Brand Development Yolŋu Style

Lirrwi Tourism’s new brand identity emerged from a campfire in a creative process like no other, a reinvention of brand marketing from a Yolŋu perspective.

The result is a corporate identity with a deep cultural significance and symbolism – thousands of years of thinking and tradition distilled into a contemporary brand for an international audience.

The brand’s development was guided by Sydney marketing agency Adventure Junky, a partner of the Yolŋu Tourism Masterplan with past experience in Indigenous branding projects.

Directors and co-founders Nigel Malone and Fuchsia Sims began with a series of workshops involving Yolŋu community leaders and artists in Arnhem Land, at times joined from outside by tourism leaders and other supporters of the Masterplan.

Starting in familiar territory with butcher’s paper and whiteboards, the pair observed as the community groups developed their own understanding of brand identity and began laying down its values from within existing Yolŋu concepts and traditions.

“It was an incredible experience, a real privilege to be included in,” Malone said. “One moment I was listening to intense discussion on what made Yolŋu culture unique, and the next I had a yidaki (didgeridoo) being played against my heart as a way of conveying things that couldn’t be explained in words.”

After establishing a set of guiding principles and defining the brand personality and attributes, the group then enlisted the help of six Yolŋu artists from the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre in Yirrkala who were asked to create visual representations from a traditional perspective.

“It was a very complicated process,” Malone said. “The challenge was to come up with a single illustration to encapsulate a whole world of meaning and symbolism, but without betraying any cultural sensitivities.”

“The artists kept coming back to the symbolism of a campfire, which is beautifully simple in its appeal to the outsider but also at the heart of quite complex concepts in Yolŋu tradition,” he said. “The campfire also relates to the name Lirrwi, which means ‘charcoal’ but also has other layers of meaning to Yolŋu.”

A final choice was painted by Yirritja woman Nongirrnga Marawili from Baniyala, an important artist whose works on bark and Larrakitj (hollow logs) are held in major galleries including the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of NSW and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Her campfire design was then re-interpreted by a commercial designer to create a stylised logo that can be used in Lirrwi stationery, signage, uniforms, merchandise, websites and on vehicles.

As an umbrella brand, Lirrwi Tourism’s identity will be joined in the future by a wider family of brands representing individual Yolŋu homelands and tourism businesses. Together they will all draw from a common origin and an overarching set of principles now established by Yolŋu people.