Despite its considerable size of nearly 2 million people, Minsk lacked a clear identity. Its residents saw it primarily as the capital of Belarus and struggled to see the city’s own face. INSTID was contracted by the Minsk Tourist Information Centre to create a city brand that would improve its international recognition and make it attractive to visitors.
Since becoming a capital of a new nation in 1991, Minsk’s fortunes fluctuated as Belarus searched for its own identity. An oscillation between ideologies, foreign partners, even national languages, aggravated by economic challenges, meant that Minsk became primarily defined as a national capital and rather lost its sense of city in its own right. We therefore looked at the roots of the city itself.
A FRESH START
A nearly 1000-year history notwithstanding, Minsk received its current incarnation after World War II. The best resources of the Soviet empire, human as much as financial, were poured into a war-flattened city to create a centre of industrial and engineering excellence. Minsk became a “shop window for the Soviet economy”. Over decades and generations, the engineering mindset became ingrained in the city and its residents. It manifests itself in the way Minsk rhythmically and reliably works, and its simple user-friendly layout. It also propels a burgeoning industry of software programming, engineering, and high-precision manufacturing that has organically emerged in Minsk over the last two decades.
Brand Minsk core idea captured Minsk’s essential quality: the ability to rationalise, model, engineer, and create effective practical solutions to complex technological and scientific problems. The slogan 'Think Minsk' encapsulates the idea of Minsk as a city of intellect. It tells foreign investors, tourists, and talent that Minsk welcomes and fosters knowledge-based production and engineering. It gives a strategic direction for Minsk as a new growth centre in the global economy. For the tourist industry, the implication was to stop competing on “history”, a foregone loss amidst neighbouring Vilnius, Kiev, Riga, or Moscow, and to present Minsk as a regional hub for exchange of ideas, knowledge, and learning.
We modelled Brand Minsk experience to engage every sense: look, sound, smell, taste, and touch. This included a visual style that rested on core archetypal symbols of intellect: a light blue colour and a line as the main shape. They formed a base for a trademark pattern of alternating blue and white lines of equal width. Minsk residents, businesses and organisations were welcomed to interpret these laconic instruments their own way and thus express their creativity. With voluntary engagement of the local professionals, we created a unique scent for Minsk (perfumer Marina Mayers), a custom typeface (a team led by typographer Alexei Koval), and a music theme (musician and composer Yan Mayers), as well as developed a concept for Minsk street food. These are meant as a comprehensive guide to foster the growth of Minsk city identity as a city of intellect.
The deliberate cutting of Minsk from the nascent Belarusian national tradition provoked an intense public discussion and made Minsk identity one of the hottest media topics in the country in 2012. Businesses, and foreign service, came strongly in support of Brand Minsk ideology. Recent newcomers from other Belarusian locations did not relate to it, national identity taking precedence. The Minsk mayor Nikolai Ladutsko praised the brand ideology as “correctly captured the essence of the city” but delayed implementation of the visual style to avoid challenging national identity and government. Minsk visual identity has been assessed and praised by Brand New, DesignWeek, and YCN English-language professional resources. Several businesses and a Red Cross campaign used Brand Minsk style for their own purposes, as intended. During 2013-2015, Brand Minsk implementation was in a limbo, whilst no alternative brand concepts proved viable. In early 2016, Minsk Tourist Information Centre asked to interpret and implement Brand Minsk identity in its communication products. To be continued.
BRAND MINSK IN THE MEDIA
UNDER CONSIDERATION / 01.12.2013
DESIGN WEEK / 01.12.2013
EB.BY / 01.12.2013
SOSTAV.RU / 22.04.2013
MARKETING.BY / 05.09.2013
CITYDOG.BY / 02.07.2013
МИНСКИЙ КУРЬЕР / 14.12.2012
MARKETING.BY / 05.06.2013
БЕЛТА / 17.08.2012
NAVINY.BY / 16.10.2012
NAVINY.BY / 21.06.2013
EURORADIO.FM / 18.04.2013
ИЗВЕСТИЯ / 24.10.2012