South African Tourism and Choices

On 5 November 2009, BizCommunity.com reported that South Africa’s Cabinet approved a new and official international marketing logo that would replace some 70 logos used in the past for the quickly rising nation.

South Africa Marque designed by Grid Worldwide
Brand South Africa designed by Grid Worldwide

The importance of this marque to a nation is perhaps second to none in their preparation for the 2010 World Cup. But the execution, as seen on BizCommunity’s comment board, gets mixed reviews. Something else is present not in the work, but in the commentary itself.

As a designer, I feel the execution could have been better. There are certain things I enjoy about the marque. The directionality of the gestalt, the looseness of the typography, the iconic nature of the reference and deference to the flag and its colors and their meanings. (It is subtle, but this is not the actual flag. The geometry references the shape of the actual flag in a very sophisticated way, however.) It’s readable, it’s fun, and it performs the function of inciting people’s curiosity about a nation. The color palette specifically emphasizes the black which symbolizes the people of the nation, its most important resource and the best reason to visit any nation not your own.

Pick up any airline’s in-flight magazine, you might notice its fitting in nicely with other brands from around the world. It has that distinctive ‘this belongs here’ emotional quality to it that takes time to craft and requires engagement to initiate. And yet, it retains its distinction. Some of the commentary shows confusion

“Isn’t there a law that prohibits any writing on the flag? it looks good though.”

-energy guide

The execution is such a simple solution it gets confused for the historical flag. It is not. For a simple breakdown of the symbology of the flag read here… http://www.vexillologymatters.org/south-african-flag.htm

As for the execution, Eek says it best

“Its shockingly bad, even if it was OK, the placing of the ‘South Africa’ is too close to the left hand side and it shows absolutely no creativity, this is the first and most obvious solution!”

There is a paradox there. Sometimes, the first solution is the best. Think on the CitiBank logo and its now-famous napkin rendering. There is nothing wrong with finding something right the first time. It doesn’t happen often–but when and if it does–why would that decrease its inherent value? It’s communicative of a place and a people and the South African people’s elected representatives made a decision they were elected to make. Perhaps, in this case, we would be wise to look more closely at how design happens. It is not about one person, or even a small group of people and all their little combined idiosyncrasies. Design often occurs “by committee” and, Beirut’s “Poor, Lonely Obvious” is the proper solution.

All controversy aside, the marque works as seen during the now famous World Cup 2010. The flexibility of the brand unfolds and now we have a narrative of “1,001 Unique Experiences.” This book is beautifully crafted with much hand-rendered typography, beautiful illustrations, stark photographs, and insight into the unique mythos surrounding some of South Africa’s heroes and artists.

"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide
"1001 unique experiences" by Grid Worldwide
“1001 unique experiences” by Grid Worldwide

The people here as with the color black in the marque play a starring role again. Through simple ideation, Grid Worldwide fleshes out a concept not easily rendered. But now I am confused, both as a designer and a simple viewer. The bottom right of the book displays another marque. Bolder, more textural, more dimensional, but still representative of both South Africa as a nation and its myriad peoples.

End Frame of commercial by Inition
End Frame of commercial converted to 3d by Inition

We now have choices as a viewer, a strange and disconcerting thought in the land of Nike, FedEx, and the NFL. This gives the identity a specific flexibility that translates across multiple mediums as seen in the work of Inition, here.

Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London's Broadgate circus.
Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London’s Broadgate circus.
Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London's Broadgate circus.
Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London’s Broadgate circus.
Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London's Broadgate circus.
Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London’s Broadgate circus.
specially commissioned geodesic dome in London's Broadgate circus
Specially commissioned geodesic dome in London’s Broadgate circus.

Note the beads of geodesic dome referencing the beads of the marque at the end of the 3 minute commercial. Though Inition was responsible for bringing the commercial to the 3rd Dimension in video, the additional brand experience of being surrounded by the ‘beads’ of the South African people and the essence of their video adds another layer of brand inception.

Love it or hate it, I have more friends that have been to South Africa than to London. Perhaps this is the true test of a brand’s strength. Regardless of the logo, I want to visit South Africa. Perhaps it is a sign of our times that brands–especially for nations–will become more and more simplified as individuals making travel decisions move away from the travel agent and into their own research. At times it may seem branding goes over the top, but for the people of South Africa and their rich culture and resources, no dome goes unturned.

All work © Grid Worldwide, 2012. For an exciting look into the conversion of video from 2d into 3d, check out Inition in the UK and their exciting work.

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