E1 Place Branding Strategy
Research-led practice project
Place branding can often appear reductive and unrepresentative of the varied facets of a location, and conflict of interest arises when branding strategies that are imposed upon places and aim to promote or represent an area, can often have a derisory effect on the area and its inhabitants.
How can a place branding exercise aim to celebrate and protect the cultural identity of a location for its inhabitants but also attract visitors? How can this be clearly defined in a visual language and design strategy? Can there be an overlap that allows for a dynamic and commercial solution that is sympathetic and vital to the portrayal of a location?
The culturally democratic and participatory led approaches of the research project enabled testing of the proposed solutions within the E1 community that provided answers that showed how place branding can be a positive reflection and evocation of a location that places value on the character of its built environment and the role that inhabitants play in shaping the identity and atmosphere of places.
Threats from redevelopment or urban renewal have been a constant in London E1 since the early 1970s. The main thrust of the project is to highlight the places that people covert and are drawn to and to discern what provides them with such attributes and placemaking abilities.
The issues of perceived and actual threats to the authenticity and identity of specific E1 locations are the project’s primary concern and have informed the creation of a visual language, and narrative forms that aim to communicate E1's unique character to enable broader public discourse around the protection of unique London locations.
The research project hypothesises that counter-branding theories and practices, and the semiotic affordances of the urban visual vernacular should be considered authentic mechanisms for expressing and communicating human-place relations, place identity and place evocation—a paradigm for an ethical and strategic place branding model.