Having not long returned from a holiday in Spain my occasionally returns to the graphic design and branding I encountered while we were there. We were in Tenerife and so were in a more ‘remote’ region of Spain with how that all reflects on local business and marketing.
It first struck me how few chain stores were around in the areas we visited with most shops, bars, delivery firms, etc being independent businesses. Then, it was clear how few of these made a large effort where design, branding or marketing was concerned. Many towns and resorts were full of dated and faded signage with a random range of colours, fonts and logos throughout.
I suspect that this comes from seasonal businesses having to deal with large numbers of customers in a shorter period of time. How many of these businesses even trade over the winter? Is it economically viable to invest in design for such short and busy burtsts?
My view is yes. When competing in such a tight market place over a short window any advantage should be taken. A better looking shop or bar front with joined up marketing and advertising will attract more customers who will feel confident to spend more.
None of this is to say that graphic design and branding are ignored. A good number of these independent businesses looked great and seemed busier during the early season while we were there. Along with the few chain businesses, for example supermarkets, these did attract my eye on the design front.
There is a far more relaxed feel to design in Tenerife, brighter colours and more hand styled fonts. The use of these typefaces are not to give a vintage feel, but a more laid back vibe. Against the traditional buildings these designs had a clean look and feel.
An area where design varies greatly from the UK is the use of foreign languages. Posters, adverts, leaflets and menus all presented in multiple tongues. It was quite common to see marketing in Spanish, English, German and Russian. The use of Russian really caught the eye as the Cyrillic alphabet with its different letter forms made for different shapes and impact, especially on posters.
I take a great interest in the use of language, having worked in Portuguese, Norwegian, Danish and Hungarian over the past year and I was fascinated by how the designers and printers rose to this challenge. This was especially noticeable on posters and external graphic where space is at a premium. Perhaps something I will have to look back at in the future.
As an interesting aside another thing a noticed as a difference between the marketing of shops in Tenerife and the UK was with pharmacists. In the UK there is a kind of hushed, medical feel to pharmacists. In Tenerife I noticed that many were sign posted with flashing neon signs and illuminated arrows. Quite a different feel indeed.
It would be great to now review how major cities in Spain appear alongside these more remote areas. I would suspect that the more metropolitan regions have a more sophisticated range of design and branding. Will have to wait and see.