ED AwardsDesign Interviews | 25 May 2017
PORTO, EUROPEAN DESIGN DESTINATION
The distinction of Best European Destination brought to Porto the acknowledgment of numerous elements that make the city a special place. One of them is creativity! It is therefore not unexpected that for a week, from the 23rd to 27th of May, Porto will also become the European Design capital, the highlight of which will be the awards ceremony which distinguishes the best examples of communication in Europe. This will take place on May 27th, at Teatro Rivoli. The European Design Awards 2017 will recognize the best examples of communication design in Europe in the competition´s more than 30 categories. Porto will be the host city after Vienna, Istanbul, Cologne, Helsinki, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Zurich or Athens. The program is swarming and includes exhibitions, guided tours as well as workshops with some of the most relevant designers and studios today.
At the closing of the 2017 ED Awards, on Saturday, after 11 pm, the pre-opening exhibition "Design for Porto" also occurs, which highlights the city´s graphic identity, having won two ED Awards in 2015.
Regarding the Porto brand, ROOF interviewed, in its last edition, Nuno Nogueira Santos, responsible for Porto City Hall´s communication and promotion. He spoke about the importance of the city having its own distinct signature, with an expression that extends to organizations, people and places.
Nuno Nogueira Santos ©Miguel Nogueira
In which way has the creation of a coherent and complete brand, help elevate the global image of a city?
Although in fact, the brand already existed. Or rather, the ingredients of the brand were always there. They were never given a graphic or strategic treatment. What existed in Porto until 2014 was a logo from the City Hall and then there was the idea of a city with strong brands like wine and architecture. But none of these was cohesive. By joining the brand’s components, all of them strong, but in general, relative, we gave strength to the city brand and everyone wins. Of course, to do so and for the city to project itself, as such, and so that all the components of the brand can benefit from it, we need to give in to something. What is new, in my believe, is that we as a City Hall, started this by assuming we were available to let institutionalism, the formality and even the signature go. Nowadays, the Porto’s City Hall doesn’t sign many things, just some official paperwork, when it is strictly necessary to do so. Everywhere else, it signs as the city. And while doing that it promotes Porto instead of promoting itself. I told the designers to whom I forwarded the briefing and wrote it in the book of the brand that we edited. We wanted to, intentionally, create a confusion between the two, the city and the autarchy. Because the more we mix ourselves with the city, the more the autarchy wins. The city will always be better than us.
About this, what concerns have been on the table since the beginning of Rui Moreira`s presidency?
The current mayor of Porto was never a politician. But, in the other hand, he has a vast knowledge about the city already published. In these narratives, we have always find subjects such as culture, social cohesion and economics. And we also find the brand. I would say that almost the entire book, “Uma questão de carácter”, from 2009, is a pact about the brand. In so, it greatly enabled its creation. Because it was my job to create the briefing and pass it on to the designers, I had an extraordinary manual available. These components, inclusive, rich, creative, bold, involving the matters of culture, social cohesion and economics, had to be part of the brand and therefore the brand had to be diverse and not monolithic.
Do you believe that the Porto. brand played as paradigm for many other cities in the Portugal?
I am sure it was. There are already cities doing similar work. I like to give good examples. Viseu is one of them. However, more cities are working on a brand, after they realized that Porto had so much success with its own. It is not a sin to say that more than one great city in Portugal came to us for help to begin a similar process. We proudly helped. And in South America as well, and even in the Middle East, the Porto. brand can already be considered a reference. Some ask for our help others just copy…
In your opinion, what is yet to be done in this matter in Portugal?
A lot. Portugal has great designers in graphic design. Only a few days ago a Spanish man was telling me we were way ahead of Spain. Nevertheless, he agreed when I told him that, to be truthful, we are not high-quality brand managers. And we aren’t. In Portugal, there are two or three brands, at most, that can be given as good examples at a global level.
And none is the country itself. We put too much emphasis on design, on the sensationalism of design. And very little on the brand itself, in its consistency and in a long term existence. Because, as we know, only time strengthens a brand. I do not understand how big companies in Portugal constantly change brands. And Portugal is the same. Before drawings, it is important to build a proper briefing that is based in long lasting values.
How did the European Design Awards came to Porto?
In September 2014, we started the Porto. brand and Eduardo Aires, from White Studio, its author, suggested it to several awards. The brand was eventually awarded with a “pencil” in the D&AD Awards in London, and then with two awards in the ED Awards, which were held in Istanbul that year. We were invited to accept the awards and when we travelled from London to Istanbul I began thinking about it. In Istanbul after receiving the first prize in the category “Branding Implementation” and being surprised with the “Best of Show”, that is the best work of the year, I asked the Greek organization president, Demetrios Faking what would be necessary to have the ceremony here in Porto. He answered, “we should talk with local authorities”. I replied amusingly “I am the local authorities”. He must have found it funny and we continued the conversation later, by e-mail, Facebook and telephone. In 2016, the ceremony was already arranged to be in Vienna, Austria, so we registered for the 2017 competition, enrolling Porto to compete with cities such as Milan and Athens. However, when Demetrios visited us, it was decided that it would be here in Porto. After analyzing the application dossier and getting to know the city, he asked: “show me the strongest reason why ED Awards should be held in Porto”. I stated that this would help us show the importance of design and branding, especially among Portuguese businessmen and also in the academic community. I believe the answer was conclusive.
Now, in 2017, which activities are planned to promote the town`s culture identity and even in design, as a transversal discipline in important areas to the dynamics of citizens and companies?
In the scope of the ED Awards we will have tours through the design city and Porto design studios. There we also be exhibitions showing the best that has been done in design by Porto City Hall in the past four years, specially emphasizing culture, where visual discourse is never monolithic. This exhibition will premiere in the scope of the ED Awards and it will be an international showcase for city’s designers. I remember a conversation with Paulo Cunha e Silva over the diversity of authors. Paulo helped the creation of Porto. brand, but he insisted we shouldn’t let a strong brand overrun everything else. I believe we succeeded, working with designers from Porto, many of which were young and talented.Porto needs to renovate some of its external communication elements, this is an important project to be formalized in the next few years. This is a task for architecture but also for design. I’m referring to information signals, communication and information urban furniture. Now that Porto. brand is being consolidated I believe we should seriously considered it as important and a goal to be carried out in the next four years
© Miguel Nogueira
© White Studio
© White Studio
Texto: Cátia Fernandes
Photography: Miguel Nogueira e White Studio