2018 | Tartu City GovernmentGraphicStrategicBrandingService DesignStrategy Design

Smart Tartu – strategic design and branding

Is Tartu a city full of smart people or a city full of smart technology? That is what we found out.

Tartu started a smart city project SmartEnCity. Its goal is to make the city environment smart and sustainable, to inspire people to make environmentally conscious decisions and to be easily replicable in other European cities as well. We were tasked to gather all the relevant input from all stakeholders to inform all the smart-city related development plans and set their efforts into perspective. Thus, the strategy for smart Tartu was born.

There was one problem though… 

We do not have a globally common understanding of a smart city. Every Smart City project has its own twist and turns that makes it unique. So what makes Tartu a smart city?

Biggest question that we had to answer was: 

“Is Tartu a city full of smart people or a city full of smart technology?” 

After working through different examples of a smart city we realised that smart technology is just a tool, not the holy grail of a smart city. 

Smart people make Tartu smart. 

Smart Tartu is a simple way for an innovative and smart community to have a voice and be heard. Smart Tartu will always put innovation and positive change first and does not have to worry about the years of history, bureaucracy and baggage that usually comes with running a city like Tartu. No bullshit, only innovation.

By conducting more than 200 interviews, workshops and ideation sessions, the strategy is ready and pending public release. In addition to finding the right focus for Smart Tartu, we also created a visual identity and a brand that helps Tartu become truly a hub of innovation and smart work.

Whole visual concept is based on simple colors of white, black and blue.

We also created a library of illustrations that help Tartu communicate different sectors of Smart Tartu.

It truly was a project that changed Tartu’s way of thinking.

Tartu aims to stay true to itself, while also being a part of wider global economic and cultural space. The language of smartness is a tool for achieving mutually agreed goals. Tartu was the first city in the world that started using mobile parking. Tartu has annual participative budgeting and new data-based public transportation network, SmartEnCity renovations and electric-assist bike sharing. 

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Our strategic work is about building a systemic, corporate empathy to inform decisions that would otherwise be based on data at best and gut-feelings at worst. This work is often invisible but what it lacks in shine, it makes up in impact on the actual bottom line. 


  • Pärtel Vurma Project Lead - Strategy
  • Janno Siimar Design Lead - Strategy
  • Joel Kotsjuba Strategic Designer - Strategy
  • Andrus Lember Creative Lead - Branding
  • Magnus Haravee Designer - Branding
  • Ulvi Vahtra Project Lead - Branding


  • Tartu City Government Client