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259. The City as a Brand.

Late last week the city of Cincinnati revealed a new city logo to adorn vehicles, signage and collateral. The new identity features a modern, swishing capital C of various blue and green gradients. According to officials on, the mark gives the city a more inviting image and also shows progressive movement and pride. And like most municipalities, an official seal will still be used on more formal applications. In design terms, the mark feels like it would be more at home on a software box (this isn’t necessarily a complement) than a welcome sign, but does leave an overall positive impression. Even if the actual design isn’t anything special, maybe even terrible given the weird typography and congruent C’s, it’s easy to see how this mark could be used to present a consistent message to visitors. Cincinnati is moving, adapting, growing and changing. Got it. Good. (Brand New has a decent write-up on this.)

The New Cincinnati Logo:

There is an interesting little background story to be told too. LPK – a well respected branding firm in Cincinnati – designed the new combination mark, but Macy’s (also based in the city) paid for the development costs, which according to was estimated to be around $75,000. (Probably this is mostly in time and soft costs, but cost nonetheless.) In effect, the city was a pro bono project for the the LPK, which is a little weird, but understandable. If you are based in a certain place, you want to see that place thrive and develop civic pride. A logo can become the focal point for such things. Both Macy’s and LPK have a vested interest in seeing the city prosper and grow. But more cities should consider themselves as businesses, businesses that need to market themselves on a national and global level. And businesses that need a finely tuned personality with a look to match.

A small number of cities have put the time and energy to develop their brand, and even fewer a good identity to match. And by identity, I don’t mean the official seal (mentioned above), I mean a communication mark that attempts to communicate the personality of the city. And precious few city councils have taken the time to pin down what their city stands for, though that would be a great place to start. I have collected a small number of municipalities that have attempted to design such a mark, with varying degrees of success. Ultimately of course, it’s not the design that will be the deciding factor in the success a city will have in attracting visitors, residents and businesses. But it certainly plays a part. On the state level things tend to be more organized for tourism purposes, but you don’t move to a state, you move to a city. Over time, I think we’ll see more and more locales working with their local design studios, ad agencies and firms to present their best side to the world, and not just in cities where tourism is extremely important (like Las Vegas). With tax revenue decreasing, the landscape is only going to become more competitive.

A few examples that I have noticed are located at the bottom of this post.

(Contributions to this list are very much welcome.) Some of these are actually kinda nice.


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Reader Comments (4)

The "Alberta" logo in your examples is actually a Canadian province, not a city, but the same principles apply.

Going up another level, what about national branding? A graphics-minded American friend pointed out how strongly branded the Canadian government is - the "Canada" logo with the flag 'flying' from the d's ascender is everywhere on federal government property. (Lower-right corner of for example). Other governments don't seem as strongly branded - there doesn't seem to be an American equivilent to the "Canada + flag" logomark, for example.
June 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWirelizard
Yeah - i should have not posted Alberta's, as provinces/states to a better job generally.

As a country, we're all over the place. There have been several attempts to making a more unified American identity. Maybe with the Obama administration - a group who seems to appreciate quality and consistency of design and message - that will change.

Thanks for the note.
June 15, 2009 | Registered Commenterjj
detroit has a good one. they call it the "d brand" and if you go here,

you can find resources on how it's used, brand guidelines, etc. =)
June 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjulie krueger
What about our very own, Greenville, SC?

I love the "g" symbol, but not sure who created it:
June 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Leventis

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