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How Graphic Design Could Help Resurrect A Declining Resort Town [Slideshow]

A beautiful visual identity concept for Rhyl, Wales, pushes nostalgia as a mechanism for local regeneration.

Rhyl, Wales, is a town in the U.K. like many others. Once a thriving seaside destination — a sort of Coney Island in a kilt — it has deteriorated rapidly since the 1960s, as the roller coasters and penny slots lost out to affordable vacations abroad and paltry local investment. Now, Proud Creative, a design studio in London, has devised an intriguing visual identity to freshen Rhyl’s image: It wants to make the place new by evoking the past.

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Nostalgia plays particularly well in sectors that’ve survived a massive setback.

The scheme — a concept commissioned by Icon magazine for its “Rethink” section — is a simple mix of summery colors and stripped geometric patterns based on a skewed rectangle that roughly echoes the contour of Ryhl’s shoreline. In the designers? vision, the patterns would be sprinkled around town, giving everything from tourist brochures to the paint on the side of buildings the retro bona fides of a box of Popsicles. The suggestion here is one of cheery nostalgia. For what era? The mid-century, it appears, but the precise years don’t matter much. The idea is simply to conjure up vague memories of another, sunnier time — a keen reminder that, as the designers write, “this once bustling tourist resort can be great again.”

The redesign was strictly hypothetical and did not involve input from locals “due to the short turnaround with the commission,” Proud’s Roger Whittlesea tells Co.Design. Since then, though, they’ve received a ‘overwhelmingly positive response to the work.’ Not that Rhyl plans on painting every last restaurant in town to look like a beach towel. “It was very much undertaken as a studio project,” Whittlesea says, “but the idea that it might inspire change or debate about the value of design in the context of regeneration was part of what made the project interesting for us.”

Certainly, Rhyl could benefit from exploiting its connection to yesteryear. Nostalgia is a powerful design device and plays particularly well in sectors that’ve survived some sort of massive institutional setback. Think about the long-suffering car industry, with its dazzling panoply of old-model revivals, or post-strike, post-steroids baseball, which can’t go one inning without rhapsodizing about Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. In both cases, looking back goes a long way toward assuring consumer confidence moving forward. It stands to reason that Rhyl — or any like-minded town in decline, for that matter — is just as well poised to harvest its future from the past.

For the complete case study, go here.

[Images courtesy of Proud Creative]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.

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