The expectation was to welcome the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia with an overhauled country brand that would connect the anniversary to the EU presidency. This good plan was thwarted by two obstacles of different magnitude, but both equally unpleasant. The renewed Estonian brand could not be completed on time, and the UK decided to leave the European Union, causing the Estonian presidency to be pushed forward by six months. In this cornered situation, the Government Office had to organise a public competition to find unifying symbols for the two different events.
As the new communication concept was burdened by an incredibly broad range of tasks, the creative team decided to look for simple and pertinent ideas that could be integrated into a whole. The programme of content messages spoke about European unity through balance and the inclusive openness of the Republic of Estonia, with faith in democracy and digital technologies as the connecting thread between the two. In terms of form, the creators opted for simple geometry, graphically hiding both numbers 100 and 18 in the design, with symbolic rings of nature and technology in an ongoing search for balance, as well as an illustrative digital allegory – a carpet of messages in binary code covering the images. This resulted in the related concepts of Centenary and Balance, which differed in content but shared the same philosophical foundation and aesthetic.
While equally demanding, the audiences of the programmes were rather different, which also meant different risks and expectations. For the EU presidency, the main issue was to achieve a level of quality that would be acceptable to the culturally spoiled European political elite and officials. In the case of Estonia 100, the creators were anxious about the responses of the domestic audience, after it had been shaken by several failed attempts to design national symbols. The subsequent positive media coverage, personal words of appreciation and many festival awards indicate that the project was a success. However, even more incredible is the massive popularity of the Estonia 100 symbols – both in official use and grassroots interpretations. Together, this makes the twin concepts of Estonia 100 and the EU presidency one of the most successful public sector communication projects in Estonia ever.
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