Chapter 13: Design Activism Meets Place-branding: Reconfiguring Urban Representation and Everyday Practice
13. Design activism meets placebranding: Reconfiguring urban representation and everyday practice Guy Julier INTRODUCTION A brand tells a story. A story employs a text set across a structure. Place-branding involves the deployment of a coordinated and homogenised campaign of aesthetic features and attitudinal markers across a location. But the resulting weave is also open to unpicking, frottage or re-use. Any story is helped along with an attention-grabbing opener, so, on 26 September 2005, the Leeds City Council’s place-marketing arm, Marketing Leeds, unveiled its city brand at the city’s famous Victoria Quarter. This arcade includes such key up-market retail brands as Harvey Nichols, Ted Baker and Louis Vuitton, which underline Leeds’s national reputation as a shopping destination. The event featured support messages from Leeds-connected celebrities such as Chris Moyles, the BBC Radio 1 DJ, and local bands Embrace and the Kaiser Chiefs. The brand carried the slogan ‘Leeds. Live It. Love It’. In developing this identity, the local branding and communications group entitled An Agency Called England undertook a survey of Leeds residents to discern, if the city was a person, what kind of person that would be. As if to underline the consumeristic bias of its launch, the ‘research’ that came back was that Leeds would be ‘a young male, friendly, your best friend, a really nice person to know, an ambitious person, living in a trendy apartment, driving a Volkswagen Golf GTi’ (Scott 2005). Outside the ‘official’ identity for Leeds sit a number of cues that provide alternative narratives...
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