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Charleroi, the place to C! or how a simple letter can change everything. Design - 17 December 2015

The crowned C of the new logo of the city of Charleroi is the talk of the town, and beyond! Georgios Maïllis, architect and bouwmeester of the city, talks to us about graphic design, urban planning and economic development in the wake of the new visual identity of Charleroi.

Talking about graphic design with an architect in a context of urban development is not something that happens every day. Can you explain how this unusual mix came about?

I’ve been at the helm of Charleroi’s architecture department for 2 years. Our role is to help public authorities to explore, structure and achieve the development of the city in its broadest sense. When the call for tender was published for the position, I proposed a multidisciplinary team that combines architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, design and art. Urban issues should be addressed through all of these fields. I firmly believe in opening city management to all of these disciplines.

Giving Charleroi a new graphic identity was one of the first actions rolled out. Isn’t that just a rather vain detail?

Not at all. We wanted to give an immediate sign that would reflect the ambitions of Charleroi, tell everyone that things are already changing. Architectural and town planning projects often take 4 or 5 years to spring up. The work on the image of the city was therefore essential to initiate change. The new face of Charleroi is only the beginning of a real urban metamorphosis.

Can you tell us more about the city’s logo?

Personally, I find that the logo created by Pam & Jenny is absolutely brilliant! It’s simple yet complex. The graphic designers have managed to capture the essence of the city in one single letter, "C", and a symbol that conveys the history of the city, its territory and its landscape. At the same time, the logo is universal and typical, readable by all but delivering a message exclusively linked to Charleroi. It is a striking and hard-hitting visual communication tool.

What kind of welcome did the logo get?

We wanted to think big, beyond time and territory. That's why we turned to graphic design professionals. They alone were able to bring the finesse and thrust necessary for the city’s communication project. The quality of the logo made it accessible and appealing. It’s been picked up much faster than we imagined. From its launch, the specialised press gave it very positive coverage, especially in France and Spain. Recently, the town of Reims used our logo as a model for promoting urban development.

What are the consequences of this new graphic identity?

The communication campaign is a spotlight that highlights our urban revitalization work. We are now under scrutiny, in Belgium and abroad. We have already noticed a change in behaviour as far as the public is concerned, as well as businesses and institutions. The coherence it gives to our work inspires confidence. It is easier to nurture contacts, our actions are being taken seriously. The message has been received loud and clear, everyone now knows that things are moving in Charleroi. This has an impact on tourism, but also on investors.

A concrete example?

Where do I start! We are working on a project to convert industrial wasteland on the banks of the River Sambre. The project developer is Israeli. I doubt that he would be here in Charleroi if we had not implemented our graphic communications strategy. We have also received a generous ERDF budget for the development of urban projects. I think that the new face of Charleroi played a big role in this award. The logo symbolises the potential and the energy being injected into the future of the city. It announces and gives credibility to our ambitions. In fact, it changes everything!

 

Sylvie Reversez 

 

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