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Published on Monday, December 21, 2009

Logo motive
: How Spain got its Miro

Nearly 30 years ago, a single meeting with Joan Miro was enough to revolutionise Spain's tourism brand. These days, it's even simpler as the web means nations can promote themselves with just a few choice words.

Vasallo writes: In 1982, seven years after General Franco died, Spain was just getting going as a modern democracy. All that people outside had heard about us as a country was to do with violence, death and repression.

They thought we were backward and damaged. I was made junior minister for tourism and, basically, my job was to get people to think of Spain as a tourist destination.

We were creating something from scratch. People in high places were open to new ideas and passionately needed to send out a really powerful message.

We came up with a simple one - "Spain, diversity under the sun."

And then we started working out how to illustrate that. The in-house artists played with images of oranges and sombreros and that stuff. But nothing felt strong enough. 

So I dropped that approach and went to see Joan Miró, one of our greatest artists alive at the time. He was ill and we talked as he ate his soup in bed. And he completely got it.

He gave us the red, black and yellow sun that is still our tourism logo to this day. He refused to take any money - he said he wanted it to be a gift "for the King and the government".

Some people thought the logo looked like a fried egg. But the country's leaders understood.

When we launched our campaign with this logo in 1984, it was a huge success. In the space of less than a year, perhaps because of timing and personalities and a bit of luck, we had created a symbol of Spain that is still strong today. 

It was the first time any country had created an abstract logo to brand itself but today everybody thinks that all you need to do to rebrand a country is make a logo. 

I think that's out of date. Logos are old fashioned. These days, you can communicate almost instantly with the world. And the internet means that message has got to be verbal.

How many logos do you ever notice when you're surfing online? If I were in charge of making a new image for Spain now, or a new nation such as Montenegro for that matter, I would not be thinking about a logo.

All you need is to be clear about what you've got to say. In this age of mass communication in English all you need are a few carefully chosen words.

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