In the vaporous slang of marketing, brand
identity is a protean phrase that can refer to
many things: the uniform of a stewardess, the
suspenders of a CEO, the brands of liquor in
a bar, and stationery, too – all the junk that
companies, corporations, institutions and now
even entire cities haul around in order to distinguish
themselves in the chaos of the society
of spectacle, which masks and muddies everything.
Therefore, Peter Saville must have been slightly perplexed when his hometown Manchester commissioned him to redesign its identity. An anarchic quick-change artist who rejects his every new appearance as soon as he adopts it (Saville designed record sleeves for cult bands such as Roxy Music and Pulp, then was a member of Pentagram, etcetera, etcetera), Saville has returned to his city’s 19th-century roots to invent a concept that would reinforce the pride of a community in a serious slump. Like many other cities, Manchester is slipping into decline for its ideological commitment to a welfare society.
And so Saville conceived of the slogan “Original Modern”, a title under which to write the design novel of New Manchester. A novel or maybe an entire saga, because redesigning the identity of such a complex place means designing not only graphic elements, as perfectly fitting as they may be, but also and especially, as Rachel Combie of Marketing Manchester affirms, “to apply creativity and innovation to the physical regeneration of the city itself”. In other words, to consider the whole social, anthropological, ethical and architectural city-and-citizens as a holistic body upon which to intervene organically, in order to allow the entire community to return to a contemporary life that is worth living.