Designing And Using Visual Identity Cultural Studies Essay

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Visual identity can offer overall and united guidance for all visual communication of the creative city brand. It provides professional and artistic resource of design elements and artworks. It should be consistent for recognition while flexible in different media and budget.

The visual identity is completed by graphic design according to our brand pyramid. It should be 'aesthetically pleasing, connect with the audience on intellectual and emotional levels, and provide them with pertinent information' (Hembree, 2006). It is important that the sender of message and the receiver speak the same visual language. In this manner, the designer acts as the interpreter and translator of messages. From photograph to layout design, the graphic design is for designing a visual communication for forming image in receivers' mind. The nature of the image is 'both a formative process by which meaningfulness is achieved as well as a product of vision or thought by which the essential identity of a thing is grasped'…. 'The power of each image, whether it is produced in art, photography or in the mind's eye, may be seen as composed of a number of psychological implications related to various content factors-color, lighting, angle, focus, size, distance, shape, texture, and tone.' The visual language is formed from 'selective perception, past experience, personal and cultural attituedes and values - all of these combine in a variety of ways to interpret and fill in perceptual stimuli to build a rationally and emotionally meaningful communication.'(Barry, 1997)

The Edinburgh City Region Brand 'Edinburgh Inspiring Capital' is developed by the Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance (DEMA) Project for promoting the city. The project is started with designing a powerful visual identity for the brand 'draws its strength from the people and organizations who embrace it' (DEMA). This is a strong identity for delivering destination marketing activity. The guidance and website as part of the resource of the brand can also help organization to create new and powerful look and feel in their own brand communication. Through studying how DEMA design and use their city brand visual identity and combination with actual condition of promoting Foshan, lessons and suggestions are offered in the following elements:

1. Logotype

The logotype is the 'visual embodiment of the brand that people will instantly come to recognize and associate with the city region' (DEMA). It is also a visual cue for reflecting the physical-visual dimension and the spirit of the city.

Logotype of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital Credit: DEMA

The logotype of Edinburgh is also its graphic device.

'The ''lines of influence'' create a sense of the energy and direction of the past, present and future ambitions of the city. Residents also feel the lines gently echo some of the distinctive physical characteristics of the city region - from the dramatic arches of the Forth Rail Bridge to the undulations of Arthur's Seat and the lines of the nation's saltire.' (DEMA)

It is essential to note that the designing of creative brand logo of Foshan is different from designing logo for tourism since this is not only a tourist brand for tourist image but for all the stakeholders in the city. The logotype should be suitable for using in wider field of city promotion. Examining successful logos design for corporate and cities in history, they have features in common: simple and elegant, flexible in different time and media, unforgettable and representing the value and feature of the city. The choosing of the representation can be city symbol as well as key product.

In application of logotype, lessons can be learned from the DEMA guidance includes:

Prescribing 'exclusion zone' that 'stops other graphic elements interfering with the logotype'.

Setting minimum size of logo for 'preventing the logo from too small to read'.

Rules for using the logotype against non-brand colours and photographs:

When the logo have to be used on dark colour and image, 'transparent logotype is created For visual prominence and legibility'; On very light colours 'allow the opportunity to use the colours from colour palette' and 'always try to choose a colour that is sympathetic to the background non-brand colour and image.

Providing logotype DON'TS in case of inappropriate, distorted usage.

2. Colour

Prescribing colour of the city can express the style and personality of the place. The case of DEMA provides Foshan three lessons for choosing colour for visual identity.

The inspiration of colour can come from the physical appearance of the city as well as emotion and vision of the city according to colour psychology. Colour palette for DEMA was inspired by Edinburgh and its surrounding areas. For example, the colour slate is from architecture exterior while red represent the cover of books for visionary. For Foshan, green as the main colour seen on the road can be used in presenting the relaxing and comfortable life; orange is a colour for vigour and courage of innovation which used a lot in street events; slated-color as the colour for our cherishing history and culture.

