Is it possible to distill the character of a city into a single, striking logo? In some ways it seems crass to (re)brand a place, reducing the complexity of a locale into to what is, essentially, a marketing campaign. Done well, however, the efforts can unite locals and lure leisure travelers, who bring with them a major financial boon (check out the World Bank’s map of international tourist dollars from the past four years—there’s a lot of cash involved). But have we reached peak branding?
Below are six examples of cities and states that solicited some help to help define, or redefine, their image.
The bold red “C” and goldenrod “O” from Colorado’s state flag are registered in the public domain, making their traditional mark legally available for anyone to use. Rather than allow for the risk of misunderstandings—unsanctioned uses that appeared to have the official stamp of approval—Governor John Hickenloper recently launched a campaign to come up with a new, controllable visual identity for his turf. The winning entry from the campaign (which was called"Making Colorado") was by graphic designer and illustrator Evan Hecox. It’s not particularly versatile, but it does has the vibe of a rugged sportswear brand or ski lodge. [Co.Design]
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
I amsterdam is as much a motto as it is a trademark, introduced in 2004 to brand the city as a thriving hub and to instill civic pride. The registered logo can be seen emblazoned on the obligatory tourist buys, from t-shirts, to mugs to pencils to bags, as well as in a few massive, Instagram-ready public installations around town. It’s clever, with a Glaser-esque I [heart] NY simplicity that’s definitely got staying power.
Image via Iamsterdam
Ever heard of Shrewsbury? No? The small English town is quaint and quirky in the way that small English towns often are. But without the draw of a major landmark, the community needed something tangible to engage tourists. Pulling together its Tudor heritage and the charming individuality of its sights, eats, and events, London-based &Smith and We All Need Words developed a customizable slogan: "A Shrewsbury One-Off Since _______," which could be applied to everything from brownies to bike shops. [Co.Design]
In order to establish Melbourne as multi-faceted destination for cool kids and creative types, Landor gave the city a chunky geometric M that can take on an infinite number of colors and patterns, depending on the context. It predates the Whitney Museum’s new (and controversial) identity by Experimental Jetset, but shares the basic concept of an adaptable motif that itself becomes a recognizable graphic element.
Rather than spiff up perception of Barcelona’s “insecure” Ravala district with bold colors or strong graphics, the local city council opted for an approach that would appeal to area’s proud inhabitants. The verb Ravalejar was coined and plastered, dictionary-definition style, on the side of the Museum of Contemporary Art, a declaration of sorts, and a celebration of day-to-day life in the area.
Yonkers, New York
Yonkers resident Karen Broschart responded to Mayor Mike Spano’s 2012 call for a new city logo in the city’s “YoLoGo Contest,” and her straightforward entry was the winner in the popular vote. Crowdsourced efforts and competitions are unlikely to turn up a comprehensive vision for citywide use, but Broschart's traditional logo does make Yonkers look like a pleasant place to visit.
Image via Politics on the Hudson.
What about your city or state? Has it been the subject of a recent rebranding campaign?