259. The City as a Brand.
Jun 15, 2009 at 12:08PM

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 Ohio.com, 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 cincinnati.com 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.


Update on Jun 15, 2009 at 05:15PM by Registered Commenterjj

Helpful reader Clint pointed us to this rebranding of Louisville from last year, called Possibility City. So, not only have they designed an identity (seen in the jersey now added to the gallery below), but they've gone as far as renaming the city of sorts with the tagline. I like it. I also find it endearing that they have also shortened the name of the city to just Lou, and use it for a little fun on the side. Thanks Clint!

Update on Jun 15, 2009 at 05:41PM by Registered Commenterjj

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