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Incorporating local identity into graphic design

Local branding

Local identity, locality: The French have a word for it – Terroir – which means “of the land”, and it is often used when describing the provenance of products such as wine, cheese or meat. It is like a magical ingredient, something which comes from the land, the water, the environment, which can be found nowhere else, and which makes the product unique.

The love of the locality, and our role within it can be what makes us unique, and in an ever increasingly competitive market, uniqueness is something to be nurtured. Of course, the idea of promoting a local area is nothing new, especially for those operating in the tourism and hospitality industries. However, a true “local business” goes beyond that and is not limited to tourism. The location itself, forms and determines the identity of the business. And the relationship with the locality is a two-way thing – the business benefits from, and is of benefit to its location.

For businesses in the tourist industry, the expression of this local identity within marketing material; is perhaps more obvious, however, with careful consideration it is perfectly possible for all types of businesses to demonstrate their unique local identity.

 

Colours

Local identity can be expressed with a colour scheme – perhaps related to the landscape, or even a football team. Here in the Peak District, the colour palette often reflects our natural surroundings, in shades of green and gold from the hills, and purples from the beautiful moorland heathers which flower in autumn.

 

Graphic elements

Local legends, famous buildings, landmarks, plants, animals, landscapes can all be strong graphic elements to use in a logo. Often these elements are used where there is a natural link between your product or service and the local area, but it is a great way to create an original design for your business, particularly of there is a lot of competition in your market. There are many gas engineers using a gas flame for their logo, however, a gas engineer who makes use of a local landmark in their logo, is more likely to stand out.

 

Peak Ales logo

Peak Ales, Bakewell, Derbyshire

The Peak Ales logo features a stag. The Cavendish Stag, the buck of Buxton is a common feature in Buxton and the High Peak area.

John German logo

John German Estate Agents, Derby

This logo features a stylised ram’s head, taken from the folk song “The Derby Ram”.

 

Peakys Distillery logo

Peakys Distillery, Glossop, Derbyshire

This striking logo features a millstone, historically produced within the Peak District owing to the abundance of gritstone in the area.

Identity within marketing materials design such as leaflets, flyers, brochures or websites

 

Photographs

This is an obvious choice, but a well-chosen local photograph can help to place your business, and can strike a chord with readers. For potential clients who also love the area, you are sending a message that you immediately have something in common with them – making them more likely to want to do business with you.

Maps

Ordnance survey maps are a great way to express location, and are packed with interesting details and icons which can be used elsewhere in a design. It is worth noting that permission must be obtained to use an OS map (or part of a map) within a design. Licenses can be obtained directly from Ordnance Survey.


Open source maps such as streetmap are free to use, but do not contain the same level of detail as an OS map.


You can use a map not only to show the location of your business and surrounding points of interest, but also as a background for other information. Again, it sends a subliminal message to readers, that your location is important to you.

Peaks - Leaflet print
Sky showing clouds
Textures

Textures such as wood, stone, soil or grass can help to convey the surrounding countryside in an indirect manner. A moody sky can conjure up a feeling of fresh air and the outdoors.

Red tartan fabric
Patterns

These can be taken from an element of the logo, or from something related to it. Or perhaps from something else in the area, such as a fabric (lace, tweed, tartan etc) or a natural material (granite, wood etc).

Icons

These can be standard icons, but in a particular style to match the tone/style of the brand (heritage, modern etc) or they could be elements taken from a relevant graphic element (see graphic elements in branding). For example, where the logo features a local church, a bullet point might be based on a particular carving within the church.

Fonts

Fancy fonts are to be used sparingly and with caution! However, in certain cases, particularly when a location is particularly linked to a specific historical era, a well selected font can be a subtle link to the location. Historical accuracy should not come at the expense of legibility, though.

Identity within wording

Of course, you will organically include some pointers of your location within your text – your address, phone number and, perhaps, some neighbouring places of interest. But there is

Regional accents and dialects are closely connected with local identity. Including a popular local saying, or humorous line of text written phonetically is a great way to express links with a geographical area. Here are some examples from nearby in Nottingham and our Staffordshire neighbours

Dukki, Nottingham

Ducky is the Nottingham equivalent of “mate”, “pal”, “chuck” or “shug” and can be used affectionately towards both men and women. Dukki is based in Nottingham and produces a whole range of humorous regional dialect products.

Coaster and washing up things
"Dunner tell may yer gowin wom skint!"
Potteries Shopping Centre, Hanley

In this unremarkable shopping centre, filled with high street stores found throughout the country, it is possible to create a sense of place. Here, a humorous message to do with shopping has been written in the Potteries Dialect. This strikes a chord with local shoppers, and helps to place the visitor in their surroundings.

 

Materials for printing

Your choice of material for printed marketing materials will depend largely on how the item is to be used. Focusing on paper, there is a tremendous choice available to suit most brand tones and uses, such as fully recycled uncoated, kraft, high gloss and foils. For something really stand-out, you could choose a non-paper option linked to a local industry in your area, such as screen printed fabrics, engraved/etched wood or metal, or stamped leather/pleather.

Packaging

Sixtowns Gin, Stoke on Trent

Their logo shows three stylised bottle kilns and their bottles are shaped like a kiln too. Bottle kilns are a part of the Potteries heritage and a familiar, well-loved sight on the Stoke on Trent skyline.

Bottle of Gin

In summary

There is a wide range of techniques which can be used to convey the feel of your local area (some more subtle than others!). You probably wouldn’t want to use them all together, but used wisely, they can help to give an extra layer of identity to your business and help you to stand out from the crowd.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss a design and/or printing project.

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am:pm graphics is a graphic design partnership based in Buxton, Derbyshire. We offer a range of quality, affordable graphic design solutions for print and web, helping our customers achieve a consistent professional identity across a variety of media.

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