Rainbow-coloured flames, torches that look like ice-cream cones and lots of fiery red: all attempts to embody the fresh identity of a self-proclaimed progressive and moderate party.

As the Labour Party seeks to modernise its emblem, its internal struggle to attract new voters while keeping its core vote has come to light once again.

The party has appeased those resistant to change by ensuring the new logo retains traditional elements like the torch and the Maltese flag, but what impact has this had on the final designs?

According to experts in branding and design, the 56 logos that have been shortlisted from more than 200 entries have betrayed the party’s perennial conflict. While some members are proud of their party’s colourful history, others are ashamed of it, or at least, aware of the need to put forward a fresh image to ensure electability.

According to social anthropologist John Micallef, who specialises in consumer culture and works in marketing, the competition has revealed three distinct types of Labour supporters: “the old, the new and the newer”.

While some contributors emphasised the torch in its old form, others tried to create a modern version, and some only retained the torch in an abstract and barely recognisable form – in what Mr Micallef describes as an attempt to depict the party as even “newer than Alfred Sant’s new Labour”.

“I think the Labour Party would want to go for a logo which depicts the torch clearly but would also want to do away with the fist altogether. This not only removes any imagery which could be linked to residual, obsolete values but could also help conjure a sense of transcendence, implying the logo will remain active, strong and true to its values over time.”

University lecturer Ġorġ Mallia was also struck by the diversity of approaches, “from angular, minimalist creations, to clunky, old-style emblems that might easily have fit the Labour Party 50 years ago”.

However, he feels that many entries only show a “guise” of change. “There seems to be a backward-forward push: almost a see-sawing between the past and the present. The motifs are repetitive, even though they are in new modern guises – as if there is the need and will to change, but the preference to stay put.”

While many of the logos were just a poor rehash of the old emblem, Dr Mallia said there were some creative, sleek designs worth considering, even though he did not see a winning logo.

Artist James Vella Clark pointed out that some designs attempted to introduce the colour blue, perhaps in an attempt to portray a more inclusive party. “The logos make an effort to portray an organisation which is trying to show itself as moving forward with the times.”

He said that while this could simply be a rebranding exercise, a change in the core image could revive a sense of ownership within the brand’s followers and attract new ones.

He feels the level of creativity is “very encouraging” and although he did not wish to pick a favourite, he said the simpler ones were the most effective and the choice would not be easy.

Graphic designer Tony Galea was less moved: “The quality is very poor. Most of the entries seem to be from the same person. Some icons are strong, but the supporting font is very weak.”

He said he was not impressed by the level of creativity shown and he did not really like any of the logos.

On the other hand, former general secretary and historian Dominic Fenech was pleasantly surprised by the logos even though he was originally “irked” by the party’s decision to change its image.

He thought the move was part of an urge to cut ties with its own past but later realised that it was more of a question of brushing up the design.

“From a design point of view, there are some good ones indeed. Amazing what you can do with a torch! I personally like the entries which denote energy and movement,” he said, referring to those with the boldest torches.

The emblems are currently being exhibited at the party’s headquarters. The winning logo will be chosen by a panel and unveiled on October 30. The winning designer will be awarded €1,000.

Previous emblems

The first emblem of the Workers Party, designed by Alfred Gerada, was chosen in 1927 from three designs and consisted of a man wielding a mace.

Under Pawlu Boffa, in 1933, the emblem was updated to defend not only “men with the mace”. It included a yellow circle to represent the Catholics and used the flag on top of a blue background to reflect that this was a Maltese party under the protection of Great Britain. The torch was included to denote “progress, light, intellectuality and love”.

Dom Mintoff later updated the logo in 1951 as the party changed its name to the Labour Party.

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