Winnipeg Launches New Place Brand – Design Diary

Winnipeg, the capital of the Canadian province of Manitoba, presents itself as a tourism brand with a new look. A new place brand was created to increase the attractiveness of Canada’s seventh largest city.

With the new brand image, the economic development office of the metropolis with around 700,000 inhabitants wants to promote tourism and make the city more attractive to investors and “talents”, as it is called when the new brand is launched. Based on market research and discussions with citizens, businesses and other local interest groups, a corresponding brand concept was developed under the motto “Winnipeg: Made from what’s real”. The traits most often cited in surveys are: authentic/genuine, strong, warm, diverse, innovative, hardworking, independent, creative, connected and centered.

Excerpt from the press release

What is a placemark? And why Winnipeg needs one: A placemark can help get to the heart of who we are as a city, captured in every story we tell each other and the world. Our new place brand, Winnipeg: Made of the Real is about creating a story for Winnipeg by Winnipeggers. It started with research from Winnipeggers and puts into words the very real and positive things we feel and know about ourselves as a community. We will use this new Winnipeg story to attract more talent, investment and visitors to our city.

In 2021, Time magazine named Winnipeg one of the “World’s 100 Greatest Places” for attributes such as authenticity, creativity, innovation and hard work.

Winnipeg Tourism logo – before and after, Image source: Winnipeg Tourism

The previous logo, with a square “W” as a figure mark, was first introduced five years ago; First it was used as a dispatcher by the Office of Economic Development (Economic Development Winnipeg), later also to gather the city’s tourism activities under one sign. The new logo, on the other hand, serves the sole purpose of identifying the location brand (place brand).

The newly created figure brand is deliberately designed in such a way that it provides a wide range of interpretations. A large ‘W’ reflected in ‘Red River’. The mirrored shape, an “M”, is also the initial of the state of Manitoba. The centered structure of the logo alludes to Winnipeg’s location in central Canada. A basic idea is to develop a sign that describes Winnipeg as a meeting place. The figure mark can be interpreted as the sun on the horizon, symbolizing people’s radiant optimism and warmth, or as a snowflake. The new branding feels cultural, but doesn’t belong to just one group of people. It belongs to everyone
Winnipeggers, according to the official statement.

The brand design was created in collaboration with McKim.Sherpa (Winnipeg).

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Tribal art and modern logo design united in one sign. Very exciting, especially in terms of storytelling. In comparison, the former “W” with its multifaceted appearance seems exposed, sterile and also a little aloof. The color and angular shape of the newly created sign, which appears raw and original, reminds me of the Amsterdam city sign.

In the case of the figure mark, it looks as if the horizontal line is thicker than the angle elements placed above and below – in fact, these are the same thickness. An interesting effect of visual perception: horizontal lines (of letters) appear thicker than vertical ones. The sign with a subtly thinner slash would be more balanced and harmonious.

The typographical error in the word mark as well as the logo construction as such does not convince me. The black vertical dash is completely redundant. A design that was often seen twenty or thirty years ago. The claim and “Winnipeg” were also arranged very casually below each other, namely along the vertical axis. The result is an unsightly gap, highlighted by the vertical dash.

It is a pity that the craftsmanship and design work cannot keep up with the idea. On top of that, the question arises, as is so often the case, whether a city needs more (brand) identities? In my opinion, such a strategy is not really sustainable. It would be sustainable if the City of Winnipeg, in its administrative function, would also adopt the new visual identity. This would also be conceptually convincing, as everyone would actually be gathered and united under a newly created sign. As in Helsinki, Halifax, Eindhoven, Aspen, Annecy, Bochum, Bonn and many other cities where the planners responsible for a holistic design concept have decided and in this way Everybody activities in a city one characters are bundled.

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