“Every island in the Bahamas needed to be represented and their independent personalities expressed within the overall message. The graphic design solution of the Bahamas identity was the foundation that brought the Bahamian islands a common message that could be broken into differential parts as needed.”
–Bart Cleveland, Adage.com
In 2008, I had the uncommon experience of seeing and meeting the indubitable Mr. Duffy for the first time as a student at SCAD. I watched his presentation, listened to his thoughtful careful words and viewed his breathtaking work with hungry eyes. This chapter meeting of the AIGA in Jacksonville was what graphic design was supposed to be all about. But what was this word ‘branding’? What did it take to ‘brand’ an island chain as disparate and uncommon as the Bahamas? There were so many of them. They all had their own unique characteristics, culture, music, food. And yet, they were all politically and economically connected. Much like any other place. Is it even possible to ‘brand’ something as ephemeral and meaning-packed as a place?
Duffy and Partners work, in cooperation with Fallon Worldwide, raises many questions about place. How do we define ourselves as part of a nation? Can we describe the process of what it takes to become a Floridian, an Ohioan, a Cincinnatian, a New Yorker, a Madrider, a Havanite? What do these places mean to us? What does it mean to grow up there? To eat there every day? To work there? To sleep there?
Think on all these questions and then attempt to think about how the people in the city 50 miles away might answer them. How are they related? Is there some common or shared experience? Now think if this place, this city were an island separated by many dozens of miles of water. These are not just tangible, physical challenges, but problems of identity and boundary, politic and economy. These are the things that make us similar and at the same time, make us alike as humans. The best solution is part of Duffy’s holistic approach to branding. Go there. Meet the people. Listen to them. Allow them to provide the solutions. Allow the work to flow from what they say, what they do, how they do it, and who they are as people and citizens and brand ‘partners.’
In commercial art, we are often presented with a client and a communication problem whose undertaking may seem impossible. Bringing together so many islands in the Bahamas might have seemed that way on first glance. Patience and the open minds of thinking designers proved different. Here is some of the evidence. However, I highly recommend Duffy’s Book, A Brand Apart, for a more complete and wholesome elucidation.