History of the Meu Rio Brand

Last Sunday I published my first blog post in Portuguese for the Meu Rio blog, in which I tell the story of how we developed our brand identity. Here is an English translation of that post.

[VERSÃO EM PORTUGUÊS]

Hi, I’m Lee-Sean, and this is my first post. I’m going to tell you the story of the how we developed the Meu Rio logo and identity, but first I would like to confess something. Maybe it’s obvious, but I’m not from here. I’m neither a Carioca (native of Rio) nor a Brazilian. I was born in Taiwan, grew up in Arizona, and lived in various other places since: Boston, Barcelona, Nakatsu (Japan), New York. I consider myself a citizen of the world, and now an honorary Carioca.

I arrived in Rio for the first time in 2010 along with Alessandra, co-founder of Meu Rio, and our Purpose colleague Emmy. We came to do, among other things, the preliminary research for the development of the brand identity. Before coming here, I had already made an effort to better understand Brazilian and Carioca culture: I studied Portuguese, I read books and watched movies about Rio, I listen to Brazilian music, I play capoeira.

Beach Boardwalk, Rio

But as a gringo, I also had many stereotypical and touristic images of Rio in my head: the big Jesus statue, the Sugarloaf, the wave-patterned pavement designed by Burle Marx, the beach, Carnaval, Carmen Miranda, etc. I knew I had to avoid clichés and create an identity worthy of the Marvelous City. The challenge was to create a brand that respected and celebrated Rio’s cultural heritage.

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The first phase of our research involved total immersion. We travelled all over the city. We interviewed many Cariocas. We conducted observations and took hundreds of photos. All of this might sound like sightseeing, but really it was tiring work. Rio is full of visual delights and a city of stark contrasts between mountains and ocean, urban grey and rainforest green, modern and old, “asphalt” and favela.

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We found abundant sources of inspiration: the colors of tropical fruit and plants; urban street art with its rough aesthetic and perceptive social critique; the sensual curves of nature, modern architecture and the bodies of Cariocas at the beach; and the first meeting of Donald Duck and Zé Carioca.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro

After finishing the first phase of research, we began drawing. I made several sketches. See some examples below. I tried to capture the “ginga” (swing) of the Carioca lifestyle and express the popular spirit of DIY.

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After deliberating, we ended up picking the current logo.

Our logo subtly evokes the form of a coconut. Coconuts hydrate and nourish Cariocas and serve as an icon of Meu Rio. The irregular shape and imperfection help encourage popular participation.

The “Folk” font we used for the logo was created by the Brazilian type designer Marcelo Magalhães and is licensed for reuse under Creative Commons..

By definition, a brand identity is a system of visual and stylistic rule, but at Meu Rio we aim to be more than just that. Our intention is to create a “living system” brand identity that is open to participation and remix, a brand that will grow and evolve over time, and that can easily live in online and offline contexts, in two and three dimensions. This post is about the history of the Meu Rio brand, but the story is not yet finished. We continue moving forward along with your participation.

What do you think of the Meu Rio brand?

Meu Rio Lazer Printing

Meu Rio Stationery

Protesto da Roleta

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Impact is what you can get away with

Here is a panel presentation proposal we put together for Internet Week NY. It would be a panel presentation with Stephanie, Alnoor, and Alessandra from Purpose. Special thanks to Nicholas and Colby for the feedback and support.

Impact Is What You Can Get Away With
Brands and organizations looking to make real social impact should go beyond the app to “do good” or “give back.” Impact isn’t an app, it’s an uprising. It’s not just a meme, it’s a movement. Warhol and McLuhan both said, “Art is what you can get away with.” Riffing on this provocation, we challenge social innovators to get away with more. What can change makers learn from artists? How do you channel cultural power to achieve deep structural change? How do you stimulate promiscuous participation? How do you turn social innovations into social movements? This session is for makers, thinkers, and doers looking to level up their understanding of the art of mass mobilization and achieving transformative impact. We will present from our experiences building 21st century movements at Purpose and engage in dialogue with fellow “movement entrepreneurs.”

Vote for our panel proposal. Thanks!

Cultural Movements Haiku

Here is my tweet submission for the #UprisingGiveaway by Strawberry Frog’s Scott Goodson:

The challenge was to define and comment on cultural movements in a tweet. Given the brevity of the medium, I opted for the haiku form to help give me some constraints, and for the LOLZ. Also, traditional Japanese haiku is more than just the 5-7-5 syllable structure, as the poetic form often references nature. I decided to play with the metaphor of waves to describe the nature of cultural movements.

The idea of “surfing” upon the power of an ocean/cultural wave, rather than trying to control or force it parallels Goodson’s advice to marketers in BusinessWorld:

  • Instead of controlling the message, marketers must learn to relinquish control and let the movement do what it will with that message.
  • Companies must learn to stop talking about themselves and join in a conversation that is about anything but their products.