Zürich, Switzerland’s biggest city, is better summed up by Lonely Planet than me: “Culturally vibrant, efficiently run and attractively set at the meeting of river and lake, Zürich is regularly recognized as one of the world’s most liveable cities. Long known as a savvy, hard-working financial centre, Switzerland’s largest and wealthiest metropolis has also emerged in the 21st century as one of central Europe’s hippest destinations, with an artsy, post-industrial edge.” In charge of getting people there is Zürich Tourism, the organization responsible for destination marketing and the branding of the city as a diverse tourist destination. Last month, Zürich Tourism introduced a new identity designed by local firm Studio Marcus Kraft.
The core concept is a flexible logo system comprising the expandable wordmark ‹zürich, switzerland›. it is a ‹story telling logo› that gives the possibilty of infinite logo variations and interplay with various contents.
The design refers to the heyday of swiss graphic design in the 60s, where zurich was one of the hot spots. the custom typeface is based on the original helvetica, the ‹neue haas grotesk› which was drawn by max miedinger in zurich in 1956/57.
The old logo, introduced in 2011, was kind of weird, with a funky unicase approach and some strange shadows lurking under the wordmark. Other than having the Swiss cross next to it, I’m not sure it communicated much. Not that the new logo communicates much either; although, well, it actually communicates a lot verbally but not emotionally and aspirational it is not. The big, grand concept is Helvetica, because Helvetica and the applications are all flush left, ragged right, because Swiss Style. Granted, if any city can claim Helvetica, it is Zürich, since its designer, Max Miedinger, is from there and designed it there but, still, as the selling point for a tourism brand, it’s as bland as the font itself.
The identity uses a slightly customized version of Neue Haas Grotesk — looks like they just rounded the dots — and there is nothing else to it, not even a sense of bold execution a la Experimental Jetset or Spin. This is as bland as it gets under the pretense of Swiss Style-ness.
All of the applications look fine because it’s hard to mess up this style but there is absolutely nothing here we haven’t seen a hundred times before. The one remotely interesting aspect of this is the changing text above “Zürich, Switzerland” that can adapt to whatever is being promoted and the website does it interestingly with each page but that’s about it.
I guess the identity does its job in being clear, concise, and conveying the clockwork efficiency of the city. It’s also important to acknowledge that Zürich kind of sells itself as a destination and it doesn’t need a big-deal, emotionally-inspiring logo so it can certainly get away with the bare minimum of logos and an identity where being consistent is enough. It’s also important to admit my personal negative bias about Helvetica-as-a-concept so maybe I’m alone in my lack of enthusiasm for this but the feeling remains… zzzzz.
Thanks to Dominik Véron for the tip.