Friday, June 21, 2013

Tourism Logos: the Sol of Miró

In the final years of his life the artist Joan Miró left behind two national legacies. One was the poster for the 1982 World Cup, the other was the logo for Turespaña, the national tourism agency. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Miro's creation, an enduring symbol of Spanish tourism and a tourism logo that perhaps remains unrivalled in terms of its originality.

The Sol of Miró, as the logo is commonly referred to, could only have come from Miró. Thirty years represent a lifetime for any logo to have been in existence, and, despite thoughts by different governments that the time might have come for a change, the Sol has remained.

The logo hasn't enjoyed universal acclaim - it has been re-named the Fried Egg of Miró - but it is, thanks to its novelty and sheer longevity, one of the best known of all tourism logos. But is it the best known or the most ground-breaking? There have been attempts to imitate it, but there is one tourism logo that has been imitated more than any other, and that is New York's. The imitation is such that critics of Palma de Mallorca's logo consider its heart to have been borrowed from New York's.

The degree of imitation has, it might be argued, devalued New York's tourism promotion, but whatever attempts there may have been to imitate the Sol, Miró's logo has not lost any power because of the flattery of imitation; it is just too difficult to borrow the idea and make a logo look as though it hasn't been nicked, which is testimony to the power of Miró's unique style.

Everywhere has a tourism logo and mostly everywhere updates its logo periodically. There are always vogues as to what is "in" at any given time in design, and the current vogue is for typography that suggests movement. Consequently, a light, brush script style has become commonplace, not that this familiarity breeds the contempt of unoriginality or of lack of appeal. Excellent logos can appear from the most unexpected places, and Haiti, as a tourist destination, is one of them; a design with a quasi-italicised font and based on the national flower, the hibiscus, is quite stunning.

Whether of course it helps in attracting much-needed tourism to Haiti is an entirely different matter. And in a world where there is so much design and so many logos, memorability and recognition are hard to achieve, which is a further reason for not meddling with Miró's Sol. It appeared at a time when a strong logo stood a very good chance of standing out from the crowd, because the crowd was very much smaller. As it was so original, it became almost instantaneously recognisable. To what extent or even whether one can attribute increases in tourism numbers to the logo is impossible to say, but were there to now be a new logo, it would have to be something that was pretty special. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

If a tourism logo has any value, it has to say something about the destination. And so, with this in mind, we come to Mallorca, which, in effect, has two logos. One of them is another Miró. It was given to the Mallorca Tourist Board in 1973, at a time when the tourist board was very much the tourist board and so ten years before the first regional government and first tourism ministry in the Balearics were formed. The other is the generic logo for the Balearics, which can be adapted to use the name of the individual islands. This four-coloured affair, which looks like slices of fruit, is in need of an overhaul. It lacks dynamism and, in line with the current vogue, a sense of movement. Ideally, there should be a separate logo for Mallorca; the lumping together with the rest of the Balearics makes little marketing or branding sense.

One could, I suppose, say that Palma's new logo does Mallorca's job for it. One could say this, but it would be wrong to say it. Palma's logo may have some virtue in its lightness of typography, but otherwise it looks like an advert for a medical charity. The image is wrong, and it is only Palma's image, not Mallorca's.

Getting a logo right, therefore, is not an easy task. I'm sure Miró didn't find it easy to come up with either the Sol of Mallorca or the Sol of Miró for Turespaña. Or maybe he did. If you are a genius, things aren't necessarily difficult, though I am only guessing.

Any comments to please.

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