Strategic Repositioning of the City of Cape Town
Posted by
David Blyth at 10:00

It has been quite a week for us here at Yellowwood! The controversy surrounding the proposed new brand identity for the City of Cape Town has been loud, but that is to be expected when a well-known brand makes a significant change. It was made much worse because the public was caught by surprise. A distorted, discoloured and poor quality version of the logo was leaked, without the benefit of context or narrative to tell the story of change. 

That is exactly how not to launch a new logo. The way to handle a change in logo is to build the case, tell the story of the brand vision, the reasons for change and build excitement and understanding before it is revealed. In politics, things get leaked. That is just how it goes, but we hope the benefit of context after the fact, and symbolism in the logo will help make attitudes less subjective, and inspire residents of Cape Town and employees of the City to love their new identity. It is the first step in positioning Cape Town as a city of opportunity on the global stage.

We can't expect a new logo to be universally liked or to feel meaningful until the promise it represents is delivered. For this reason, extensive effort is being placed against a three-year plan to deliver the experience promised in the strategic vision and brand idea of a city of opportunity and progress.

What was the purpose of the redesign?

A logo or visual identity is only one small, but important, part of what makes up a brand. A brand's reputation is built over time from consistent and effective communication, and from thousands of positive and brand-affirming interactions with that brand. We are at the start of this new brand journey for the City. Nonetheless, a logo is a powerful visual marker of a brand and should convey, as far as possible, the central promise of that brand, which must be delivered for it to be credible and meaningful.

The strategic direction of the City of Cape Town changed with the Integrated Development Plan (IDP), from a brand centred on service delivery to a brand centred on collaboration, partnership and opportunity. This new strategy prioritises active citizenship, and required an identity that speaks to progress, opportunity, shared responsibility and inclusiveness. These four strategic objectives, derived from the City's vision for its citizens, formed the direction for our design.

To help bring the CI in line with the strategy outlined in the IDP, Yellowwood created a logo that is bold and forward-looking. It needed to be both authentic to Cape Town, and like nothing anyone had seen before.

Our process

Work began with a thorough analysis of local and global trends, conventions and exemplars across a number of categories. We identified the semiotics of the category and local government brands across the globe, which helped highlight gaps and opportunities across colour, shape and form for creating a distinct visual mark. Based on these insights from across the world, we crafted both simplifications of the existing identity and radical redesigns, searching always for layered meaning and strategic focus. Because of the strategic intent of the City, and the shallow symbolism of the existing identity, a more radical change in identity was agreed.

The Symbolism of Our New Design

  • The circular shape is an inclusive and approachable form, yet it has the stability and symmetry required for a reputable government institution.
  • Table Mountain was retained as the iconic marker of Cape Town. It is loved by residents and is unique and authentic. In order to differentiate it from the thousands of other similar Table Mountain marks and logos already in existence, it was abstracted into its constituent shapes.
  • By placing Table Mountain on a circular horizon, we hinted at the forward-looking, future-oriented symbolism of horizons, as markers of progress.
  • By showing the mountain from many different angles, we captured the diversity of Cape Town's people, views and cultures. 
  • The multiple rings of the logo show that Cape Town is a city with many role-players, and that together they work to make the city great.
  • The colours were chosen as the unique colours of Cape Town. You find them from the Bo-Kaap houses to annual celebrations and carnivals, from the sea to the mountain and the fynbos. This brings the identity closer to the people of Cape Town.  
  • The outward arrow shapes that are formed by the interplay of forms shows progress, expansion and opportunity.

We believe the new visual identity celebrates Cape Town in a unique, dynamic, modern and African way. Most importantly, it successfully signals the required shift in strategy on the part of the city. Our partners in the Joint Venture that won the City of Cape Town account, King James, have created a communication strategy for the next three years and will be rolling out campaigns over the coming months. The logo design is just the first step in the journey of a new City of Cape Town brand, and Yellowwood is proud to be associated with this new strategy and design direction.

It is now up to the City and its employees to ensure the brand promise is delivered and experienced, and up to all the residents of Cape Town to seize their opportunities and make this city great. Only then can the City truly be an international icon of progress.

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