Monday, March 20

40th anniversary of the Miró logo that changed the image of Spain

It is not true that all wine improves with age. In reality, few things improve over the years. One of these exceptions is the logo of Spain designed by the Catalan painter Joan Miró. At 40, he is more interesting than ever. Most of the great logos of the 80s or earlier have disappeared or have undergone modifications to lighten them and adapt them to the new aesthetic trends. Ours is the only one in a country that is a work of art by one of the great painters of the 20th century. It cannot be modified. It is accepted as it is or it is dispensed with. In this long period of time there was only one attempt to replace it. Shortly after the Popular Party government began, in 1996, the Secretary of State for Commerce and Tourism was tempted to consider it a socialist heritage, but more lucid minds in Moncloa stopped the coup.

So, the logo was 13 years old and came from a difficult childhood. The cultural conservatives did not understand the novelty and despised him, dubbing him Miró’s fried egg. It was the tenacity of the minister of the branch, Enrique Barón, who managed to get the Council of Ministers to approve the proposal for it to become the tourist symbol of Spain. After four decades, we have it so assumed that few remember the innovation it meant in its time.

As journalist Sarah Baker expressed in an article in The New York Times in January 2003, “Why does everyone think that a mere logo of a country can have important effects?” The answer, she added, is given to us by Spain: “Two decades ago, Miró designed an impressive and warm symbol to promote tourism. Thanks in large part to the logo of Spain, the image of that country is no longer associated with Franco, the Civil War and Don Quixote. Today (2003) it is a country of wine-Rioja-, cinema-Almodóvar- and art, Miró”. The logo marked his glorious entry into adulthood. The audacity consisted in proposing for the first time in the world of communication an abstract logo to represent a country.

Willy Ollins —one of the creators of the country brand concept— recalled that the logo was to the world of graphic design what Chanel Number 5 was to the world of perfumes: the first abstract logo and perfume that transformed their fields of activity. The renowned art critic Mark Sinclair in his book TM The Untold Stories Behind 29 Classic Logos —The Untold Stories of 29 Classic Logos— (Lawrence King Publishing 2014), wrote: “Today’s familiarity makes us forget how radical it was in its time.”

It had been a few years since he had become an adult, he was 30 years old, and it was already recognized as a classic. When they appreciated the success, numerous imitations or other logos influenced by ours appeared, such as those of Poland, Croatia or Turkey, which also adopted other innovations. Spain, in Spanish, would appear in all campaigns regardless of the language in which the ads appeared, and they did the same with the name of their countries. That of 1984 was the first global campaign to promote Spanish tourism. Until then, the campaigns varied according to each market.

In the first Council of Ministers of the Government of Felipe González, in December 1982, I was appointed, at the proposal of Enrique Barón, General Director of Tourism Promotion. We must remember what was happening in the country in those years: the oil crisis, the devaluation, the deficit, the high interest rates, the industrial reconversion. The rest of Europe and the United States were also having problems, but here we were not yet a fully developed country with a stable democracy.

Tourism, with the low peseta, was one of the few sectors in which we could have competitive advantages. Even in such a difficult situation, the Government notably improved the budget for international promotion. The management of our tourist resources was simple: freedom to build hotels —the ruthless use of the coast dates back to the 1960s and 1970s— financed by European tour operators in exchange for beds in those same hotels. The hotel chain-tour operator alliance continued to function for decades.

The conclusion is that it was not necessary to make a great effort in foreign promotion, since the intermediaries were already taking care of it, but in exchange, not only did we not manage the product, nor the image. We were the country of s’s: sand (sand), bleeding, sex and, above all, sun. To confuse things even more, some regional councilors, especially the Catalan one, wanted the promotion budget to be transferred and the Central Administration to have a simple coordinating role.

The decision to prepare a national marketing plan, the first in the world, was thus forced by circumstances. The concept that arose from that plan: “Spain, diversity under the sun”, “Spain, everything under the sun”would be the claim which lasted until 1990, at the end of the “prodigious decade”. The only thing missing was a logo that had a universal character to sign all the campaigns. But our first attempts failed as none of the big three—Dalí, Miró and Tapies—to whom we had addressed ourselves responded to the minister’s letter. It was the Mallorcan publisher Pere Serra who offered to help by introducing me to Miró and helping to convince him.

We managed to carry out the project, with the collaboration of some tourist communities such as the Balearic Islands, giving rise to the “Catalan paradox”: the future image of Spain was created in the General Directorate of Tourism with the advice of Catalan consultants, in the same way that Catalan was the author of the logo, as well as the painter’s dealer, Francesc Farreras, who participated in the entire process.

It was not possible to pay Miró for his work. He flatly refused. “For the King and the Government all free” he responded to our insistence to add, looking at his wife: “Pilar, the sopeta”. He died a few months later.

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