Branding: A Model for Synergistic and Creative City Planning

Branding: A Model for Synergistic and Creative City Planning

  • July 29, 2020

Research Question: Does branding offer a methodological framework to creating innovative planning solutions for cities?

Please Note: This article was first posted February  20th, 2017 on Project: Human City’s Medium Publication

When assessing the development of ‘creative cities’ there persist a common theme of the development of branding principles to create successful reimagining of the social, economic, environmental and creative realm of cities around the world. The concept of global branding is a model in which to further the internal development of sustainable city economic planning. City planning that is inherently creative and culturally enriching to the local community, while preserving the internal culture of the city in an increasing diverse and globalist world, is a new requirement. The principles of successful global branding can enhance a city’s ability to develop a deeper and more interconnected economic portfolio when applied in the proper context to ensure perpetual growth through flexibility, design, experience and complexity.

Framing the development of cultural urban brands require a simple formula of creating culture; culture = creator + subject + recipient. (Hiroshi Okana, 2010) This simple formula when applied to the development of creative urban policy and design frameworks, allows for the creation of sustainable business and social practice. Insolating the interconnections between these variables has become the underwriting understanding that has created the creative revitalization in Turin Italy and Kanazawa City Japan.

To develop this principle into a supportive economic plan, a greater understanding of social capital, social consumption and social production as a positive feedback cycle should be integrated to create a perpetual brand evolution. These cities innovate policy design can be tied back and exemplified in the branding tactic of BMV’s Mini as a “cultural urban brand”. (Hiroshi Okana, 2010) Extrapolating the factors of creating urban cultural branding with the methodology of city planning, it becomes clear that branding offers cities a more innovate framework to stay competitive and self sustaining.

Experience as a Base for Policy

Taking the notion of ‘experience’ as a base level interpretation of “subject”; be it product, craft or spatial urban design, ‘experience’ allows for a common base in which to develop further value and malleability to make the “subject” a successful tool for cultural branding and growth. This isolation of ‘experience’ is a predominant theme and mechanism when creating good urban policy.

Policy which exemplifies the unique qualities of cities in their pursuit of sustainable economic design and productivity longevity, can yield consistence growth and resistance to global cultural homogeny. The idea of an ‘experience’ is universal in its ability to grow a platform of branding, because it is a juxtaposition of experiential context (place, thing, activity) and human perspective (emotion, memory, necessity, connection). When cities tap into the essence of ‘experience’ as a focus of policy design and reinforce it through creative interpretations, they conjunctively develop cultural identity and a means of productivity.

This concept is seen throughout urban planning literature, a specific focus of this review was in the development of localized tourism in Turin, Italy. To create a viable tourism industry after transitioning from a one company — auto manufacturing city, Turin emphasised the development of experiential exhibition of culture through events that showcase the creative economic drivers in the city. This while supporting the implementation of interconnected exhibition of industry as a means of public engagement on the local and regional scale.

Turin created ‘experience’ as an economic brand through various levels of interaction that complement the perspective of human interaction: “buzz events” low level social connections (peer to peer), “exhibition and showcases” conceptual social connection (individual to art and media), “diversity events, cultural programming, scientific exhibitions ” exploratory social connection (individual to diverse perspectives), “place-centred markets and fairs” placemaking iconography (individual sense of locality). (Vanolo, 2008) These aspects of experiential development are positioned like brands to create an association of the location (Turin), and desirable human experiences.

This framework of branding was a focal point for economic recovery and synergistic industry development: they continually encouraged the interaction of economic sectors to develop connections and public interest by hosting events as a medium of connection. Turin created the ability to interact in various dimensions of their social fabric by addressing how people like to interact with each other and new things. This is a framework of “subject” centred on the design and flexibility of supplementing new experiences into the forefront of the focus of “recipients”, while developing the brand methodology of ‘creative’ policy design.

