Thursday, July 3, 2014

One Design Week 2014 - Kapana Logo Deisgn Contest

Those of you who have followed my blog over the years know that I am quite the fan of Sofia Design Week, and I try to attend the forum every year if I can. This year, to my surprise, Sofia Design Week became One Design Week (named after the organizers, One) and was moved to the city of Plovdiv. At first I was annoyed. How dare they move my favorite event of the year to another city!? What are they thinking!? What insolence! I wasn't even sure that I would be able to go at all if a work thing came up for that weekend. 

But then I sort of liked the idea. True, I couldn't spend a full week in Plovdiv browsing the design exhibitions and attending various events, but I had quite a lot of fun taking a weekend to roam the streets and galleries of this charming city. I spend most of Saturday at the Forum, which I will talk about in a separate post, as usual, but I spent my brakes visiting the nearby design shows, walking along the pedestrian zone and enjoying some parmigiano, sun-dried tomatoes, sausages, and canolli at an Italian food fair in downtown Plovdiv. 

Walking along the pedestrian zone, I also had the chance to look at the logo designs of the finalists in the Absolut Kapana logo design contest. For those of you who don't know, Kapana is a 19th century neighborhood in downtown Plovdiv, which used to house various worksmiths, but has at the edge of oblivion as a cultural playground in the past few years. Now the manucipality of Plovdiv is trying to revive the area as an artistic meeting place, and ABSOLUT joined in the fun by organizing a contest to find a new symbol for Kapana, focusing both on its past and on its artistic future. You can read more about the contest on its official website

I snapped a few photos of the entries of the finalists (not all of them) with my phone, which I have posted below with a short commentary for each one. Unfortunately, the logo that I liked best (and even those I liked almost as much as that) was not the winner. I am sure that there will be people who don't agree with my opinions, asking who am I to critisize the work of others. Oh well. They'll have to deal with it. After all, these are just my humble opinions:) 

Let me start by talking about my favorite logo. Perhaps it is not all that minimalistic as is the trend in logo design lately, but it captured my attention right away, which is what a logo should be doing in the first place. I think that this logo carries a certain feeling of mysticism that is inherent in the Kapana area, and it does a great job of conveying the uniqueness of the traditional Bulgarian architecture of the Revival in a modern way, without having too many unnecessary details. Also, I think that the origami-like structure (see the tshirt) that is made to resemble the map of the area gives the design an artistic, DIY, craftsy look that I like very much. 

Photo from 

This next logo is nice and colorful, but for me it fell just short of being original, perhaps because I think I have seen a million other logos with the same bright colors and angular shapes online and in stock vector websites. It is visually pleasing, and I do like the design of the bag, but otherwise I felt it was too generic for Kapana. 

I liked this next logo by Elena Kalpakchieva reminds me of the Hudertwasserhaus in Vienna, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It is good because the logo conveys a sense of cultural richness and the uniqueness of the location with its colors and building shapes, but at the same time it is bad because, well, it evokes the Hudertwasserhaus, which is nowhere near Plovdiv. But perhaps that's just me.

The logo by Boris Bratkov is another favorite of mine, even if it is probably the most abstract in the selection. To me it seems like it is also loosely based on the map of Kapana, and also emphasizes its desired status as a meeting point for diverse artists. Furthermore, I can see a certain letter K shape in the lattice of objects in the logo, which reminds me of the name of the neighborhood. If you go to the contest website and leaf through the finalist booklet, you can also see some other applications of the logo that the designer has presented in terms of themes (astronomy, typography, etc.) that I really liked.

The following logo is very focused on the letter K, and even though the designer explains that it is constructed of architectural shapes typical for the neighborhood, I can’t help but be focused entirely on the K shape. If anything, to me the letter looks like a chair. I guess that there is always a risk when you create a design that can take on lots of shapes depending on how you view it: there is always someone who sees something that you didn’t mean them to see.

This next logo looked interesting to me, and I think that the funnel shape does play into the idea of a “trap,” which is the meaning of the word “Kapana.” It looks like something you fall into and might not be able to or want to get out of. However, you could also argue that it looks like a colorful iceberg or icicle.

The next design by Stoyan Hristov plays with the same means of expression like the logo by Elena Kalpakchieva that I discussed above. I find this design by Stoyan Hristov more appealing, however. There is a certain art deco feel about the typography and colors, though, which does not entirely correspond to the architecture of the area. Still, I think this design was one of my favorites.

Apart from being visually pleasing in its triangular shape, the next logo by Ilia Gruev didn’t seem like it had much to do with the past, present or future of the Kapana area, but that might be just my opinion. The design resembles that of skater apparel, which is nice, but also limits its appeal if we want to real a wider audience. When I read the short description that the designer submitted, I had to agree that he did play around with the idea of a crossroads, but I have to admit that I didn't see that when I first looked at it. Perhaps we are all too jaded by the commercial designs we see each day, and it is hard to look at images without putting them in the context of your own experience.

I did enjoy the design by the team of Mila Ivanova, Tsvetomir Pavlov, and Vassil Krustev, but I do wish that there were options in color. The logo is constructed in such a way as to demand applications in black and white, but I feel like we would lose something of the artistic feel of the neighborhood if we don’t have any color. After I came back to Sofia, I browsed through the contest website, and I saw that they did, indeed, offer an option in color. However, I still felt like there was something small that was missing.

At first glance I found the next logo quite charming: it has a vintage feel and could be viewed as a sort of artistic compass. However, on second thought I decided that while it was pleasing and beautiful, it was too focused on the past and on the specific architectural element of wrought iron and other decorative elements from iron. The designers noticed these elements in Kapana, but I missed them.

The design by Mariska Ferket is decidedly minimalistic, but adds visual interest through colorful patterns, textures, and other graphic elements. Somehow, though, it is only vaguely connected to the atmosphere of Kapana by its shape, taken from the letter K. Looking at the logo, I would guess that it had something to do with design and creativity, but definitely not that it represented the Kapana neighborhood in Plovdiv.

And finally, the winner. It is a good design, constructed out of the letters of the name Kapana and stylized into a square; it is both open, closed, minimalistic and expressive. What I didn’t necessarily like about it was the associations with the art of Mondrian that it brought in me, not because I don’t like Mondrian (which I do), but because Mondrian and Kapana in my mind do not invoke the same feeling and meaning. At the same time, I do agree that the execution is smart and fresh, so even if it is not my absolute favorite design, I definitely see its potential to work wonderfully as a logo for Kapana that is modern, clean, and focused on the future. 
Photo from 

For those of you who didn’t get the chance to be at One Design Week in Plovdiv and look at the design entries in the contest, I do urge you to browse through the official website and check out the explanations of the artists that accompany their design submissions. I always find it very refreshing and enlightening to see the thought and work process of other creatives. Head over to And enjoy! 

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended.

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