For choosing a few colours to present the city with different meaning, it is not easy to make them match with each other. Since the 'Edinburgh Inspiring Capital' includes two aspects of the city, DEMA provide two classifications of colour. Therefore it enable brand user to choose colours correspond to the imagery.

Warm and rich colours reflect history, richness of culture and warm;

Lively and vibrant colours reflect the vibrancy and energy of Edinburgh life. (DEMA)

Logotype of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital Credit: DEMA

The relation of lightness and saturation to time and energy Credit: Nagumo, H. (2006) Japanese Traditional Color Chart

The solution by DEMA is setting colours in each classification with the similar saturation and lightness for overall harmony. Based on traditional HSL (hue, saturation and lightness) system, Nagumo endows meaning for saturation with energy and lightness with time after analyzing colours in nature and emotion (Nagumo, 2006). In this sense, after choosing its basic hue, Foshan should fine-tune its colour palette in saturation and lightness as a better solution for colour matching as well as more precise presentation in brand value.

For unified expression and high-quality and recognizable brand material. It is essential for brand users to use colour exactly according to the CMYK or RGB code.

3. Photography

In this part we discuss key points of choosing and processing photograph in using visual identity illuminated from photography guideline of DEMA and interesting photos about Foshan. In the end, two issues in combining all these elements are raised and discussed.

a) Expressing the brand essence and personality

For Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, the first criteria of their choosing photos are 'inspirational' (DEMA). For Foshan, it is meaningless for taking and using photos that can be found on 'Google image' and in a stereotype way of presenting the prosperous and happy life in the city with few creative element that presenting our brand essence.

b) Creating the atmosphere according to brand value

For Edinburgh, they should be 'warm with an element of vibrancy, depicting natural actions and emotions of people within them' (DEMA). For one of the brand values of Foshan: cherishing culture and history, manipulating the use of light is a important skill. For example, the light of sunset can apply an golden coating on the building and create longer shadow, which can emphasize the ancient and elegant side of the city(Fig 9).

c) Angle

Since the photos are for enhance or correct image for creative people, they should 'show a unique, unexpected and surprising angle' on the city but not just a 'tourist's eye view'. (DEMA) According to Barry in his research of visual intelligence,

'The language of camera angles is also highly manipulative emotionally and is perhaps one of the simplest and easiest to understand examples of visual language grounded in perceptual experience. In camera angle, the literal is united with the symbolic, bridging the two worlds of logical and creative thinking within the psychology of the image' (Barry, 1997).

Every citizen has their own angle for Foshan; it is useful to collecting photos from the citizen's angle especially there are more photography amateur with superb technique and innovative idea than the 'pre-digital-camera' age.

d) Composition and cropping

Composition makes a photo strong utterance for aesthetics, focus and impact. If this cannot be achieve by the original photo, cropping the photo into different scale and aspect ratio for achieving different focus and feeling.

e) Detail, abstract and metaphor

Detail and abstract is for a close look of local features from architecture to local spirit. This can also create the metaphor of a photo. The grass on roof with the background of ancient texture represents the new and growing element is in bud in the place of old. This can used as eloquent revealing to the city brand value.

Fig 9: Using of light Fig 10&11 Depicting details

Credit: http://photo.poco.cn/lastphoto-htx-id-1053662-p-0.xhtml

f) Photography quality and setting up photography library

The quality of photos and graphic is an issue should be noticed in the visual communication especially through internet. The quality of images in traditional media like TV and magazine are much better since they have more completed criteria. Even for this media, provide photos with photos more flexible in the situation of limitation use of colour and quantity is important. As disclosed before in the Xintiandi case, the bad quality of internet photos and blueprint prevent communication and also damage the corporate identity of high quality and elegant. Internet as a cheap, quick and searchable media should never be overlook. On the contrary, over-processed photos looks artificial also spoil. Setting up photography library for high quality, well positioned and classified photos like DEMA is one way of controlling the quality of photos.

