The value of co-design in place branding.

The use of co-design in creating brand identity is not as widely discussed as the use of co-design in other design fields, or for traditionally ‘non-design’ outcomes. Even less discussed is the use of co-design in branding for place. Many prominent proponents of co-design originate from business and marketing strategy backgrounds rather than from design practice; using ‘design-thinking’ to innovate business models, new product development or service delivery. However, there is an argument for using co-design to authentically include community in the creation of place identity.

The place branding process carries with it the weight of collective and individual history; lived and inherited. This can be fraught with risk, particularly so for a ‘siloed’ team, disconnected from the people and places that they seek to champion. Collaborative engagement can prime the community to take ownership of the outcome when it is launched into the public sphere, and enrich the outcome exponentially.

Ellis Jones’ place identity method revolves around the central tenet that a brand is the sum of the people and places that make it unique. Our place branding model works to understand a place from all perspectives, whether we’re engaging with;

  • Government;
  • Property;
  • Aged care and retirement living developers or operators; or
  • Public institutions.

Co-design or co-creation can help to gain a deep understanding of a place; its history, the communities around it and their collective vision for the future. The co-design process (empathise, define, ideate, prototype and iterate) is important when designing a place-based brand in order to define it in a way that reflects the dynamics and nuances of a changing population. Getting the narrative right is even more important when designing brand for place due because of the diverse individuals and communities that engage with places. Using a participatory design method can enhance a shared ownership of a brand as well as build community.

The value of using co-design in a branding process is unlikely to be fully understood until some time after the brand has been launched in the communities for which it was designed to represent. However, use of a co-design process is likely to create a deep understanding of a place and the people that make it unique, and support the execution of a design and brand toolkit that is adopted and built on by the local communities.

Shared value can also be created by using participatory design practice. The concept of shared value – which focuses on the connections between societal and economic progress – has the power to create growth not just in the business world. The value created in community building from a co-design branding process can translate to a whole host of other economical and social growth benefits. Using co-design for brand creation can help to ensure that the community for which the brand has been designed to represent will take ownership and pride in the outcome. This can in turn increase the use of the space, economic and creative activity and foster cultures of entrepreneurship and innovation.

While shared value and co-design are both more present in the world of business than that of design, it is time for traditional designers to acknowledge the role that they can play in creating shared value through the use of co-design in designing brand for place.

Talk to us about using co-design in place branding.