April Fools’ Update: To me, the best April Fools’ jokes are those where things seem normal yet preposterous in one way or another. Where, for a moment, you feel that something is weird and unexpected yet it fits a pattern. For years I have actually wanted to do an AF like this one, where the redesign is real and the story is out there but my review is just completely off, making some wonder if everybody (me, client, and design firm) is in on the joke. What made this work (at least in my mind) is that I didn’t deviate from the usual Review format and by now most of you are used to how I describe things that I like and things that I hate, making this less than stellar work seem a very strange identity to be on the receiving end of praise.
I have had this identity sitting in my inbox since February and wasn’t planning on even running it since it was so off and last night (March 31) as I was sifting through the tips to see if anything sparked some last-minute idea I remembered this one. It’s probably uncool to do an AF joke at a design firm’s and client’s expense — a “guest” in the comments suggested it was more mean-spirited to do a fake positive review of bad work than a straight-up bad review of bad work — but, hey, I didn’t do the bad work and I didn’t approve the bad work, so someone has to pay in some form for it. Live long and pROsper!
Rome really needs no introduction but just to be clear that we are not talking about the HBO show Rome or, say, Rome, OH, Rome is the capital city of Italy and is designated as a special commune — an administrative division, like a municipality — known as “Roma Capitale”. The city’s governing body oversees all the services, from the culture department to educational services to transportation to tourism. This past February Roma Capitale introduced a new identity. No design credit given.
Update: Identity was designed by Rome- and Milan-based Inarea. (Thanks to Kris Robert in the comments for pointing it out).
Three elements make the new logo: “the name ROME, an essential designation and the same as in the institutional logo, the slogan ROME & YOU”. Everything, “oriented relationship that Roma builds with each person.” The crest is crowned by “chromatic bubbles”, “and expression of a dynamism that explores all the possibilities that Rome offers,” destined - according to the themes and initiatives that will convey the brand - to “explode and change shape.”
The previous logo featured Rome’s coat of arms and a classic serif wordmark spelling out the name, Roma. Neither surprising nor exciting but it got the job done. This old logo will remain in place as the “institutional” logo for more official and serious uses. The new logo will be used for marketing purposes and to build the Rome brand.
I can’t think of a more appropriate execution than this. Taking the coat of arms as a starting point and abstracting it into a crest where the crown is replaced by “bolle cromatiche” (chromatic bubbles) is a fantastic concept that expertly captures all that Rome has to offer, whether it be the round shape of the Colosseum, the round shape of pizzas, the round (spherical) shape of gelato, and so much more. The varied sizes and colors add dynamism and vibrancy to an otherwise formal emblem. I love that it also looks like an animal paw, which is a great nod to the many cats found throughout the streets of Rome.
The marketing logo replaces the SPQR text — which stands for “Senatus Populusque Romanus” (Senate and the people of Rome) — with a new tagline “Rome & You” that eloquently conveys the experience of visiting Rome or what, ideally, will attract you to visiting the city. Highlighting “RO” in “ROME” is a clever maneuver to bring attention to those two letters and away from the rest of the other letters because, clearly, you can’t spell Rome without Ro and if there is one thing I remember about our trip to Rome in 2005 was how Ro Rome was.
In terms of the wordmark, it’s disappointing that Roma Capitale didn’t take this opportunity to change it to Trajan and really take ownership of this typeface — after all, the Trajan Column does stand in Rome. Nonetheless, by retaining the same font across institutional and marketing logo, the new identity is beautifully consistent and allows the marketing logo to repeat the name of the city both in the wordmark and in the crest, clearly establishing that this is a uniquely Roman logo. Even the fact that one says “Roma” and the other says “Rome” is a great way to convey the diversity and openness of the city.
Logo essential and highly modular, therefore, as to identify a city “offers free spaces to build personal stories, in a story open and participatory.” That is given “not as a definition,” but as a “pact of beauty and confidence.” And then the claim, the ROME & YOU that constitutes a real “communication program.” A logo and slogan, in short, for anyone who wishes to find or rediscover “in Rome on their own corner of the world.”
In application, the identity is highly flexible while remaining beautifully consistent across every single application. Dots, taken directly from the new marketing logo are used as communication devices for key works and a “hero” circle also serves to hold another “Rome & You” wordmark which is not redundant but reassuring in tandem with the new logo. The hero circle is also sometimes accompanied by more circles around it — a perfect example is the mousepad (two images up) where the hero circle is presented large and cropped with the dynamic circles around it and the marketing logo in close proximity.
Perhaps the best part of the logo that I don’t think many other logos consider is that, as the image directly above demonstrates, it works beautifully as a gobo so that five people can stand on each circle. It’s a little limiting, since it can only accommodate five people and there is a certain classism implied by who gets to stand in the bigger, center circle but those sort of situations tend to naturally work themselves out and I’m sure it’s something that’s defined in the identity guidelines. Overall, this is a fantastic update and complement to an already strong municipal identity that I’m sure will make Rome even more Ro than it already is.
Thanks to Federico Fabiani for the tip.