Branding a Country – Lesson Learned?

Italy is one of the most recognized countries in the world (uno dei miei paesi favoriti nel mondo!).  It is known for big, memorable monuments (Duomo, the Coliseum, the leaning tower, among many). Italy’s new logo, unveiled in early 2007, puzzled many.  The new logo was designed by Landor – Italy (a London-based specialist in brand and design strategy consulting). Landor has helped many clients with branding, including FedEx, the NCAA, PepsiCo, and many others.

Italy wanted a new logo for tourism and promotion.  A number of countries have logos, including Italy, Spain, Turkey and The Islands of the Bahamas.

Landor was selected as the winner in a design competition which included over 60 entries (Landor was reportedly paid €100.000 for its work). Ouch!

The logo is sometimes accompanied by the phrase “il paese di qualità” – “the country of quality”.  An alternative version, with just two characters and the phrase “Italy leaves its mark” is shown below.

The Italian design community was not happy. The announcement of the logo in 2007 prompted a petition from the Italian graphic association (Associazione Italiana Progettazione Comunicazione Visiva) and several other organizations, to the Office of the President of the Council of Ministers.

It’s not difficult to see why the Italian design community was unhappy. The logo uses at least four different fonts and different type weight – in a six letter word! Although the red, white and green in the logo represents the colors of the Italian flag – the flag actually reads inversely: green first, then white and then red. The green shape – interpreted by many to be a “pickle” with a protrusion, was intended by the designer to convey “movement, flexibility and imagination.”  Hmm.  Really?

I’ve been to Italy many times. In fact, after leaving the former Soviet Union in 1979, my family and I were fortunate to live in Italy for three months before finally settling in the United States.  When I think about Italy, I think about art, design, culture, history, and fashion.  The sophistication and craft evoked by those images are sorely lacking in the Landor design.

Now it’s easy to criticize just about any design and it is especially important to remember that creating a brand for an entire country – particularly one with Italy’s history, is not easy.  Plenty of Italians liked the new logo. But I wanted to compare the Landor design to another recent redesign – the logo of the Bahamas, reproduced below.

The Bahamas logo consists of many elements to represent islands, activities and cultural influences that make the Bahamas very unique.  And, certainly to my eye, the Bahamas logo does this quite well.

Alora…What do you think?