Suzdal brand
Key town branding in Golden Ring
Suzdal is the most touristy small town, and its fame precedes it - tourists are brought there in a continuous stream, the whispers of foreign voices can be heard in its countless temples, the shelves are bursting with bright matryoshka dolls and sweet gingerbread, and the eyes are dazzled by polished gold-painted samovars. Few people realize that the most interesting, quiet and intimate parts of the town are securely hidden behind tightly closed doors, away from the beaten tourist paths, and to truly experience Suzdal, one must spend time searching for their own key to this ancient town, doomed to such superficial tourist attention.

Client: Suzdal Hospitality Association under control of Suzdal town administration

Work: research, branding, design, map design

2014 … 2017
Our secret brand was developed with funding from the Suzdal Hospitality Association, founded by local entrepreneurs who could no longer tolerate the external gilt and glamour of the town and began to think about a more sophisticated and demanding tourist who is able to explore the city without a guide and wants to discover it from a different, unexplored perspective. This is not loudly advertised, but the secret, quiet Suzdal exists, and we were able to see it for ourselves, painstakingly searching for our own keys to all the inhabitants of this complex and profound city.
Key research
Everybody heard of Suzdal and everybody judges it his own way. The more interesting it is to investigate its hidden treasury.
  • 6380 reviews

    Tripadvisor and such
  • 42 articles

    Had been carefully read and learnt
  • 33 interviews

    With town residents
  • 5 strategic sessions

    Solo entrepreneurs, business, administration, young people
  • 13 touroperators

    Had been interviewed personally
  • 15 journalists

    Had been interviewed personally, as well
Photo by Jacob
We had summed up all what've been told into these lists that are easy to work with and quite clean. Okay, Suzdal is the most popular small town in Russia according to statistics and the people opinion. But let's compare:
  • What people think

    1. Best tourist service
    2. Best gastronomy service
    3. Friendly residents
    4. Active and organized community of entrepreneurs
  • What is in reality

    1. Suzdal is a locked up town
    2. Enclosed, detached residents, who need at least 30 mins for you to overcome their mistrust
    3. No loyal community of entrepreneurs
Key equity
What do we sell
  1. Architecture
  2. Millenium history
  3. Scenery
  4. Local food
Key insights
What do we found out
  1. Medieval walls
  2. Town of gardeners
  3. Town-museum, town-reserve
  4. Town of locked up people, and every one needs a key, to be opened and shared secrets with you.
Key essence
New about Suzdal
  1. Keeper of architectural, philosophical, human and medieval secrets
  2. All the secrets get revealed!
  3. A town, that reveals its secret meanings if you find the right key
  4. Everyone has his own unique key to the town
  5. Town that reveals something about you, as well
  6. Town of mystery
  7. Keeper of meanings
  8. Town to which you have to find your own key
Town keeps many secrets and mysteries. You shall use the right key to open them all.
Natalia Rybalchenko
Suzdal — the innermost one
Hidden and the innermost does not mean being hostile. Every closed door is an entrance is the entrance to a special self-sufficient world with its own rules. It is very exciting to study such a world with its peculiarities and secrets, but to feel it and understand it, to find the key to each door, you need time. That's why Suzdal will open up to thoughtful and inquisitive tourists. and inquisitive tourists, not fans of template excursions.
Key actions
Call for actions
  1. Get the right key to the town
  2. Open yourself
  3. Lock yourself up from the town fuss
  4. Lock yourself in the town history
  5. All in-key-lusive
Key thoughts
  1. A special self-sufficient world that is fun to explore, to discover
  2. A unique architectural ensemble, every detail of which keeps its secrets
  3. Mesmerizing landscapes, spiritualized nature
  4. Residents of the city - keepers of history, tradition and culture
  5. Unique "secret" gastronomic recipes and gardening traditions
  6. Meaningful walking routes within the boundaries of a compact medieval town that didn't go beyond those boundaries, it developed within them
  7. Sense of mystery, of traveling back in time
  8. A breathtaking centuries-old history of the city, full of interesting and sometimes mysterious facts
Visual contest
While working on design, we have launched a contest between young artists on how they imagine Suzdal visually. The initiative took place during the large annual animation fest helding in Suzdal. It didn't bring us lots of results, yet got some attention from media and was fun.
Contests are sometimes are mostly about social involvement, than the actual results they were intended for.
Natalia Rybalchenko
Key to a useful identity
Identity is based on the plastics of an old russian script. The whimsical elements of the letters are reminiscent of details traditional ancient russian architecture: arches, vaults and domes, carved decorative elements, locks and chinks, forged lattices and door handles.

The winding lines resemble a riverbed on a map or paths along the remnants of the Kremlin ramparts.

The letters form a characteristic Suzdal landscape-panorama, where silhouettes of churches, bell towers, houses, trees of different heights replace each other.
  • Old russian script
    History, traditions, russian culture
  • Architectural details
    Arks, carvings, moldings, locks, keys
  • Scenery
    Panorama, versatility
The intricate geometry of these letters attracts the eye: you look at them again and again, seeing each time something new and gradually penetrating into the hidden essence of the city, which without exaggeration embodies the history of Russia.
Key to a good merch
Design is relatively easy to work with, thus it can be used on many elements and be widespread.
Key street design
The same with outdoor usage. Note the colored version that has been made especially for festival design needs and special ocassions.
Key map
The best part of the map that it is not actually a map, it's just a very rough illustration of Suzdal worth-to-visit places.
The best part of the map is its back side. That's just an illustration with a very nice self-explanatory descriptions, that had been presented together with the brand and acted mostly like a Q&A.
Igor Makovsky
Key branding of gingerbreads
In 2018 a set of gingerbreads had been released by the Vladimiro-Suzdalsky Gingerbread House. It's like a cracker with a prediction inside, but a gingerbread. It is marked with our Suzdal logo, acting like a made in Suzdal seal of quality. Important that revenue taken from the sell will be spend directly on town infrastructure development.
Key millenium event
Suzdal will be celebrating 1000 years anniversary in 2014 and a lot of discussions think of the Suzdal brand as of a good way to bright up the things for the ceremony.
1000 year anniversary is a good reason for going colors
For those who thought that black and white is too ascetic
Key in life of a brand
Brand lives pretty shy as of 2023. The changes of administration, key stakeholders and lack of the single brand managment organization makes the brand weak and pointless for using without proper financial support and concern.
Moreover, Artlebedev Studio presented their own visual identity for Suzdal anniversary in december, 2023. It immediately took ton of attention with their millenium falcon logo. Many talks and discussions had been held with diametric opinions. It's the typical way of vertical branding, when the work is done without proper social involvments we admire. Can admit, though, that its simplicity is among its pros.

Suzdal logo by Art Lebedev Studio
Key mentions in social media about Suzdal:
  • Igor Kekhter
    Project leader
  • Natalia Rybalchenko
    Brand strategist, concept, idea, communication
  • Ivan Vetrov
    Art direction, designer
  • Igor Makovsky
  • Oleg Moseev
    Organizer, sociologist
  • Anastasia Obudenkova
    Journalist, analytics
  • Contrast Foundy & Maria Doreulli
    Type design for logo
  • Slava Verpovsky
    Motion designer
  • Ivan Smirnov
    Sound producer, composer
  • Olga Vetrova
More projects in Russia and CIS
2015 … 2017
2014 … 2018
2016 … 2018
2016 … 2021