New Russian tourism identity inspired by Suprematism

By Patrick Burgoyne

The scheme is that rare thing – an interesting concept derived from an open competition and created by a cross-agency group. In 2015, the Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation and the Association of Branding Companies of Russia launched an open competition for a visual identity to promote tourism in the country. Over 480 logos were whittled down to a shortlist of ten (some of the less well-resolved entries can be seen here) which the public could then vote on. In November 2017, a committee selected a winner from the top three most popular choices by the public vote.

The ten shortlisted entries for the Russian tourism visual identity competition

The winning entry (above) takes Suprematism – the early 20th Century art movement formed by Kazimir Malevich – as its inspiration, arranging Malevich-style graphic forms into a stylized map of Russia with specific locations represented (see below).

Controversially, this representation includes Crimea – the small square on the far left. Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014 following a referendum. Its status remains hotly disputed, with a UN Resolution from March 2014 reasserting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and rights to the Crimea. So its inclusion on marketing material for tourism is sure to provoke comment – but then so would leaving it off, you would imagine!

Setting geopolitical issues apart, it’s incredibly refreshing to see work in this sector that does not rely on cliché or fall back on well-known landmarks. Instead, the website announcing the new identity focusses on Russia’s culture, food and environment as reference points in the work.

The identity is also the second major visual project in the last few months to draw on Russia’s art history. In late November, FIFA announced the official poster of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Its design, by Igor Gurovich, explicitly references Constructivism.

The tourism identity (and its slogan ‘The whole world within Russia’) was created by a team of five who, unusually, are drawn from a variety of different agencies: Vladimir Lifanov, Creative Director of the Supremtica branding agency, Ilya Lazuchenkov, Managing Partner, Plenum strategic marketing agency,
Egor Myznik, Creative Director at Plenum, Denis Shlesberg, Chief Creative Director of the Artonika branding agency, and Erken Kagarov, Art Director at Art.Lebedev Studio. This team will now take the scheme forward to implementation, so it’s important to note that the work shown here and on the identity website are all mock-ups and concepts only.

Some commenters over on Brand New have pointed out that Singapore also used the idea of a stylised representation of its country’s outline filled with imagery in its YourSingapore identity, but nevertheless, this Russian scheme feels fresh and visually exciting. It will be intriguing to see what it can achieve for a country that is hardly enjoying the most positive of international reputations currently.

“This is a pretty simple graphic approach that shows the country’s diversity – sometimes complicated and bulked, sometimes totally empty, like an incoherent patchwork quilt. Not always pretty, not necessarily smiling, but actually friendly and kind-hearted,” says Vladimir Lifanov. “This concept is a good example of how anyone can express his perception of a homeland. This is how I see it: complicated mixed with simple, monochrome and colorful, round and angular”.

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