Selling a country's image abroad is by no means an easy task - and when a survey six months ago indicated that many of the Czech Republic's neighbours thought the majority of Czechs were peasants whose major export was sunflower oil, it became alarmingly clear something needed to be done, to present the country in a rich, relevant, and above all, more truthful light. The Foreign Ministry announced a competition to find a new logo for the Czech Republic by the end of the year. The winner was chosen last week.
"The winning proposal for the Czech Republic comes after months of deliberation, after a jury made up of top designers and government ministers slogged through more than 400 proposals. A short-list was announced just before the end of the year. Now, we have a winner: three designers from the side2 studio in Prague."
RP: What in fact is the winning idea put forward by the studio?
"The winning design uses as its central motif "speech bubbles" well-known from comic books. At its core there are five speech bubbles of different shapes and colours presented in a single line above the words Czech Republic - and the logo has a great advantage in that, on posters for instance, a "field" of such bubbles can be filled or refilled with different themes. Designer Robert V. Novak, one of the members of the jury, explained to me how the logo's versatility made the proposal the front-runner."
"I was impressed by the winning proposal because as a system it is sophisticated and well thought-out. As a designer myself, I am aware how rules in a competition like this one can be stifling, but their idea is so open and communicative it can go through all kinds of mutations and evolve over time. It offers real variety and endless possibilities."
"The main poster that has been designed (whether it will actually be produced is another question) is very dynamic and effective, proposing eight rows of bubbles showing details from Czech life: whether famous like Kafka or a painting by Sykora, or even the cartoon characters Bob & Bobek. It's very bouncy and playful, and one row of bubbles is dedicated to words like "mushrooming", or Christmas carp" and "remoska" referring to favourite Czech hobbies and a very famous Czech portable oven. So far, a lot of the reaction has been very positive and the side2 team are of course very happy with how things turned out. I spoke with Tomas Machek, one of the members who worked on the new logo and campaign."
"Of course, our idea came together over many, many hours of drawings, sketches, arguments, and general brainstorming among our team. The fact that we made it into the 2nd phase of the competition - where we refined the idea even more - confirmed for us that our decision to choose a system rather than a single image or symbol, was correct. The sheer number of symbols - including ones that are lesser known - is exactly what should inspire or provoke people interested in visiting the Czech Republic, to learn more."
"What's next is up to a whole number of Czech institutions - from Czech Centres abroad to tourist agencies - how best to implement the bubbles - on everything from banners to brochures, to promotion products. The logo of course does not replace state symbols like the flag or the lion on the coat-of-arms, but it can be used in all kinds of cultural campaigns. To get an idea of some of the many areas where the new logo probably will be used, look up images direct at the Czech Foreign Ministry's website. The address is www.mzv.cz But, be warned links to the pix so far are only in Czech."
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