Culture vultures do the logo motion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 12:00am

ASK ANY PERSON from Venice about his home town and he or she will tell you the beautiful city - all gondolas, meandering waterways and magnificent architecture - is second to none. But to ensure that Venice's heritage belongs only to Venetians, the city is getting its own trademark. Much like the venerable 'I Love New York' slogan, Venice will soon have a logo to call its own.

Last week, the mayor of Venice, Paolo Costa, announced that the project 'A Trademark for Venice' was well under way, with tenders submitted by 30 international marketing and advertising companies. By the end of the year the winning design, along with a marketing plan chosen by a selection jury, will be unveiled in New York. If Costa has his way, people who use the trademark will pay a copyright fee, with the proceeds going towards Venice's city development.

'Italian towns, particularly Venice, have the responsibility of preserving a huge artistic, cultural and natural heritage for which current financial resources are not sufficient,' Costa says. 'A Trademark for Venice is not a business project to exploit Venice's image and take money from tourists and citizens and [give it to] local authorities. These resources could be used to protect the cultural, artistic and natural heritage which does not only belong to Venice, but the entire world.'

Serving on the jury are such artistic and cultural luminaries as fashion designer Laura Biagiotti, designer Philippe Starck, Domus editor Deyan Sudjic and professor Marino Folin from the University Institute for Architecture of Venice. Organisers hope to register the design they select as a trademark worldwide by 2003.

The 'branding' of a city is a tricky undertaking, Costa admits. After all, no one can put a copyright on a place. He came up with the idea of a trademark after seeing his city's unique landscape being used as a business tool - such as the Venetian casino in Las Vegas, with a replica of the famous St Mark's Square and singing gondoliers punting in an indoor canal. The law firm White and Case - Varrenti e Associati, which is in charge of the legal aspects of copyrighting the logo, found about 150 existing trademarks that mention Venice. Costa hopes that an official trademark granted to companies with a high standard can help enhance and even promote a correct image of the sinking city.

Costa insists the trademark will be used on a purely voluntary basis. People can still shoot films in Venice and artists can paint the city without paying a royalty, but he hopes companies around the world will want to use the logo as a 'seal of approval' and contribute to the preservation of the city.

He is unsure how the trademark will be received, but to further his cause, Costa will hold press conferences in cities around the world, including Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong, where he will arrive on October 3, before concluding his roadshow in New York at the end of the year. 'It's an intriguing challenge,' says Rome-based designer Biagiotti. 'But this is what Venice needs.'