A quick description of Bologna, courtesy of Wikipedia: “[It] is the largest city (and the capital) of Emilia-Romagna Region in Italy. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, located in the heart of a metropolitan area of about one million.” Plus, there is kinds of cultural stuff like only Italy can. The focus of this post is the winner of a contest organized late last year organized by Urban Center Bologna and supported by the official city entity, Commune di Bologna. From among 500 submissions, the 14,000-euros prize for the contest was claimed by the design proposal of Trieste-based Matteo Bartoli and Michele Pastore.
A full PDF presentation of contest approach to winning solution can be found here.
The problem to be addressed, in studying a possible visual identity for the city, it was therefore twofold: first, to live together in a “brand” the multiple facets and infinite perceptions of the city-that constitute what “is Bologna” - on the other hand, provide the system of sufficient strength and visual coherence to be perceived as such, and thus be an effective tool of connection and tangible enhancement of all these qualities.
The graphic design proposed has sought an appropriate “translation” of this visual narrative, building a graphics system that would give the widest range of stakeholders the ability to contribute without specific expertise to the construction of the visual identity of the city of Bologna.
To tell this plurality of meanings and references has been designed a writing system that replaces the graphemes of the Latin alphabet, the abstract signs characteristic. It was thus designed an alphabet of geometric signs, due to an imaginary town typically Italian: the forms freely take up again some figurative archetypes of the Italian city of Bologna, and more specifically (such as walls, brick mosaic, the lily and the heraldic banner of the cross citizen, etc.).
This is a difficult one to judge. There are aspects of it that I like and others that irk me. (I’m not even going to go into the merits or demerits of this being the result of a contest — the contest happened and this came out, end of story). The underlying concept is quite solid: a flexible, “participatory” identity based on geometric shapes you might see around the city of Bologna as stained glass, wall or door decorations, medieval inscriptions or drawings, etc. Even if they are not shapes directly pulled from specific sources, the aesthetics are there. Typing in a word in the microsite for the new identity lets you see the concept in action and yields you your own “é Bologna” logo where your word and the wordmark make a new logo, i.e., “Ponies is Bologna”.
The generated logos are interesting and intriguing as visual doodads but as identifiers of a city, I am not 100% convinced. The transparency/overlaid effect, to me (and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why), is what takes it from a serious proposition of city branding to just a cool graphic exercise.
The applications are attractive, though, and I can see the potential in it — it is particularly and surprisingly convincing when used small as shown in the event materials. Overall, it’s a curious solution that perhaps could have gone through one more layer of refinement in how the icons are rendered and it’s still not clear when or how the city of Bologna will use it but as fodder for us, it’s molto bene.
Thanks to Antonio Starnino for the tip.