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.

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

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 will also be used across public service sectors such as healthcare and education, alongside the Welsh government’s 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 mimic 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.

A new sans-serif logotype was also created working with London-based type foundry Colophon, which incorporates glyphs that mimic letters 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.

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 create a brand that was of the country. The communications were previously all over the shop, and weren’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 making a song and dance about it,” 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 Cornwall,” 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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