g) Sense of place

Last but not the least, sense of place is important for choosing place for taking photos. Except for choosing place reflecting brand value and choosing according to the previous visual-physical securitizing, the place should be likable too. Nasar conducts research after Lynch's research of the city image for public's evaluative image for the city. After conducting interview with citizens in two American cities Knoxville and Chattanooga for their like and dislike of visual-physical features, five desirable features are indicated:

Naturalness: environments that are natural or where there is a predominance of natural over built elements:

Upkeep/civilities: environments that appear to be looked after and cared for

Openness and defined space: the blending of defined open space with panoramas and vistas of pleasant elements

Historical signifance/content: environments that provoke favourable associations:

Order: in terms of organizations, coherence, congruity, legibility, clarity: (Carmona 2003 & Nasar, 1998)

This can be used as criteria of selecting photos and choosing emphasis of photos. However, the harmony and balance of these five elements is not easy to find and apply in photo shooting. Problems as follow will occur and they can be solved according the criteria of choosing and manipulating photos.

h) Two issues

One of the desirable features by Nasar 'naturalness' is sometimes incompatible with image of prosperous in Chinese's perception. Modern and prosperous should be modern glass office building situated in the area with few naturalness like the centre of Canary Wharf. One of the solutions is shooting photos in different angles and placing it in different section of photography library for different message. Another way is using the gap of image to bring surprise to target audience. Three photos following are taken in the same spot of the city: the first one is facing the pond, the second is facing the road, and the third one is facing with playing children in the background of prosperous centre business district.

For place with 'historical signifance/content', we go back to the reality which discussed in the Xintiandi project again. There is group of people preferring old building and it is the place they grow up and they like as local people. However, when this kind of photo posted in the Internet, take http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4df364e90100h23g.html as example, people like it think it like the beauty of ruins but do not treat it as a place to live. Some even wonder Foshan as an economic developed city will have such dilapidated streets and buildings which make them disappointed. This may be a good picture for a poet, but not for attracting other creative people to live in the city.

4. Other Graphic design elements

Fig. 13 credit: Problem Solved (2004)

Other graphic design elements as typography, layout and hierarchy should be taken more seriously for the consistence of brand elegance and creativity. The merits of magazine article graphic editor and advertising creative art director is needed for composing effective promotion materials from banners to advisement in promoting the brand of Foshan.

The British council has run a poster project balance the new and old image of Britain for their buildings and offices all over the world. The idea of collaging traditional portrait with contemporary artwork by Damien Hurst, English gentleman with world famed comedy character Mr. Bean and traditional English breakfast with international cuisine is interesting and convincing. The changing use of typeface from old-fashion serif to sans serif is the highlight of the design as well as help for the position of Britain as a country with advanced design industry.

B. Using brand visual identity -creating a strategy statement for Creative Foshan Brand website

The application for mix-and-match of all visual elements and showcase for the scrutinizing of visual-physical dimension of the city can be achieve by building a new website.

1. Backgrounds and current situations

No specific website for promotion of Foshan as a city to live. There are only small columns under city council websites or portal websites. Most of them are in bad design and edit. The others are tourist websites with information clutter without offering systematic information about the city. Here is the first two websites turned out in Google when typing Foshan in Chinese: in Guang-Fo Metropolitan (GFM) website and page in Foshan Government (FG) website. After examining their column page 'Creative Foshan' and 'Welcome to Foshan' on branding and introducing Foshan, I have indentified the following problems:

a) Both have too much information without focus and unique selling proposition.

b) GFM is bad at layout and visual hierarchy design; FG is managed to do it but lack obvious connection in different section in design.

c) GFM has no visual identity except the logo and predominant orange-colored; FG has a few visual elements back lacks uniform in graphic style and typeface.

d) GFM is an event and news based website while FG is culture and history based website. However, they are indeed the two best websites on branding Foshan. Creative Foshan requires better website for showing visual-physical attractiveness of Foshan and using visual identity.

