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Best City Logos Explained

Best City Logos - Tourism Branding

What’s the point of city logos? We all know that every company needs a logo, but why do cities need logos?

We all have preconceived views of cities, often based on limited firsthand experience or word of mouth.

For people who never visited a particular city, all opinions are based on mere speculation and interpretation from afar.

The role of a city’s logo is to help reinforce or correct people’s assumptions.

For a city, the logo helps create positive associations and differentiate from other tourist destinations.

A city logo might be a part of the bigger strategy to revive the city’s image and, in turn, it’s economy.

The major reason for a city’s branding is to promote tourism.

A new logo probably won’t transform a city, unless it’s a part of a bigger initiative to address the city’s challenges and opportunities.

Here’s my list of best city logos with some comments on their logo designs.


Best City Logos:

  1. New York
  2. Amsterdam
  3. Melbourne
  4. Montréal
  5. Porto
  6. Oslo
  7. Helsinki
  8. São Paulo
  9. Madrid

1. New York

The “I Love New York Logo” is probably the most widely distributed and imitated images in the world.

The logo was designed to support the city’s campaign encouraging people to visit New York.

The logo was designed by the well-known graphic designer – Milton Glaser in 1977 to promote the city and state of New York during the crisis in late 70′

I love New York logo explained

The I Love NY logo consist of an upper-case “I,” followed by a red heart symbol, and then the upper-case letters “N” and “Y,” set in the rounded slab serif typeface American Typewriter.

The logo is trademark and generates more than $30 million a year by official merchandise, such as t-shirts and mugs etc.

Want to see the rough sketch of this logo?


2. Amsterdam

The City of Amsterdam didn’t have one single logo, but a system of logos comprising over 40 different variations, so the goal was to design one single logo for everyone.

XXXs in the Amsterdam logo is actually three vertical St. Andrew’s Crosses

As you wander through Amsterdam, you can spot the city’s ‘XXX’ symbol on buildings, flags or even local food brands.

Amsterdam logo explained

Designing a unified system ultimately saves money, as identical letterheads and envelopes can be purchased in larger quantities for less money.

One unifying logo also enables the city to use their vehicles wherever they’re needed in the city.

The Amsterdam’s identity is a straightforward system with minimal deviations in application that allow for clear and consistent communication in a city already abundant in creativity.

Learn more about the city’s recent rebrand that cost 100,000 Euros.


3. Melbourne

The diversity of Melbourne became the main concept celebrated the identity through color, forms, facets, and structures.

The Melbourne logo symbolizes a dynamic and progressive city that’s open to forward thinking.

There is a really great tension created by the detail and overlay on the left side of the M and how it resolves into something more simple on the right side.

City of Melbourne logo explained

The gradients are subtle and help add a sense of depth and breadth that you would not get with a flat logo.

The primary logo is part of a wider set of adaptions in form and color – a great example of flexible identity.

The logo was designed by Landor Associates, see the full identity project on Behance.


4. Montréal

Tourisme Montréal sought to develop an image that would reflect the character of contemporary Montréal as a hotbed of creativity, a magnet for world-class talent, a breeding ground for new happenings, and an incubator for exciting, innovative ideas.

The Montréal logo cleverly highlights the accent in the city’s name.

Montréal is a city that is eternally young at heart, and is constantly reinventing itself.

Montreal logo explained

It’s a smart system and the flexibility it has to work as “Tourisme Montréal” or “Montréal” or “MTL” is pretty good.

The logo was designed by the Canadian agency LG2.


5. Porto

Porto is the Portugal’s second largest city with a population of about 1.4 million. Porto city branding was inspired by the city’s vast inventory of blue tiles.

The identity system is built around a cadre of Porto – specific graphic references that can be combined in endless ways both in terms of icon combination and pattern structure.

The Porto’s logo is in the center of flexible identity that illustrates the city’s landscape.

The wordmark uses a geometric sans serif font that fits today’s bold, sans-serif design trend.

Porto logo explained

The resulting patterns are highly attractive and generate beautiful textures in signs around the city.

It’s not the most adventurous or innovative approach but it works well and it’s been ambitiously crafted and deployed throughout the city.

The logo was designed by the local firm White Studio.

Learn more about the Porto rebrand.


6. Oslo

Oslo, capital of Norway, is the country’s largest city with a population of over 650,000 and has many types of businesses and communicates with many different audiences.

The reason for the new identity is a clear need to bring consistency – the old one gives a fragmented and unclear image (over 200 different logos in use).

The Oslo city logo was inspired by the city’s coat of arms: millstone, crown and arrowhead.

The goal was that all businesses in Oslo municipality would be gathered under one common identity.

oslo logo explained

The St. Hallvard logo uses one-weight stroke.

The wordmark comes from a custom font based on city signage and the font has a cool, quirky aesthetic.

Oslo logo explained

The city’s logo was designed by the Oslo office of Creuna.

Learn more about Oslo logo redesign.


7. Helsinki

Helsinki is the capital of Finland with with approximately 1.4 million people living there.

The city began the process to create an identity that would encompass tourism, business development, and city operations.

The distinctive frame allows to create an adaptive, responsive and versatile identity system.

The objective was to solve the problems that arose with the multiple graphic languages ​​that were designed for each initiative of the city. The solution? – a simplistic logo that can take any form.

The target audience was basically “everyone”, starting from the city employees to its residents, other Finns, foreigners, tourists, immigrants and special groups.

As a result we have a flexible identity that is responsive to any content, for example, different language versions of the logo.

The identity was designed by local firm Werklig.

Learn more about Helsinki logo redesign.


8. São Paulo

São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil and one of the most populated cities in the world with 10 million people living in, and additional 10 million visitors a year.

The logo illustrates an explosion of color from a firework and symbolizes the city’s party atmosphere.

The vibrant colors represent of the diversity and variety of cultures in and around the city.

Sao Paulo logo explained

The São Paulo logo symbolizes the party atmosphere perfectly.

Sao Paulo city logo

Learn more about the São Paulo logo design.


9. Madrid

The creation of the new Madrid logo responds, to the needs identified in the Strategic Tourism Plan of the city of Madrid 2015-2019, which recommends strengthening the tourism brand.

The hugging logo conveys that Madrid is a city in which anyone is welcome.

The people of Madrid, with their integrating nature, make all visitors feel part of Madrid as soon as they arrive, no matter who they are or where they come from.

madrid logo explained

There are intangible values ​​and attributes associated with each city e.g. Paris is the city of love; New York is the city that never sleeps; Rome is the eternal city an Madrid is a city of welcome.

The design sacrifices some readability to achieve this concept of embracing, but the result is, at least, sympathetic, original and maintains its consistency despite changing its shape and color.


Conclusions

A well-designed identity system for a city can boost tourism, change people’s perception, and bring consistency to all different city’s institutions.

I hope these famous city logos inspired you in some way.

City branding can provide an immediate visual trigger to a set of emotions or ideas that put a city in the best possible light.

Professional logo can capture people’s imagination, instill pride and a sense of belonging, and spark the city’s economic growth through tourism and business investment.

If done right, the city’s logo can support growth and changing population and connect dynamically with future opportunities.

Does your city have a logo?  – Let me know in the comments below.