Branding soft spaces

Kaj Zimmerbauer*, Kees Terlouw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper discusses how newly-conceived soft spaces–typically with fuzzy boundaries and less formally organized institutional structures–are ‘commodified’ through visualizations in promoting practices. By discussing those practices, the article argues that promotion and branding are fundamentally processes where these soft spaces become hardened. This hardening is embedded in branding-related ‘speech acts’ and visual framings in particular. The article states that although new soft spaces are considered highly useful in competitivity-enhancing spatial policies where flexible spaces and fuzzy boundaries are typically emphasized, paradoxically their ‘softness’ gradually decreases as a result of branding process consisting of elements of expressing, mirroring, impressing and reflecting. It thus needs to be asked whether soft spaces can be branded without using framings and speech acts that harden them. The soft regions of the Bothnian Arc, a Swedish-Finnish coastal region around the Gulf of Bothnia, and the Region Foodvalley, an agrarian region in the middle of the Netherlands, are used here as examples to discuss how soft spaces transform in this context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1318-1336
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Planning Studies
Issue number6
Early online date17 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • bordering
  • Branding
  • hard spaces
  • soft spaces


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