'Creative Foshan' page in Guang-Fo Metropolitan website 'Welcome to Foshan' page in Foshan Government http://www.citygf.com/ins/ http://www.foshan.gov.cn/zjfs/

2. Strategy Statement for 'Foshan Creative City' website

This statement is base on my research of city brand, physical-visual dimension and visual identity. Therefore they are cross-reference.

Mission Statement

The purpose of the 'Foshan Creative City' website is to display, interpret and develop the city Foshan as a 'creative city'; to enhance enjoyment and appreciation of the physical-visual dimension of the city and to enrich the cultural and artistic life of creative people living, live-to-be and to-be-vist

Objectives and initiatives

1. Present Foshan in an innovative way

Since the brand essence of Foshan brand is creativity, the website should be the first suitcase of showing this. A proposal of combining physical-visual dimension and visual identity is creating an interactive map of the city. Confessing Google Map has done perfect in positioning and information completeness, our map should be specializing in choosing place suitable for our brand pyramid and quality photos and introduction.

The website will:

Create an interactive map as the main body and site structure. The interaction is not only limited in zoom in, zoom out and search. More detail will be shown when mouse is moved on to the spot. An example could be the interactive floor plan on Tate Modern website.

Design the map in a way that people love to explore as in a real city. Users can choose to see things they need in function catalogue: eating, shopping, culture and event; users can also choose to view the city in emotional and style catalogue such as old and new, gentle and vibrant and various architectural styles. Different function is depicted on the map with different colour inside the brand colour pallet.

Design the map as a game that is not too simple with interesting and inspiring elements that attract people stay longer and revisit.

Consider the usability and accessibility of information

2. Design visually high quality and attractive pages

The quality and stylish of the pages representing the taste of our main target audience - creative people is one of the unique selling propositions for our website. Except the website itself, the content and images should be chosen and edit in the same high standard.

The website will

Create a uniform style of the website and stick to it in every detail including graphic, typeface, layout and visual hierarchy according the city brand visual identity.

Emphasize the quality of image by using photos meeting the criteria of visual identity or in the photography library.

3. Display physical-visual dimension of the city

The physical presentation of the city is the most convincing evidence of creative city life. The merit of the place should be presented according to the previous analysis of physical-visual dimension of the city.

The website will

Present the sense of place or identity of the urban space. Comparing to other Chinese city website whose preference is depicting architectures and attractions, out website directs users' attention to street and other public spaces and emphasize their identity.

Introduce the topography of the city in various and interesting catalogue such as different architectural style, chronology and even places for different age, gender and interests.

Exhibit public art systematically with the interactive map. Currently, there is no specific website for gathering, displaying and introducing the ever growing public artworks in Foshan. The 'official' exhibit and introduction of the public art will make it more meaningful, accessible to citizens as well as tourists.

4. Activate the website by adding lifestyle, events and cultures

Place can inspire creativity as well as lifestyle, events and cultures in the place. This content can also bring vigor and practical use for the website. In addition, it provides opportunity for cooperation with other organizations by adding their details and events.

The website will

Place and organization introduced on the website can become brand partnership by design their promotion material according to the visual identity guidance or claiming promotion material with brand identity. The brand and website is therefore spread in the city and the place and organization can develop referring to our brand strategy and research.

5. Introduce and promote the use of brand visual identity

As the Edinburgh region brand, web pages for explaining the use of the visual identity and brand strategy is useful for brand marketer and cooperating partners.

The website will

Create 'about the brand' part for explaining the guidance of the brand as well as providing brand resources like image library and promotion material.

Provide communication method for cooperation and suggestion for the brand improving.

Suggestions for alternative ways for the maintenance of the website

The frequency of updating the website is most important factor for the lasting and value of a website. It is hard to keep speed and quality and the same time. Staff, revenue and on-going research are practical issues

Suggestion and alternative ways includes:

Make proposal to government for support to form a project team.

Establish the website as a feature page under big portal websites.

Manage to find sponsorship from those projects has income and share the similar vision of our brand such as 1506 City.

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