The story behind the Czech Presidency logo

Anyone could enter the competition, and anyone could win. And there were certainly plenty of entries to choose from! Four hundred designs were entered in the competition for the Czech Presidency logo. Although the story of the winning logo began back in July 2007, it was not unveiled to the public for almost a year and a half.

For many months, only a few dozen people knew what the logo would be. ‘Making the logo public earlier would be against EU rules. It would be unfair to the Slovenes, who held the Presidency in the first half of this year, and to the French EU Presidency in office’, explains Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs (*). There has been more and more secrecy around EU Presidency logos since about 2004.

All those who came into contact with the logo before its official release had to sign a non-disclosure protocol. The companies involved would have been heavily fined if the logo design had been leaked. Not even the employees of the individual ministries or the Office of the Government knew what the logo looked like. ‘The idea behind was that the more people who knew the logo, the less control we would have over it,’ adds Pavlína Hladíková, the visual identity coordinator. As a result, the ministries could only use a substitute logo, given to them only in September 2008.

The Office of the Government announced the public competition to design a logo (experts say ‘logo’ and ‘logotype’) in July 2007. Since it was a public competition, it was open to everyone – professional graphic artists, designers, students of graphic design, and the general public.

Enough designs to fill a gym

Roughly 400 designs, which had to meet various requirements – they had to be original, creative, impressive and intelligible –, were submitted in the first round. ‘The entrants were asked to come up with variations of their designs and explain what their logos depict,’ says Hladíková.

The participants also had to comply with competition terms and conditions, one of which was the anonymity of designs. Breaches of competition rules caused 39 designs to be disqualified before the first round even started.

Even so, several large packages containing the designs for the future logo still made their way to the Straka Academy, the seat of the Office of the Government. On 5 November, the evaluation committee met for the first time. The committee comprised Alexandr Vondra, the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs; Radim Ochvat from the Executive Office of the Prime Minister; Marcel Sauer from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the graphic artist Aleš Najbrt from Studio Najbrt; Rostislav Vaněk, the head of the Graphic Design and Visual Communication Studio of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design and the chairman of the TypoDesignClub; Alan Záruba, a lecturer at the same Graphic Design and Visual Communication Studio; and Ladislav Kopecký from the Createam studio, lecturer at the Marketing Communication and Public Relations Department of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University.

Once spread out on desks, the designs filled virtually the whole of the Straka Academy’s gymnasium. The committee’s task was to pick five from the 350 before them. This took about half a day. Even then the competition was by no means at an end. A week later, the evaluation committee’s experts invited the creators of the top five designs to an information meeting. ‘They told the designers of the comments and suggestions the committee members had concerning the logo designs – what needed adjusting, what should be brought more to the fore, and the like,’ explains the visual identity coordinator.

Map of country abbreviations

One of the entries to undergo this procedure was the winning design by Tomáš Pakosta, a young graphic artist from the town of Litomyšl. ‘Tomáš Pakosta originally had several designs. However, the committee was most impressed by his mosaic made up of the abbreviations of European states and a similarly designed map of the European Union,’ says Hladíková.

In the second round of the competition, held on 30 November 2007, the committee reached a unanimous verdict on Tomáš Pakosta’s design. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek confirmed the committee’s choice with his signature at the beginning of 2008. Thus, the Czech Presidency’s logo was born.

According to the evaluation committee, the winning design expresses both the Czech Presidency’s motto ‘A Europe without Barriers’ and the European Union’s slogan ‘Unity in Diversity’. ‘The logo just came to me somehow – it was a coincidence. It is a play on colours, the codes of the individual countries distributed over a map of the Union and ultimately mixed into an equally balanced mosaic,’ explains Pakosta.

Uniform visual identity

However, Tomáš Pakosta’s work was far from over. He was set the task of preparing a manual, by summer 2008, that would determine the constituent elements of the Czech Presidency’s uniform visual identity. The manual was used to harmonise the design of promotional items, the Czech Presidency’s website, official printed materials, and the indoor and outdoor decorations during the Presidency.

The logo will also appear on special postage stamps issued to mark the Czech Presidency. For stamp collectors, the Czech Post has also prepared a First Day Cover with a sheet of stamps. A limited edition will be available at local offices of the Czech Post.

The uniform visual identity was brought to life with the assistance of other experts, including Rostislav Vaněk, Aleš Najbrt, Herbert Slavík, the Virtual World design studio and Czech Television. ‘We discussed various issues with them. For example, where to position the logo on decorative panels so that it could be clearly seen when filmed by the television cameras, and what underlying colour should be used,’ says Hladíková as she explains the benefits of conferring with the experts. The uniform visual identity of the Presidency now has a professional feel in all respects.

The Czech Presidency logo and the graphics manual cost CZK 300,000. Pakosta won CZK 50,000 in prize money, and the manual itself cost CZK 250,000 to produce.

(*) The Chamber of Deputies cast a vote of no confidence in the government of Mirek Topolánek on 24 March 2009. On 9 April Jan Fischer was appointed new Prime Minister.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:01

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