Local aesthetics. Comparing graphics from almost polar opposites.by Corinne Smith on 23/10/2012
This post comes all the way from Helsinki, from the talented kiwi Brett King. King is a multidisciplinary Designer, Illustrator & Art Director from New Zealand and is currently illustrating at Kapu Toys. When he has free time he blogs on The Source NZ.
This exercise will compare two similar situations of graphic scenarios. I can’t take credit for this great exercise that defines designers living in a foreign land, as I stole this concept with permission from Kesselkramers Jennifer Skupin. I have tried not to be biased and I’m no expert, this is just my graphic observations and thoughts.
As designers we are always aware of our visual surroundings and branding is a nice narrative to discover different locations. New Zealand and Finland are often compared due to similar population, similar size, and being located at opposite extremes of the world. In my opinion, Finland is a land of modest, efficient people with an odd sense of humor and this is reflected in their design. In Finland design, as a concept and craft, is much more accepted by society with most households boasting some sort of classic design vase, piece of furniture or textile. The NZ public’s perception of design is most likely not at the same level but I like to think there is a new wave of designers opening the general populations eyes to aesthetics and well crafted graphics.
Lets forget the likes of Marimekko, Artek and Iittala for a moment. I’m formulating this article trundling along in the tram on a rainy autumn day and I can’t help but think how different NZ cities would be if they kept the trams, encouraged urban density and spent some thought on how people flow and interact in a city. This is a nice segue to my first example.
#1 Public Transport.
Helsinki “HSL” vs Wellington “Met Link“
The public transport budget is a hot topic in cities worldwide. It’s the one thing that I believe is holding NZ back from having world-class cities – of course no thanks to decisions in the past. Since public transport branding is paid by the taxpayers, you can forgive them for not always looking the best, but for some reason (possibly due to the incredible efficiency of it here) Hesinki city public transport “HSL” decided to step up their game graphic wise with a solid brand overhaul by the quirky “Kokoro & Moi”.
Regarding the size of the project, this was an enormous undertaking and also a brave move from the city council to step out of their comfort zone and choose a wildly creative “art” agency for this task often left up to whoever can meet the budget. I think this is a lesson to learn from Finland. Things take a while to happen here, but when they do, they have been very well thought through and considered. Respect to Wellingtonians for their regular use of public transport, I havn’t used metlink for years, so can only comment on its website. That along with many other NZ sites i visit these days seem to think putting all the copy and information on the first page, creating a hectic stressfull feeling. Otherwise it has all the useful features and more.
#2 Small town branding.
It’s always touch and go when it comes to destination branding. NZ is a small place visit by a lot of people, so most things fit nicely into the NZ 100% Pure campaign directed at tourists. But in Finland, when a small town wants to change its image, it’s more often than not directed at attracting residents to keep it from dying. Such is the case with the rebrand of the Finnish town and surrounding province of Kouvola.
Given its previous logo which in all its cleverness of incorporating the surrounding areas just resembles one big gun shot wound. To make it even more youthful, they replaced it with this curious fellow by Kustaa Saksi. The town site gives you the impression of some psychedelic wonderland, when in fact it’s a sleepy town with one decent kebab kiosk.
In comparison to how a similar sized town in NZ chooses to represent itself: Palmerston North – Young Heart, Easy Living. Here the city council chooses an identity with somewhat of a colour palette and youthful feel. Icon wise, this distinguishable shadow cast from a broken stained glass window of the local police station has served them well.
# 3 Mid-Century beverages
L&P vs Jaffa
Everyone loves kiwiana and there’s nothing more defining thanks to a brilliant TV campaign in recent years, Clementing Lemon & Paeroa as the classic kiwi beverage. Holding similar iconic status In Finland would be the less exotic Jaffa. Basically Fanta, or orange flavored drink.
Finnish illustrator Erik Bruun has illustrated the campaigns for the past 50 years and Finns can’t get enough of it. The brand is no longer only about the drink, but the illustrations. These have been printed famously to textiles and posters. What more could you ask from a brand when its identity transcends the product and becomes something people proudly display in their homes. L&P wins as a cultural icon, but that along with many other NZ brands that rely on the tried and true “Kiwi flavor” could be so much more if they thought about graphic design as more than just a print ad or motorway billboard. I urge designers to think about this as well, It goes without saying our work has a limited shelf life but with a considered approach perhaps we have a chance to change all that.
And if your curious for more, heres a few fast comparisons: