Whether it is urban Pasila in Helsinki or rural Alagollewa in Sri Lanka, people want to feel proud of their neighbourhood. They want it to be seen and recognised. The brand of the area where we live in, defines a part of who we are and how other people view us. Therefore, how we develop the areas we live in, plays an important role in our wellbeing.
Area branding cannot be only about changing logos or defining slogans. Recognisable visual identity might give cities more visibility, but the real brand is created through actions. Actions, such as, how a city takes care of its inhabitants, how it welcomes others, how it supports social communication and how it builds creative energy, are more important.
Desired brand must be in line with the reality.
The official visual identity must be in line with those actions. It is not plausible, for a sleepy, gray suburbia, to choose an identity that is very dynamic, innovative and environmentally friendly – attributes that many municipal officials so often come up with when discussing area development. Desired brand must be in line with the reality. Actions must be taken, to prove the desired image corresponds with reality. The further the area is from its target position the more actions are needed. If there are not enough resources for actions and events that support the target position, the only option is to redefine the position.
As a strategist at BOTH Design Services, I led a co-creation workshop for Hernesaari, a new residential area in Helsinki, during the city plan phase in 2014 together with the City of Helsinki and the place branding consultancy Imagian.
I have worked with place branding projects where the brief has been to create a brand for the area, based on the values of municipality officials or a company in charge of planning or building the area. I have worked in co-creation projects where the inhabitants of the city were involved in creating the identity for a new residential area.
I have worked with city planners, architects, government officials, constructors, city activists, environmental artists and marketing professionals, and I have worked with area development projects, without clients, that just aim to scope the actions that define the future of the area.
At BOTH I was also in charge of strategic insight, creative direction and UX design for a building project of YIT Tripla in Pasila and new residential areas Rykmentinpuisto in Tuusula and Pellaslaakso in Espoo in 2012-2015. There projects included a new communication concept, tone-of-voice, visual image and bunch of various applications from a new website to a building lot reservation app.
My own company Duara Travels, works in developing countries with rural villages that have born organically. We bring the locals new economic opportunities and possibilities for employment through sustainable tourism, but we also interfere with the balance of these villages. We need to make sure we involve locals in developing the service. We must also constantly measure the impact caused by Duara’s travellers.
The world gets smaller.
We see digitalisation entering into these villages without an input from us and we believe that all areas that are in touch with the outside world are adopting elements of Western culture on an increasing pace. The world is getting smaller. There is a need to be seen, as the feedback from the villages shows. For the locals, this provides a possibility to share their culture and to realise that even their tiny village in the middle of nowhere can be interesting for foreigners. This helps them to find pride in their home village and increases their will to develop the area.
My own impact startup Duara Travels offers travellers the opportunity to explore rural areas in developing countries. By doing so, it gives new employment options for low-income villages but also inspires locals to develop their home village.
In the future, I would like to work in co-creation projects where the inhabitants are involved with developing their neighbourhood together, whether it is a hip creative hub in Helsinki (ping Bruce Oreck!), a slum in Nairobi, or a residential area in the Finnish countryside.
Thanks to these clients I have been in charge of many interesting place branding projects as strategist, design lead, project manager and/or art director in Finland and Sweden: