Model nation - Issue 6 - Magazine | Monocle

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Monocle’s model nation-state offers citizens unbeatable climate and seaside vistas, first-rate transport links and a ban on big-chain retailers. With Genoa as capital, the republic hails a return to the days when Liguria was king of the Med. As a healthy dose of luxe is vital to any aspiring superpower, Monaco and its boutiques anchor the country’s western end. The principality returns to the fold (it was once a colony of Genoa) after a succession crisis strikes the Grimaldi dynasty.

Monaco’s banks rival Swiss institutions in offering bespoke solutions for the country’s citizens looking to protect their nest eggs. Residents enjoy extended hours at nationwide branches and family-run businesses get preferential treatment on loans. Its French model of governance reins in lax Italian law enforcement and ensures civil servants earn top marks in the transparency rankings.

Genoa impresses visitors with a re-engineered port that puts container facilities, dry-docks and passenger ship terminals offshore on an 8km strip of artificial islands. A new international airport based on Osaka’s Kansai operates flights to Africa, the Americas and Asia. As Alitalia went out of business in 2008, it has also become the preferred carrier and hub of choice for other Italian states.

The downtown waterfront loses its elevated concrete highway and gets a terraced, multi-use development with swimming pools, shady piazzas and a contemporary art museum. Zoning laws guarantee facades are painted regularly and that mama-and-papa alimentari out-muscle the soulless hypermarkets.

After service industries, shipbuilder Fincantieri is the country’s job magnet, retro-fitting yachts and laying down new keels. It provides the foundation for national defence thanks to its next-generation missile frigates and aircraft carriers. Crews are smartly turned out by Ligurian tailors experienced at dealing with shipping magnates. Fincantieri’s solar-powered ferries whisk commuters at 50-plus knots to points near and far along the coast.

Weekend relaxation is provided by bed and breakfast inns scattered amid the steep hillside vineyards. In summer, secluded bathing platforms, accessible only by foot, are frequented by those who get out of town via the world’s most scenic coastal railway.

Finally, Costazzurra also becomes an instant global brand by winning the World Cup final in its first year of nationhood. Its fresh colours and national emblem become top-sellers for Nike and a series of unique licensing deals pay huge dividends that are rolled back into state athletic and educational programmes. Costazzurra’s prime minister put an emphasis on sport as a fast-track to national branding after reading an article on the subject in Monocle magazine back in 2007 – when the notion of a new nation state was but a twinkle in his eye.

Six ways to brand a nation:


National competitions can be a welcome source of inventiveness: George Stanley won Canada’s 1964 flag contest, replacing the embellished red British Merchant Navy with a versatile maple leaf design that can be used as a logo to promote all things Canadian.


American Icon, the US passport released in June 2007, deviates from the passport norm because of its elaborate illustrations of US history printed on every page. It provides an interesting example of how far a country can go in deciding what is suitable for its security needs.


Bulgaria prints its notes on what is regarded as one of the best papers available, a paper-polymer hybrid that’s a happy medium between Australia’s near-indestructible plastic bills and more tactile paper ones. As the world’s largest banknote manufacturer, we would ask UK-based De La Rue to oversee our project.


A modern country needs to work as a sophisticated brand. And perhaps one of the best ways of creating an identity is by picking a single official typeface. If order is needed, Helvetica, invented for a Swiss type house by the German Max Miedinger in 1957, epitomises it. Helvetica belongs, in spirit rather than officially, to Switzerland. And as we all know, Switzerland is the ultimate nation brand.


“Stamps should portray images that celebrate national or historical events that are relevant to their country,” says Richard Purkis, the director of Stanley Gibbons, the largest stamp dealer in the world. But Purkis goes on to say, “smaller countries tend to issue hundreds of stamps a year commemorating all sorts of non-relevant things, something which is unappealing to the philatelic community at large.”

Road signs

Although an admirer of UK and US road signs for their clarity and practicality, Lance Wyman, the designer of the Mexico 1968 Olympics logo, says signage should be influenced by simple iconography, especially Mayan because, he says, they knew how to tell things with simple images. He feels regions should choose their own icons to reflect the local identity.

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