is applied to, well, whatever the city wants to say that day – it acts as a familiar face, without the annoying chatter.
Designing the identity for a city is a huge opportunity and privilege, especially when it is your own hometown. We were given the opportunity to do just that in 2014. What followed was an intensive and radical exercise in truly consequential identity making, the results of which we, and other Eindhovians, get to experience every day.
What is it that makes Eindhoven tick? That was the question put to us by EHV365, a newly formed marketing organisation for the City of Eindhoven. They asked us not to design an identity, but rather to engage in a research project that would get to the bottom of what it is that makes Eindhoven unique. What followed was a period of intense investigation and gesticulation over the course of many months. During that time, we explored, observed, interviewed and uncovered and presented our conclusions in a book. Our research was to become the firebrand for an unconventional approach to a city’s identity design.
The coming together
Eindhoven’s own particular energy is fed by the wealth and diversity of creative talent who live and work here, creating a dynamic and cooperative society. Determining this would impact not just the new city identity but also the method by which it was created. Once the research phase was completed, the usual next step would be to invite creative agencies to pitch for the job of creating an identity. But we suggested something else instead: Why not begin the process with cooperation rather than competition? We proposed the ‘Virtual Design Agency’; a temporary coming together of the best talents the city has to offer, just like a seventies Supergroup.
First, a broad range of Eindhoven’s creatives were commissioned to give their take on the city. Afterwards, three agencies; Edhv, Eric de Haas and Scherp Ontwerp, were invited to begin the conceptual design process. No city identity has ever been designed in such a way.
The ‘Virtual Design Agency’ fluctuated in size, with different professionals and creatives coming into the group to lend their expertise as needed; Studio Van Berlo worked on the early ideation phase, whilst Zandbeek helped out with positioning strategy, Raw Color with colour design and Pieter van Rosmalen fine-tuned the typeface. Each studio generated large amounts of content in an open-minded and especially free search of the key elements of the identity. It is difficult to look for something if you don’t know what you are looking for, was a common refrain from that period. Eventually and after much inspiration, discussion, and editing, together we created an identity to match Eindhoven’s spirit.
Throughout, the project – and our city – had demanded that things be done differently. And it is to the huge credit of the City of Eindhoven that such an unconventional and unprecedented identity be adopted. The roll-out of the new identity was just as radical as its making:
We established a typeface and grid which would act as a universal voice for the city in replacement of tired and monotonous slogans. The distinct and powerful typeface can (and often does) say anything. Which means that Eindhoven’s communications are now fast-paced, reactive and engaged with the city and its people. The logo represents chevrons or energy bolts in a nod towards the past and the relationship between Eindhoven and Phillips, also the regions technological industries. But, not least, is a celebration of the vibrant energy that transmits from the city’s creative quarters. Look closely and you may recognise an abstract letter E, for Eindhoven and energy. But the logo is not figurative, nor static. Instead it is constantly reinvented and reissued, to be just as kinetic as the energy it represents. The use of vibrant colour and a familiar tone of voice also fed into these applications.
Other ground-breaking activations include our creation of a Brand Store to replace the customary Information Office; a much more honest and contemporary interpretation of the space we thought. The ‘This is Eindhoven’ campaign was launched to promote the city, using the very recognisable arrow from the Eindhoven typeface to physically highlight local shops, bars and restaurants. To activate the visual brand, we created a campaign based on movies and images called ‘Share the Vibe’. The campaign has an open source approach, involving various Eindhoven creatives who continuously give their take on the brand.
SHARE THE VIBE
Most cities have two brands, one for the city and one for city marketing. Uncommonly, Eindhoven chose to apply this identity across all of the city and its marketing. Today, the identity continues to grow and adapt and transform, just as we intended it to. We remain involved in many of its aspects, but also gladly share that responsibility with our fellow Eindhoven creatives. What is more, the extraordinary process; a truly unconventional and open-minded exercise resulting in such successes, continues to inspire and influence our work.
A brand celebrated by Eindhovians and fellow Eindhoven creatives