Wales given new place branding to “do the country justice”

Cardiff-based consultancy Smörgåsbord has referenced the Welsh flag by re-drawing the national dragon symbol and it will be used across tourism and business sectors.

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Wales has been given a new national brand, which aims to “do the country justice” and stop it being “eclipsed” by other UK countries.

Cardiff-based consultancy Smörgåsbord was commissioned by the Welsh Government to complete the rebrand, which will see a new unified logo used across Wales’ tourism, business, and food and drink sectors. It has been designed so that the Government can use it across public service sectors such as healthcare and education, alongside its own branding.

An abstract, “painterly”, red dragon – previously used for Wales’ tourism arm Visit Wales – has been replaced with a flatter, graphic representation of a dragon which aims to better reflect the red dragon seen on the Welsh flag.

“The Government was missing a trick, as the previous dragon had very little relevance,” says Smörgåsbord co-founder Dylan Griffith.

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A new sans-serif typeface was also created working with London-based type foundry Colophon, which incorporates glyphs that are unique to the Welsh language.

The typeface is used at three different “levels”, says Griffith, with a “simple, neutral” form without glyphs being used for business applications, whereas versions with “more personality” incorporating the Welsh symbols are used for tourism purposes.

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A new colour palette has also been introduced, based on photography. Smörgåsbord commissioned photographers to shoot Welsh urban and rural landscape, then the designers colour-picked shades from these photos on Photoshop. These were used to create a palette, and the colours were named after Welsh places.

“Our studio mantra was to create something inherently Welsh with a global outlook,” says Griffith. “We wanted to design a brand that was of the country. The previous one wasn’t doing Wales justice.”

The project took roughly six months to complete and the brand was first “soft launched” in 2016 as part of the Wales Year of Adventure tourism campaign, says Griffith, to help deal with the “trickiness” of working on country brands and the sensitivities around government spending.

“We launched it on the back of a tourism campaign then slowly rolled it out across the tourism sector, rather than doing a big brand launch,” he says. “The Government don’t want to be seen to be spending a lot of money on nation branding when – in some people’s eyes – it might be better spent on other avenues.”

The branding has now rolled out further and since then there has been a 30% increase in Visit Wales’ social media followers, five million unique visitors to the Visit Wales website over the past 12 months and North Wales has been featured in Lonely Planet’s guide of “top locations in the world” to visit this year.

Griffith says that the ability of design to increase tourism is “hugely overlooked”. “Wales is one of the UK’s best kept secrets, but it’s been eclipsed by its Celtic cousins such as Scotland and Ireland” he says. “The bar had to be raised.”

He adds that the Brexit vote has provided “all the more reason” to “raise the flag” of Wales and invite more tourists to the country.

The new branding is currently rolling out across online and marketing materials for Visit Wales, Business Wales and Food and Drink Wales, and will be used across a new advertising campaign launching on 1 March. It will also be applied to signage and graphics used at public events.

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  • Meirion MacIntyre Huws February 3, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Incredible.

    Smörgåsbord “…has referenced the Welsh flag by re-drawing the national dragon symbol”. That is, they’ve copied it and changed it a bit and that’s it.
    “We wanted to design a brand that was of the country. The previous one wasn’t doing Wales justice.”…so they fiddled about a bit with one that’s all ready in use on plumbers’ and builders’ vans, shops, cleaning services etc all over Wales.

    “Our studio mantra was to create something inherently Welsh”, – the dragon has been around for centuries there’s nothing creative here.

    “The project took roughly six months to complete” – i bet the logo element took arund 20 minutes.

    • Brand 101 February 6, 2017 at 11:32 am

      If you can draw that logo in 20 minutes i’ll give you a job immediately.

      If that’s all you took from that re-brand, have another look at the detailing and craft especially in the typeface. Given the enormous task of branding a nation I think it sits well but then i’d love to see your version of it on Dribble, I really would.

  • Mike Designed It February 6, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    Well said Brand 101!

    Meirion, just because they ‘fiddled with the dragon a bit’ doesn’t mean they spent 20 minutes drawing dragons.. development of what is already in place is, sometimes, all that is needed. The rest of the detail that has been developed as part of the brand is very well thought out.

    If I saw this on the side of Dai the plumbers van, I’d be more than impressed.

  • Ryan Stringer February 9, 2017 at 11:56 am

    This is without a doubt one of the most inspiring pieces of re-brand and strategy I have seen.

    The way they have captured Wales with photography and video is EPIC. The detail in the new typeface is amazing – love the double d.

    Smörgåsbord have taken the Welsh flag and reinvented it. Fantastic job.

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