Digital narratives for place branding by

Year: 2017

Within the Master’s Programme at ELISAVA, Folch is involved in the Master in Editorial Projects and the Master in Graphic Design, teaching Digital Narratives and Strategic Planning, respectively.


Digital narratives for place branding: the Barcelona case

Like many places around the world, the city of Barcelona is tackling new challenges and facing unprecedented issues. Throughout the last few decades —since the city’s Olympic Games in 1992—  the city has been shaken by issues like its radical urban development, the gentrification of its neighborhoods, the policies towards migratory movement, and the loss of identity caused by the hyper-rationalisation of mass tourism —a theme that we tackled in an interview with the American sociologist who coined the expression the ‘Disneyization of tourism.’

Only in the last few months, the Barcelona brand has also been in the spotlight with international media because of its political identity, the lost opportunity to host the EMA, the citizens hostility to mass tourism and for the high levels of pollution, among other things. This is why, within the framework of the Master’s Programme at ELISAVA, we designed a course with the aim of creating an editorial project to help change the perception of Barcelona. Fleeing from its traditional one-sided story (paella, the sun, the sea, Barcelona FC, etc) the Digital Narrative project aims to strategically reposition the brand, creating a new perception of the capital of Catalonia.

  • FOLCH - Digital narratives for place branding

Reshaping the perception of a place

In an era of flags, migrations, mass tourism, fake news, and nationalisms, the media has a duty to inform and develop a deeper understanding. In our times, if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. So many world cities are going through radical transformation and need to find a new way to communicate themselves. Creating narratives for a city, a region, a nation can help reshape global perception, in turn improving its ability to attract investment, enhance tourism, empower industries or simply change the way it is perceived internationally.

Why should we find new ways of narrating a place?

We asked the students to analyse the current situation of the Barcelona brand, to generate a clear picture of the recent history of the city, its current issues and potential problems, together with any opportunities for the future. Having carried out this research, they identified the theme they would treat and a strategic approach to their editorial project.

After defining a specific strategic plan, students would start to develop an editorial concept that tells the story of the city from certain angle, generating —through storytelling and art direction— content that attracts an audience and helps increase the brand’s digital influence. As well as achieving influence, the content needed to reach new audience segments. The final goal was to generate a digital editorial project that is both interesting and engaging in itself. Not as a way of advertising or promoting the brand, but as a journalistic tool that can be used to fight against prejudices, false perceptions, and communications mistakes.

  • FOLCH - Digital narratives for place branding
  • FOLCH - Digital narratives for place branding
  • FOLCH - Digital narratives for place branding
  • FOLCH - Digital narratives for place branding
  • FOLCH - Digital narratives for place branding

What is a digital editorial project today?

Over the last few years the publishing and communications industry has changed dramatically, and the boundaries of the professional figure of a designer have transformed accordingly. More than ever, a designer is called upon to be able to control many areas of a given project, anything from conceptualisation to final form. Losing touch with its previously specific format, the idea of an editorial project is much more open now and its potential is wider than ever. We asked the students to develop an idea as an editor, to commission collaborators and to create content as an art director, finalising as a designer. Besides conceptualising and designing, students will produce all the content of the platform, from photography to film, from illustrations to texts.

Transformation through strategic thinking

The Strategic Planning course, held within the framework of the Master’s in Graphic Design at ELISAVA, was intended to set the basis of strategic planning behind any given brief. Besides specifically addressing the strategic thinking behind a branding project, the classes provide the students with the tools to develop any kind of project. Our method is based upon three main axes. The first step is Critical Thinking, as a way to question a brief, problem, or commission. Lateral thinking is a way of finding new solutions off the beaten path and exploring diverse answers to the very same question. Finally, the Strategic Thinking process sets objectives, positioning goals and targeting audiences, in order to develop narratives and a visual direction.


  • FOLCH - Digital narratives for place branding

Designing ideas

On the one side, as the communication world changes, companies and organisations will increasingly start to realise that they need creative profiles that are able to design engaging, emotional, and strategic narratives. On the other side, young professionals and students should be aware about their new role as editorial designers and what the industry requires from them. An editorial designer is asked to be able to generate innovative concepts and ideas, to have a sensibility towards storytelling, and to have a wide understanding of digital strategies, art direction, social media, and how content is consumed by different audiences.

  • FOLCH - Digital narratives for place branding