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A British Town Tries To Reinvent Itself For Tourists, Via Branding

Shrewsbury’s shopkeepers can participate in a town-wide rebranding project using a customizable logo.

It’s not that Shrewsbury, a small medieval town between Liverpool and Birmingham, is boring.

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“A lot of cities would envy Shrewsbury’s community feel, that its high street isn’t a cookie-cutter row of the same shops, and that it’s a modern town with a lot of history mixed in,” explains designer Dan Bernstein, of London agency &Smith.

But Shrewsbury doesn’t have one single, overriding thing it’s known for–like a music festival, or a market, for example. And that’s made it difficult to market the bustling, historic British village to potential homeowners and tourists. So, earlier this year, the town council appealed to &Smith and fellow Londonites We All Need Words for help. In response, the team devised an unusual visual identity that goes beyond the typical boilerplate logo-and-color-scheme branding package.

“Shrewsbury didn’t need a vision in a PowerPoint presentation,” explains Rob Mitchell, who runs the staunchly anti-bullshit We All Need Words with partner Molly Mackey. “It needed good ideas and practical things that everyone in the town could use.”

They came up with the concept of a customizable logo that every local business, from bike mechanics to bread bakers, could use. After slinging around ideas, they chose a slogan (“A Shrewsbury One-Off Since ______”) that focuses on authenticity–something Shrewsbury has in excess. The logo, printed on rubber stamps and stickers, gives shop owners the latitude to personalize the slogan to fit their wares. ”Since 5:15am” for a pastry chef,” or “Since 1552,” for the town’s castle visitor center.

The rest of the identity fell into place fairly easily. The designers picked out timber patterns on the town’s Tudor-style buildings and made them into typographic elements that mix with the Dalton Maag typeface Efra. In print ads, the bespoke typeface is overlaid on images of centuries-old vandalism on the town gates (“Graffiti”) or a shot of a bike shop (“Chainstore”).

The point? London it ain’t, and that’s the way we like it. “The key thing is not to try to compete with cities,” explains Bernstein, who adds that “it’s a beautiful old place, but it’s also got a busy theatre, an art gallery and museum opening in an old music hall next year and great little shops. This is a place where people live and work, so the pattern had to be confident and modern too.”

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The team is excited to see if the “One-Off” idea will catch on amongst the town’s shopkeepers. “If Shrewsbury’s businesses make more of their one-offs and we can encourage new one-offs too,” adds Mitchell, “that’s when we’ll know this brand’s really working.”

[h/t Creative Review]

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.

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