Arts of Survival — the story and visual language of Tartu 2024

Rebranding for European Capital of Culture, Tartu 2024

Art Direction, Brand Identity, Visual Identity System, Illustration, Project Management, Animation, User Research, Interviews, Persona Mapping


Tartu, together with Southern Estonia, is the European Capital of Culture in 2024.

“Arts of Survival” is the creative concept of Tartu 2024, which brings into focus the knowledge, skill sets and values that will help us live better lives in the future. The four most important Arts of Survival featured in the Tartu 2024 programme are uniqueness, sustainability, awareness, and co-creation.

Tartu 2024 brings attention to the whole of Southern Estonia, its cities and countryside, flora and fauna. The programme seeks answers to one of the most critical socio-political questions in modern society – how to live and lead a good life in the future as individuals, as a society, and as an environment – both in the city and in the countryside. The extensive programme is divided into three major parts: life and environment, human and skills, and uniqueness and Europe. All aim to bring attention to the main questions – how to live in symbiosis with the environment and ever-changing world.

And that is where the brand comes in.

The Challenge

A good brand brings out emotions and helps to connect with the cause. As one of the main shortcomings of the earlier branding was a lack of emotions, we had a clear goal – the expectation for the new branding was to create a wordmark with more personality. The aim was to create a clearly distinctive, fresh and empowering image that carries meaning and brings colour and energy into long Estonian winters.

The story and visual language of Tartu 2024 has to speak to people from various age and ethnical groups and be user-friendly to the brand’s executors, partners and other participants. This was actually one of the main challenges for the design team – to create a brand system scalable enough to work throughout the years to come and accommodate different use cases we cannot foresee, but have a well-defined framework and rules to keep the brand consistent.

It was a great adventure!

The Adventures

As the theme for the programme is Arts of Survival, our minds started to wonder and search for different elements that represent survival instincts. The visual metaphor of the creative concept is hidden in the following train of thought:

  • One has to make choices to survive;
  • Choices mean directions;
  • Directions open up different opportunities;
  • Opportunities may create new tracks and roads (‘tee’ in Estonian);
  • Roads create connections.

This is how the visual tool ‘tee’ element came about. It contains in itself the reference to the first letter in Tartu (T aka ‘tee’); being the centre of Southern Estonia and also to the driving force that is the road (‘tee’), which usually leads to great adventures.

To further carry out the visual identity of Tartu 2024 a sign system was created, consisting of patterns and elements of Southern Estonian relics that carry the values of the Capital of Culture.

Tartu 2024’s identity is meant to be free, bold and enriching to the cityscape. The new identity is supposed to grow with Tartu 2024’s activities, where each partner and participant can create new outcomes.


Tartu 2024 has an environmental strategy, which aims to place the environmental activities of the European Capital of Culture into the wider global and European context and to identify the most important environmental aspects in Estonia based on the example of Tartu and Southern Estonia.

Four large goals have been set:

  • Organising public and cultural events without using single-use solutions;
  • Environmentally friendly food (organic and local) being offered and leftover food from the events being distributed;
  • Organising separate waste collection at events;
  • More environmentally friendly energy and transportation solutions being used at events.

The Process and Results

To better understand the expectations for the brand, we conducted interviews with both Tartu 2024 partners and the target audience, keeping in mind to include people from all age groups. We asked about values and key things that associate with Tartu and South Estonia and dived into the objectives of the programme to find inspiration for the visual side. The process was very iterative and it took several development rounds to come up with the final symbols.

One part of the brand process was to define different sectors – who and how can use the brand system. There are 4 sectors in total – Tartu 2024 team, close supporters, community and last, but not least, partners. Each sector is using the brand with slight variation, which definitely made it an interesting aspect during the design process.

The final brand book itself in its thoroughness is the best promoter of the collaboration between the Tartu 2024 team and all partners and thinkers around the region. Our favourite part of the book, you might ask? The greetings are in different dialects from South Estonia. Used methods: User research and interviews, persona mapping, ideation and iterative design process.


  • Estonian Design Awards 2022 - Bronze for the Best in Graphic and Media Design / Social Cohesion, New Normality and Crisis Management
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