Branding an entire city is a challenge to be successfully accomplished only by the best and most astute of design agencies. It is a task that involves the ability to find just the right pitch to showcase the complexity and richness of a place, while being able to portray the very specific and special something that gives it a point of difference from the thousands of other cities around the world. And, the more iconic the city, the more difficult it is to do so without at least some controversy. Its inhabitants are likely to be heavily invested in the place, and to feel possessive about the qualities they deem to be most characteristic. Visitors will also come carrying their own expectations and images.
One of the recent high-profile city rebrands is the branding of Helsinki. The Finnish city has been named one of the most liveable in the world, and is a unique creative hub, despite its relatively small population of under one million. Local strategic brand agency Werklig took on the challenge of consolidating the city’s many confusing sub-brands into one simple, flexible identity. Werklig are a seasoned studio with plenty of impressive projects and accolades under their belt. Having already worked on branding projects for the Helsinki City Museum and the Parliament of Finland, they were equipped to help present Helsinki to the world.
Werklig created a simple logo that is derived from the Helsinki crest, but also suggestive of a speech bubble. It is clever and appropriate in combining its reference of the city’s heritage, while showing an openness to newcomers. The logotype in rendered in a bespoke version of Helsinki Grotesk by Camelot, which is also used as the main typeface across all communications. The original typeface has been tampered with just a little — enough to bring out a quirky unique personality in the tails, terminals, and spurs of some of the letters. A friendly colour palette is compiled from visual cues that can be found locally, from the sea to the metro. It is combined with a selection of photographs that are bright and natural in their treatment, giving glimpses of street-life and the beauty of the urban and natural landscapes Helsinki is home to. Lastly, a simple, effective wave device is used to section off parts of the page and bring the delightful colour palette together with photographs and text.
Uncomplicated, contemporary, and joyful Helsinki’s new identity by Werklig has a good balance between character and freedom for evolution. Check out more projects from Werklig here.