This post is an extension of the Logo Development section (pages 54-55) in my 122-page Master’s Degree Design book (in which I chose to rebrand Korean tourism for my year-long project). You can download the entire e-book here, or order a hardcopy from Blurb here.
Why choose to rebrand Korean tourism?
Frankly, I hated the logo at that time (“Korea, Sparkling”). And though it’s improved, I’m still not fully satisfied with it. It just doesn’t seem to me to capture the ESSENCE of Korea – but I’ll admit that it’s a difficult thing to brand an entire country.
From my personal experience, Korea is a very colorful and dynamic country, and at the time of this project, the tourism logo in use was a very bland and uninformative “Korea Sparkling”.
- Selling South Korea: No “Sparkling” Brand Image (BBC)
- Korea, Sparkling! (The Marmot’s Hole)
- Korea, Sparkling: It Might Not Be Too Late (ESL Cafe)
- Significance of Korea, Sparkling (Korea Times)
- Korea, Sparkling Slogan May Be Dropped (The Korea Times)
The “Dynamic Korea” logo that was created for the World Cup in 2002 was a much better logo as it more accurately expresses the experience of visiting Korea. However, it still isn’t nearly as colorful as the country.
The logo that followed “Korea Sparkling” was EXACTLY THE SAME LOGO with a different tagline. And honestly, the “Be !nispired” with an exclamation point as the capital “I” felt a bit like a rip off of the “Incredible !ndia” logo with an exclamation point as the capital “I.”
The campaign logo “Visit Korea Year” for 2010-2012 was a little better – more accurately capturing both the vibrant feeling and colors of Korea – but it went a bit “cute” for my tastes. (Plus, as an English teacher, I always struggled with the singular usage of “Year” in the logo to describe the PERIOD of 2 year(s) this campaign was to take place.)
Finally, in 2014, the KTO unveiled an entirely NEW logo, “Image Your Korea”, plus a style guide and microsite which honestly feels like both a simultaneous step backward and a step forward.
- Step back: “Imagine your Korea”? What does that even mean? Are we stepping back into the “Korea Sparkling” ambiguous meaning category again? A Western audience in particular likely won’t know WHAT to imagine about Korea – most of the media in the US focuses on North Korea.
- Step forward: It’s bolder and brighter – though the shape of the “Korea” text leaves something to be desired (it looks like a crayon drawing). Still, the bolder colors and vivid photography (on the microsite) more accurately reflect the spirit of Korea.
Why “Discover Korea”?
Frankly, a Western audience doesn’t know enough ABOUT Korea to be able to “Imagine Your Korea” or even understand what a journey here is like. Here’s one example:
I minored in Asian Studies in my university and I recall only a SINGLE 2-3 page chapter in a SINGLE book that had anything to do with Korea – and that was about the Korean War. Even up until 2-3 years AFTER settling in Korea, I still didn’t even know the dates of the war (it’s 1950-1953, by the way).
Here are some more examples (also detailed in my Project Book Research Paper):
- The majority of US university students (at the time) thought LG was a US brand and Samsung and Hyundai were Japanese brands
- The US media focuses on North Korea
- Whenever ANYONE in the US says, “I’m from Korea” or “I lived in Korea”, the inevitable next question is always, “Wow!~ NORTH Korea?” or a variation
And even though Hallyu (the Korean Wave) is finally invading the Western world with K-pop and K-drama’s, and Psy’s Gangnam Style and the Avengers 2 (filmed partially in Seoul) have become huge hits in the US, it still doesn’t change the fact that the MAJORITY of Western people are horribly misinformed or uninformed about the reality of life and tourism in South Korea.
Therefore, I chose “DISCOVER Korea” for my brand tagline. I’ve written more extensively as to WHY I feel using a VERB for tourism beats using an ADJECTIVE here:
- Trying to Brand a Country? Don’t Rely on an Adjective to Do It
- This is Korea: Moodboard Design for Tourism Promotion
- Korea’s Brand, the KTO, and my Initial Analysis for Beginning my Master’s Degree Project
Initially, I thought a traditional Korean pattern would make for a good logo. This pattern can be found all over traditional architecture and stone walls and also looks a little like a MAZE that could invite people in to “Discover Korea.”
My teacher didn’t approve of the font I chose in the first logo, BUT was impressed with the “KOREA” I created in the Graphic Design Toolbox (above) that modified the Korean Hangul script into English letters (detailed below):
I decided to work with the new text logo and modify the logo icon. I started playing around with the yin-yang Taeguk symbol that is the most iconic symbol of Korea (as it’s on the national flag).
This logo design ultimately looked too much “like a baseball” so I went back to the drawing board again.
By this point I’d also decided to focus in on “6 Unforgettable Aspects of Korea” for my campaign’s Unique Selling Point, so I decided to redesign the logo in such a way as to be able to incorporate ALL SIX aspects into the logo in some way.
Logo 3 & 4
Therefore, I took the yin part of the yin-yang symbol and rotated it around in a circle to produce a new and unique icon that I could apply the 6 different iconic campaign colors to.
The first attempt looked too much like a saw blade or hurricane and though it was a strong symbol, I thought it would carry too many negative connotations.
The second attempt (where I reversed the yin rotation – from the point rather than the circle) produced something that looked very much like a flower and worked on multiple levels. South Korea’s national flower is the Rose of Sharon which is a similar shape (though only contains 5 petals) and the Rose of Sharon symbol can be found all over Korea on traditional, specialized, famous, and delicious restaurants. So it was a perfect fit for the campaign.
Final Logo Designs
The six petals on the logo flower represent:
- RED = Spicy food
- PINK = Traditional culture
- BLUE = Advanced Technology
- SKY BLUE = Adventure
- GREEN = Ancient History
- YELLOW-GREEN = Nature
A collection of images that inspired these color choices is below (these are the section divider pages in my Master’s Degree Design book):