Design = flexibility and complexity: it works both ways

The design of the new brand needs to encompass the core idea of an experience, because a brand is an idea. Like an idea, a brand is valuable because of it’s ability to transfer experience from person to person and still offer a unique and personal response. In developing cultural urban branding the ‘experience’ is the “subject”, the “creator” becomes creative urban policy, the public and industry are both ‘recipient’ and perpetuator of the “subject” within a closed system of economic design.

The closed system occurs when the system is designed to address the collective spectrum of social classes and needs that occur, not isolating development a single aspect of cultural development but rather a comprehensive and flexible system of reciprocation with the idea of social elevation and interconnection. This loops production of creative capital back into the system that creates it, to make a macrocosm of development not singled to simply art but the entirety of experience within a city. This is how cities interconnect to solve the social and economic issues prevalent in their jurisdictions.

The work of Hirsohi Okana into the cultural brand framework of BMV’s Mini as an ‘Urban Cultural Brand’ designed a framework that allowed for flexible brand growth to the demands of the city, regardless of the city. It opened the idea of the Mini as a medium for complexity in addressing the commonality of the urban environment and most importantly: they designed insulation of brand, through an localized urban publication. The publication produced by Mini is the remarkable nuance of branding flexibility, as is does not centre on the car but on the city that it is made for. The experience of living within the city of publication is the “subject” and is focused on the perspective of a resident and consumer of urban culture as the emphasis for the reader; with the inlaid symbolic association of the car brand as an thematic design feature as opposed to a focal point. (Hiroshi Okana, 2010) This signifies the state in which cities must achieve to address their brands, through experiential creative design and the perpetuation of creative urban culture.

The literature indicates that branding as medium for creative economic planning has been successfully applied in Japan. Kanazawa City is a prime example of flexible self-sustaining cultural design. In Kanazawza City, an isolated Edo period city transitioned from a former industrial city to a cultural hub by investing in the development of arts and craftwork. Kanazawza City used a framework that favoured artistic development and exhibition to: perpetuate constant simulation of the “subject” (traditional Japanese arts and crafts), with development and flexibility in policy and social investment, to create a brand while insolating a distributive economic model. The medium of art and craft became a means to engage the public, to develop social institutions that elevate cultural practices embodied in their cultural art. They used this development as a branding tool to encourage and increase tourism, one of the institutions that they invested in through an integrated development system was an art museum. The museum crowd-sourced content and ideas for operation which paid off to increasing visitors at a rate of three times the local population. (Sasaki, 2010) It is the flexibility of policy that made the city able to brand its culture while insulating the means of creating it. The interconnection of art and investment, created craft based industry as well as a tourism focus that changed the economic profile of the city.

This model of branding urban culture creates attraction rather than exporting; exporting is an economic element, but it exports are excess and high quality goods refined through institutionalized artistic development infrastructure. An increase in education, outputs and showcasing developed the interconnected industry to support the subject of culture cultivated by the cultural urban branding. This means that investing in creative policy as an identity created a broader economy that feeds into the government to further invest into the economic drivers of a creative city. Osaka City developed a similar model that integrated homelessness alleviation with story telling and art then interconnected it to institutional operation as a means of addressing the ramifications of a stagnant economic outlook. The policies’ long term success was ultimately limited because the policy was disregarded through political leadership shifts, but it was successful when it operated. (Sasaki, 2010)

In a basic review of creative city planning literature, it is apparent that brand development is successful when integrated as a flexible framework that encourages complexity and experiential nuance with a common idea of cultural brand. Cities looking to redesign urban cultural policy as means of economic possibility need only to remain open to the complexity of idea, while directing synergistic redistributive interconnection to foster their brands.

Hiroshi Okana, D. S. (2010). Cultural Urban Branding and Creative Cities: A Theoretical Framework for Promoting Creativity in the Public Spaces. Cities, 10–15.
Sasaki, M. (2010). Urban Regeneration Through Cultural Creativity and Social Inclusion: Rethinking Creative City Theory Through a Japanese Case Study. CIties, 3–9.
Vanolo, A. (2008). The Image of the Creative City: Some Reflections on Urban Branding in Turin. Cities, 370–382.

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