Imaginary territories: the city, symbolic driving force of identity

In the era of the convergence between real and virtual spaces, identities are seeking again for a new hold in the physical and symbolic territory of the city. That’s a trend that impacts on city branding, increasingly oriented towards the use of less representative and more abstract symbols, that, for this reason, perhaps, are even more powerful

We live in a world where the line between real and virtual space is now inevitably faded. Most of our interactions take place online, in places that, for the intensity of the social and symbolic interactions that happen there, are now considered as “living spaces” in the strict sense of the term.

Yet, as explained by Arjun Appadurai, the more virtual spaces become real, the more individual and collective identities seem to seek for hold in physical and perceptible entities like the territory. In this process, the city – a powerful identity collector since ever – comes back having a central role.

The evolution of city branding well reflects the contemporary dynamics. The “representative” brands, based on immediately readable figurative elements - landmarks, monuments, distinctive geographical features - are increasingly rare. On the contrary, abstract and conceptual brands are more and more frequent: brands made to surprise the senses and, at the same time, express more impalpable identity values, with visual identities that are not less solid and "real".

That method was also adopted by the “father” of all the city brands, the “I Love NY” logo designed by Milton Glaser forty years ago, that today confirms itself to be more pioneering and innovative than ever. Basic, clean, characterised by a mix of verbal and visual elements that makes it surprisingly close to the widespread infographics style, and yet absolutely “open” to a thousand interpretations and identities. Thanks to its ability to tell people not only about a place but, above all, about a feeling of belonging. Even beyond the physical boundaries of the city.  



ICS Editorial

Design is a thought activity: we should not replace it with a mere “optimizing” approach, because it’s from imperfections that talent emerges.


Some photos may be taken from the web and be considered public domain; photos' owners who oppose to the publication can write to contact@pomilio.com