I propose we stop these public design contests. We kindly ask all the city halls in Romania to end with these “stupid shows”


Costin Oane city branding Oradea

Thank you IQads for the interview.   

How did you decide to take part in the competition? What were your fears? How did you observe this competition?

From a public perspective, Oradea seems to be the only city that has a well-defined strategy and direction. When you have a good product that confirms a good practice model, defining the “city brand” seems like a natural goal to show all the positive “reviews”.

After the exercise offered by the “Bucharest brand” I cannot say that I left from there with very high expectations. I appreciated the effort of the organizers #brandoradea, who had a contest web page, some black and white photos and a brief that had more than one page, as it was in Bucharest also. The materials offered were not perfect, but they managed to leave the impression of a “serious declaration” of the contest, which deserves a chance. 

The brief: what difficulties it raised?

The absence of correspondence and dialogue during any design contest, between client and designers, requires the existence of a well-realized and documented brief. All hopes, questions, and answers go to Brief.

The essence of Oradea brief was defined and generalized “The city in which you find yourself”, a position devoid of strength and authenticity. It is an expression that leads to restraint limitations and confusion, which will inevitably lead to mistakes and silences in design and communication. We had great emotions with this brief and we were afraid that this competition would not turn into a “beauty contest”.   

How did you work on the proposal? What inspired you to achieve it?

All the BroHouse team was present in this project, and the process extended throughout the contest period: 1 month (another mistake by the APTOR organizers). The way we see ourselves should not be too different from the way others perceive us. That is why the inspiration for the solution is found in the evolution and change of the reputation of Oradea, a modern and distinct position internally, which aligns with the development of the community and the already outlined perception: new city.   

The full proposal submitted by us, the BroHouse team, can be viewed here. 

How did you look at the fact that no winner was chosen at all?

It starts to look like the famous “pitch Carrefour” where 84 agencies were invited and ended with an “in-house” solution (so, no agency has issued the brief). What #brandoradea is doing is a form of innovation. Just what they “spent”, without responsibility, about 10 thousand euros from the money of agencies and freelancers and about 360 working weeks from 180 entries.   

If we exclude “bad intent” and “hidden interests”, it means that the evaluation made by the jury in Oradea was offensive. The local “experts” from Oradea just succeeded in making amateurs all those registered agencies in the competition, an attitude that disqualifies any public design competition. 

The “absence of the winner” is unfounded. This whole story shows us that these people don’t really know what they want. It’s not professional to pretend you know how to do something when you have no idea.

And in order to be “typical Romanian”, the organizers offered an indecent lack of dialogue. A kind of silent press: “let’s go faster”, “may not be seen”, “not so serious”. All this back and forth was very irritating and offensive. The best performing public administration in Romania showed us that they still know how to make a “Romanian thing”.  

What were the advantages/benefits of participating in this competition? What about the disadvantages?

Exposure should be the highest prize. But neither was it. Regarding money, I came with them from home. And the time offered by the team is from the house. One by one, we felt good working on this project, and this was able to provide us with several joys. We try to keep ourselves optimistic, although it is hard not to get upset when you see a major lack of experience and education in this discipline.  

Will you still participate in such competitions? (Why yes, why not)

 I propose that we need to stop these public design contests. We ask all the city halls in Romania to end these “shows”. For a “city brand” approach, we must be able to properly value the meritocracy and vision with “longer strikes”. And for such a project, senior citizens of the design and branding industry should be invited. For BroHouse, the chapter “public competitions” ended in Oradea city.  

About city logos: what are the sensitivities/obstacles that their realization involves?

In a country where people don’t quite know what a brand is, there will be many obstacles until we see extraordinary things in branding. To make a city brand, there are no recipes. A branding strategy of a city must be based on a very clear vision in the future of the city, complemented by the perception of the inhabitants and the values ​​of the spot. The external and most visible form of the brand must be linked to the internal truth. It takes a lot of work and trained people who have more than a one-month deadline. And the identity of a city is not solved by a contest of logos. That’s right, there are still many designers who still don’t understand the difference between brand and logo. We must wait and wait.  

What did you know about Oradea before you started working on the logo proposal? What was the relationship with the city? Did you visit him? What was your image about Oradea? How has this perspective changed?

I knew a lot about Oradea. My friend is from there, which is why I managed to reach the city quite often. I liked the cosmopolitan, bright and poetic atmosphere of this city. I met people who are happy and still have hope for a healthy future. I could say that I have a personal relationship with this place. We had many real insights that helped us find the solution entered in the #brandoradea competition. 

What are the creative stages in making such a logo? How important is the documentation stage? How do you document yourself for the Oradea logo proposal?

The first step was to understand the set of expectations from the materials offered on the contest page by the organizers. In the end, we came to build our own brief. The job is as follows. When you don’t know where you want to go, there is only one thing left: to wake up somewhere else! “All roads lead to Oradea” when you know how to get there! And not in Vienna. That’s a cultural issue, here for us. We did not want to admit “nohow” that we do not understand, even if we need to remake 10 times and 10 times more expensive. We probably have a historical disability as well.   

The second stage was rather an “appeal for truth” on grassroots with all the people I knew from Oradea to learn their perception of their own l city and offer this destination. We managed to collect a series of ideas and opinions, which helped us to understand the client, from the inside. 

Although the time was very short, about one 1-month, these 2 extremely important steps led us to the logo design and its contextual communication.

What cities in Romania stand out in this chapter, of identity? Is there a city identity in Romania that you liked? What do you think are the cities with potential (less visible) of a brand in Romania?

Alba Iulia tried something different, without too much show and a lot of jokes. They appealed to a branding agency that handled the city’s brief. I do not know all the details and documentation, but for Romania Alba Iulia can fit in the “city brand”, and I noticed that they have managed to have more than a logo that is printed on “envelopes from the town hall”. What Alba Iulia has done can be classified as a pioneer in the city brand area in Romania. There have been a few attempts, from other cities, but they are not set. 

Of course, we have cities with brand potential: Bran, Sighisoara, Cluj, Iasi, and Bucharest.

How has this initiative evolved, the city brands, the creation of an identity in Romania, in recent years?

Such public “city branding” competitions, which were generally met with a chorus of rumours, have successfully managed to turn the whole Romania country into a branding agency. At this rate, I am afraid that when there will be “something serious and solid” in the branding area, we will no longer be able to take them seriously. Soon, branding will be a joke.

We must stop believing that branding is a lifeline. Branding cannot save a bad product, an inefficient and corrupt public administration, defective management and the list can go on.

Any “city brand” must be the expression of truth based on an understanding of what you really are and what you can deliver. Now. Not tomorrow. ” I like how it sounds ” or ” looks cool ” is not enough to create a brand promise.

When you look at who the mayors of Romania are, I could say that the “city brand” will remain a dream and a pleasant reading in branding textbooks.

A few examples outside of city identities that inspire us.