You may have been seeing a lot of the BRASIL logo lately. In 2014, Brazil will host the World Cup, and last July, the Brazilian Tourism Ministry (Embratur) embarked on a worldwide campaign aimed at tripling tourism over the next decade. The campaign, which includes videos, graphic novels, print, TV, and social media, including a new YouTube channel, plans to reach 400 million potential travelers in 100 countries. The ministry will spend $30 million by the end of this year alone.
In the November 21 Sunday edition of T: The New York Times Style Magazine featured a “BRASIL. Sensational!” insert with punchout 3-D glasses. “Brazil is calling you! Celebrate life here,” read the headline. It took a bit of fiddling to put the glasses together, and then the couple huddling under a coat in the snow wasn’t transformed into a couple catamaran sailing on Copacabana Beach, as expected. That image was on the other side of the page. Nevertheless, I was happy to see a project that began in 2004 with a logo design competition—reportedly a well-run and ethical competition—get wide exposure.
Before contacting any designers, Embratur says, the agency researched the perception of Brazil with more that 6,000 people in 19 countries: travel agents, people who’d visited the country at least once, and potential tourists. Subjects were asked about the colors characteristic of Brazil, the reasons for their trips, and to come up with one word to describe the country. The agency learned that one of the most important attributes the logo needed to express was colorful. To summarize Brazil in one word, subjects answered happiness.
37 design offices were asked to create symbols. They were each sent a packet with a summary of the survey results and, for inspiration, a watercolor by Brazilian designer Roberto Burle Marx, who pioneered the use of curves in landscape design.
The winning design was submitted by Kiko Farkas, principal of Máquina Estúdio of São Paulo. I’ve been one of Kiko’s biggest fans since meeting him at an exhibition of his brilliant São Paulo Symphony posters during the 2004 Icograda conference there. I will unabashedly call him one of the most talented and versatile graphic designers in the world today.
The “Marca Brasil” came to public attention briefly in 2005 when the logo competition winner was announced—and not everyone was equally smitten with it. However, seeing it in place today on ads, promotions, and products may bring a new appreciation for it. Last week, I had a chance to catch up with Kiko via e-mail exchanges and to get his thoughts on the mark and its meaning. He wrote:
The ‘Marca Brasil’ encompasses:
• Luminosity / brightness / exuberance
• Meeting of cultures / blending of races
• Modern / capable
• Sinuosity / curve (of nature, of the people’s character)
Nothing is as representative of Brazil as a curve. The sinuosity of the mountains, the waves of the sea, the soft outline of the clouds, the undulation of the beaches, the joy of our people. The curve envelops and snuggles you. Those who come to Brazil immediately feel at home. Brazil is a bright, luminous and colorful country. It is said that the astronauts circling the earth noted that Brazil is the most luminous sight on the planet. Whether it is a myth or reality, Brazil has a special energy that attracts and fascinates visitors. It is a joyful country. Foreigners often say that Brazilians are always merrymaking. And this ability to be merry, even when things are somewhat difficult, is impressive. The fact that Brazil is a melting pot of races and cultures has made it into a ‘mestizo’ country with regard to the strength and resilience of all that is hybrid. All those who live here contribute to the cultural heritage.
Roberto Burle Marx was one of the inventors of Brazilian landscape design, bringing forgotten and underrated species to light and fashion. He designed the gardens of the modernist buildings from the late 50s through the 70s. His era was Brazil’s golden era, with the bossa nova, Oscar Niemeyer, Brasilia, ‘cinema novo,’ and soccer championships in ‘58 and ‘62. We even had the perfect woman: Miss Universe 1968!”
Máquina Estúdio, which was paid the equivalent of $14,000 for the logo design, has recently expanded the program to include a pattern of transparent boomerang shapes to be used on items like beach towels and T-shirts, and the design of a promotional bottle of cachaça (pronounced ka-sha-sa), the sugar cane-based liquor that is the basis of caipirinha, the drink that may contribute to so much of Brazilians’ happiness.
If you’re not feeling 100% positive about the logo, try this: Cut into pieces and crush 1 lime. Put in a tall glass with 1 tb sugar. Add 2 oz cachaça. Fill the glass with ice and shake. Sip. Now, aren’t you imagining you’re on Copacabana Beach surrounded by undulating waves of color?