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Serbian State Utility Company to Spend 350,000 Euros on Logo Redesign

An August 15, 2015, front page headline in Blic daily reads: "Obradović to spend 42 million [dinars] on new logo!" Screenshot by author.

An August 15, 2015, front page headline in Blic daily reads: “Obradović to spend 42 million [dinars] on new logo!” Photo by author.

With a heatwave and temperatures reaching over 40 degrees Celsius in many Serbian cities, Serbs woke to more unpleasant headlines in the national media. According to the daily Blic, owned by Swiss Ringier Axel Springer Media and often labeled a tabloid in Serbia, the director of state-owned national electrical utility company Elekroprivreda Srbije, Aleksandar Obradović, has approved a logo and visual identity redesign for the public utility that will cost 42 million dinars, or almost 350,000 euros.

The company recently reported an 86 million euro loss in 2014. The public utility claims that the logo redesign is part of the company's restructuring to for “savings and to comply with EU standards.”

The new logo redesign has made waves in Serbia, prompting questions and criticism among local users of major social networks and discussion boards.

In a country that is plagued by corruption at all levels of government and has one of the largest unemployment rates in Europe — over 20% — Elekroprivreda Srbije been a focal point for public dissatisfaction lately.

After all, this is the same tax-funded public utility company that recently hiked up electricity prices by 12%, some six months after the government decided to cut most state wages and pensions by 10-15%.

The vast majority of the population in Serbia has barely been making ends meet, while the World Bank reports that over 20% of the population is living below the poverty line. This newly announced splurge on a logo redesign has angered many.

If I understood correctly EPS is introducing the new logo FOR SAVINGS and paying 42 million dinars for it? Does this logo vacuum clean and bear children or what?

— Mishomorka (@Mishomor) August 15, 2015

EPS is changing its logo for “business optimization and EU practices” and this will cost us half a million euros. That's where the money from the price hikes is going.

— Goran Radosavljevic (@Radosav77) August 15, 2015

An article on page 14 of the same August 15 Blic edition states: "EPS hiking prices, creates [financial] loss, while paying for logo". Photo by author.

An article on page 14 of the same August 15 Blic edition states: “EPS hiking prices, creates [financial] loss, while paying for logo”. Photo by author.

Most of those complaining and asking questions on social media have been directly or indirectly referring to the possibility of corruption or misappropriation of funds related to the logo redesign.

As a state-owned company, Elektroprivreda Srbije is legally obligated to announce a call for bids and go through a proper process of public procurement for any purchases of goods or services, and it seems citizens will be keeping an eye out for the winner of the tender announced in mid-August.

Like many other state companies, Elektroprivreda Srbije has been known to run questionable public procurement tenders in the past. This May, the company came under fire for blocking domestic companies from bidding for a contract to replace electricity meters, a practice anti-corruption campaigners said contravened standards set by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

Despite the tender only going out recently, popular blogger and author Mirjana Mimica sarcastically asked if the winning bidder was already known.

Other social media users directly assumed that a company close to the ruling Serbian Progressive Party would win the tender.

So do we know who won the tender to create the new EPS logo?

— Mirjana Mimica (@Mahlat) August 15, 2015

I'll bet 150 [German] marks that a company established two months ago and close to SNS (the ruling Serbian Progressive Party) will win the bid for the new EPS logo. (Remind me of this tweet from 15.08.2015)

— Mishomorka (@Mishomor) August 15, 2015

Serbian creative agencies and freelance designers have also been weighing in on the discussion, albeit from a more professional standpoint.

In recent years, numerous experienced web designers from Serbia have been working remotely for international clients and are well acquainted with the global market and standard industry pricing.

While an agency representative quoted in the Blic article explains that logo redesign for large international companies is often much more expensive — the design of every document template large companies use must be redesigned along with the company's brand identity guidelines – most industry representatives in Serbia cannot fathom why a visual identity redesign for a public utility would cost so much or even be necessary for the business.

Many design and advertising professionals in Serbia have called attention to some of the world's most iconic logos and their costs, some saying they expect to see the new EPS logo on that list soon.

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