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Last Updated: Friday, 1 July 2005, 04:01 GMT 05:01 UK
Flying swans are UK vision of EU
By Stephen Mulvey
BBC News website

Swans

The start of the UK's presidency of the EU means the swans on this logo are going to become pretty familiar over the next six months.

Not only on flags, ties, umbrellas and post-it notes, but on giant screens at EU gatherings, where they will be flapping to and fro silently in the background.

It is the first time an EU presidency has had an animated logo, UK officials are proud to point out.

But why swans?

"The idea is a metaphor for leadership, teamwork and efficiency, which is particularly appropriate for the EU, given the system of rotating leadership," says Kate Thomson of the Cabinet Office's European Secretariat.

Twelve swans in an arrowhead formation, the leading bird soaring high into the air on its strong wings - it's clear who the leading swan is
Austrian newspaper Der Standard
"Migrating birds fly in a V formation. This is highly efficient, because all the birds in the formation, except for the leader, are in the slipstream of another bird.

"Periodically the leading bird drops back and another bird moves up to take its place."

Michael Johnson of johnson banks design, which created the logo at a cost of £30,000, said his team was determined to avoid the "usual clichés", in particular stars.

Borrowed from the EU flag, these have featured on nearly all presidency logos in the past.

Swan migration

In fact, the UK logo for its 1998 presidency was an arrangement of children's drawings of stars, unkindly compared by some to squashed pizzas.

1998 UK presidency logo
The designers of the swan logo wanted to avoid "the usual cliches"
The swans have reportedly gone down well with other EU member states.

However, the Austrian newspaper Der Standard detected in the leading bird "soaring high into the air on its strong wings" the UK's own inflated image of itself.

Responses to the design within the UK have been mixed.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Grahame Madge, said it was "very appropriate" because migrating birds, such as the Bewick's swan, united Europe.

This presidency is about re-writing the rules of Europe - the difficult decisions, the tension, the debate, that's what has to be symbolised somehow
John Williamson of brand consultants Wolff Olins
One of the concerns being tackled in the UK's EU and G8 presidencies, he also pointed out, was climate change, which could potentially prevent Whooper and Bewick's swans wintering in this country.

But John Williamson of brand consultants Wolff Olins was scathing about what he said was a sugarcoated image of countries "flying in harmony, shoulder to shoulder".

"This presidency is about re-writing the rules of Europe," he said.

"The difficult decisions that have to be made, the tension, the debate - that's what has to be symbolised somehow.

"Picasso and Beethoven must be turning in their graves."


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