Established in 1067, Minsk is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Belarus with nearly 2 million people — about 20 percent of the population of the country. Today, as described by the Minsk City Executive Committee, Minsk is “a modern, dynamic city, the largest transport and logistics center, a cultural and scientific center of the country” with high education standards, positive diversity, clean and green (as in parks and stuff), and mostly as a city on the rise. “Minsk,” however, share London- and Moscow-based agency INSTID, who have been working with the city on its new identity since August 2012, “lacks a clear identity. Its residents define themselves mostly by nationality, and admit that Minsk does not have a particular culture or tradition of its own.” Commissioned by the city’s tourist information agency, INSTID’s task was to “help improve international recognition of Minsk to help it attract foreign investment, visitors, and talent” and “help residents feel proud of Minsk and develop a unique city culture based on their distinct character, and create a powerful platform for city’s future development.” The new identity will begin to be implemented this summer.
Instead of reflecting on multitude dimensions of the city’s life, the brand strategy captured Minsk’s essential quality, the ability to rationalise, engineer, and create effective practical solutions to complex technological and scientific problems. This quality is deeply ingrained in Minsk residents, many of whom are third generations engineers. It manifests itself in the user-friendly layout of the city and the rhythmical and reliable work of its services. It also propels a burgeoning industry of software programming, engineering, and high precision manufacturing that has emerged in Minsk over the last two decades. The core idea of Minsk as a city of intellect is expressed in the slogan Think Minsk. It sends a clear message to foreign investors, tourists and talent that Minsk welcomes and fosters knowledge-based production and exchange of ideas. It gives a direction for the city development and propels Minsk towards becoming a new growth place in the world economy.
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A graphic expression of this archetypal quality of Minsk is delivered by the combination of the light blue colour (the colour of communication, abstract thinking, and intellect), and the line (as a most flexible and effective shape). Given the lack of any common symbols for the city at present, we decided against creating a defined decorative graphic symbol. Rather, we created a platform for fostering and channeling the creative energy of Minsk residents by defining very clear, laconic, and abstract tenets of the Minsk visual style. In other words, we designated alternating blue and white stripes of equal width as the key and only imperative for the city visuals and opened them to the Minsk residents, businesses and public bodies to interpret and use. Below are some illustrations how the city visual style can be effectively and powerfully implemented in a variety of contexts and applications.
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Clearly, a lot of this project so far is pie-in-the-sky thinking: whether it’s the boots above or the colored steps photograph, most of the images shown here are simply to paint a picture of what could be achieved if everything goes right, from concept approval to vendor alignment to citizens embracing the city as much as that cute little girl is embracing her cat. The identity, built around blue-and-white, thick lines and not a more distinct set of icons or visuals seems like an interesting way of building a destination brand. The main problem is that this could apply to any number of metropolitan destinations around the world. There doesn’t seem to be any real specificity to Minsk — the strongest message I get, and I guess it’s a good one, is that Minsk is a contemporary, young, edgy city but that’s about it. On the identity itself, there are good moments and bad. The weaved “M” monograms are quite fetching (and at least carry an “M” for Minsk) and the patterns certainly have potential, but no more than any other set of decent patterns we’ve seen before. Where it fails, badly, is in the typography, briefly seen in a couple of the images towards the top where there is red on blue making it nearly impossible to read, or there is also the zero-leading treatment on the diagonal lines followed by awkwardly line-spaced text. It’s almost as if two different firms did each part. I’m willing to Think Minsk, but not with that type.
A few more images of the identity can be found here.