In April 2015, we won a pitch to produce a logo and advertising campaign for Fáilte Ireland (the Irish Tourist Board) promoting Dublin as a holiday destination – and positioning it as a city that sits between the mountains and the sea. The campaign has run in both London and Dublin and is primed for roll-out in other markets.
AA: Eoghan, you're a Dubliner through and through – you were born here and you've lived and worked here in advertising all your life. How did it feel to pitch for the task of rebranding your home?
EN: It was intimidating, but I've always felt very connected to my native city and love to see it through the eyes of others. Dublin has seen so many changes over the years and in some ways is a more exhilarating and varied place today than ever. But Dubliners are a tough audience and they need to get behind this too, so I knew that whatever we did would have to ring true.
"The logo was drawn to look as if it wouldn't be out of place painted on the side of a building somewhere in the city"
AA: Yes, when I started work on the design one of my priorities was to not do anything that felt too corporate or branded – it was important that the logo felt like a holiday, not a product. I also wanted to draw it by hand – like it wouldn't be out of place painted up on the side of a building somewhere in the city:
AA: I remember when we sat down to talk about the project, you'd already been working on the line, 'A Breath of Fresh Air', for some time. I immediately took to it – I could see how it would work in both its literal and more philosophical meanings, and I knew we'd be able to have fun visualising it. Were you as confident as I was?
EN: I never allow myself to be too confident as there are often hidden hurdles, especially in a competitive tender. A breakthrough in getting to the line was focussing on conveying the promise of Dublin equally to the two targets outlined in the brief: both the 'Culturally Curious' and the 'Social Energisers'. Some might come here for kayaking or hill-walking and others for museums, books and pubs, but they all want to be refreshed and to find somewhere different — somewhere that's a breath of fresh air. Other lines fell short. But as with any line you have to let it bounce around your head for days to see if it feels right. And as someone who has made Dublin her home, you are an excellent sounding board.
AA: Yes, for me it was fun designing the logo from an outsider's perspective, as well as someone who's familiar with the city. I really wanted to create something that drew from Dublin's historical graphic language. I find we're quick here to dismiss anything that feels even vaguely like the past sometimes, but working in period filmmaking has made me more aware of how modern some of those antiquities can feel. I sketched some ancient Celtic letterforms, as well as looking at Georgian calligraphy. Actually, that big swoopy initial D was stolen almost directly from 19th century calligraphic lettering:
AA: The movement in the letterform helped illustrate the theme of air and space. We'd already been looking at birds to symbolise this and found they complemented each other. Swifts are summer visitors to Dublin – they migrate here every year, which seemed fitting to the idea of the logo looking like a holiday. Their numbers are actually in decline in lots of European cities, but they like building their nests in our Georgian architecture, apparently.
"Swifts are summer visitors to Dublin, which seemed fitting to the idea of a logo that looked like a holiday."
EN: We'd started with seagulls, but of course they're not everyone's favourite – they're at the pigeon end of the scale, 'flying rodents'. We quickly went from Jonathan Livingstone Seagull to Jonathan Swift.
AA: The campaign to launch the logo—the idea being that Dublin sits right between the mountains and the sea—is running in London and Dublin. The London campaign promotes tourism to Dublin, of course, but the Dublin campaign was designed to introduce these thoughts to locals... that tough bunch who were first outlined in the brief. When you started writing the campaign the tone of voice was something we considered very carefully, wasn't it?
"Dublin has a voice that doesn't take itself too seriously. The campaign had to reflect some of Dublin's subversive side."
EN: Yes – Dublin has a voice that is informal and friendly and doesn't take itself too seriously. I read recently the English comedian Bill Bailey saying of Dublin he had never played a room with so many brilliant hecklers. Heckling, slagging, self-deprecation, irreverence, curiosity, playfulness – the campaign had to reflect some of Dublin's subversive side:
EN: We defined the tone of voice as Colloquial, Distinctive, Contemporary and Upbeat. Colloquial is the most important. For the London campaign we had to consider what Londoners expect of Dublin and what was liked about us, or at least found distinctive. As we're talking to neighbours to whom Dubliners if not Dublin are familiar, it's so much better to play to our strengths and be genuine.
AA: You'll be rewriting this campaign for France and Germany too, eventually...
EN: Yes, but not everything translates literally of course. I lived in Toulouse once and discovered that while here we would describe ourselves as so hungry we could 'eat a horse' the Southern French would say they could 'eat a priest'. So in a campaign with a colloquial voice, it's much better to transcreate and find a parallel figure of speech in the local language.