Monday, November 15, 2010

Logos & Branding - A Practical Analysis

A few weeks ago, the City of Dunwoody unveiled a new series of logos created by contractor Sky Design.
The City has learned a few hard lessons about branding and logo implementation in the process.

  • Just because you spend a lot of money on it, doesn't mean that everyone will love it.  Dunwoody joined the club with The Gap and Tropicana brands who redesigned their logo image and got their heads handed to them by their customers.  The Gap just abandoned the new effort (even though it was very stylish) and Tropicana is trying to work in their new logo identity with the old one.  It happens - you research, you conduct surveys and focus groups, you wear out your font file and your color wheel, and come up with a design that SHOULD be effective.  Then your PR person is issuing statements when your creation falls flat on its face. 

  • Google is your best friend.  Pay attention!  The original tagline for the city was "Smart People - Smart Place".  Sounds good, right?  The City of Plano Economic Development Board thought so too.  They used it first.  To add insult to injury, the tagline showed up on an internet search.  Trademarked or not, there was going to be a conflict.  Plano was on the phone to Dunwoody in about a day.  It's not worth the hassle to use a tagline that's been claimed elsewhere.  The new tagline is "Smart People - Smart City".

  • Large design firms with a lot of experience may sometimes cannibalize other designs. Even inadvertently.  The initial reaction on the local blogosphere was that the original logo looked too similar to both the Walmart and E-Trade logos.  Someone with WAY too much time on their hands lampooned that idea, as major newspapers commented on it.  Could be a coincidence but if the public sees a similarity it doesn't matter.  Others commented that even the unveiling video shown at the Music Festival was recycled from another presentation for another corporation.  Recycling happens.  Can you get away with it?  How lucky do you feel?

  • There may be more issues on the horizon.  The City government teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention & Visitors Bureau to create variations of the main city logo to create a sense of "unity". 

    Here's the problem:  there's a line between being "unified" and being "identical".  When elements of several designs are too similar - either in fonts, taglines, or structural elements of a website, etc - it gives the impression that each design represents a different division or department of the same entity.  The Chamber and CVB are NOT the City government.  They are totally independent of the City.  But the logos indicate they are part and parcel of the City government.  The City ultimately dictated the branding for two independent organizations.  The Chamber and CVB are going to have a major issue clarifying their identities as such.

    "OK, wise-guy, what would YOU do?"

    The rest of this post is purely hypothetical as the decisions have been made and the City, CVB and Chamber are all going forward with what was created.  All images below are copyrighted and may not be duplicated or used elsewhere.

    Scenario 1 - working with the original City logo.
    First, I wouldn't duplicate the logo or taglines for the Chamber or CVB.  They need their own unique identity, just like the PCID.  However, to indicate that several organizations are playing a part in building up the new city an additional logo or icon would be created, with elements of the original for consistency.  This icon could be used on websites, stationery, or brochures to indicate that partnership.  And not just the CVB or Chamber either.  There are a lot of organizations within Dunwoody that are part of its success, including the Preservation Trust, the Kiwanis, Rotary Club, Optimists, homeowner associations, political parties, the Marcus JCC and a slew of houses of worship.
    Here's the general idea:

    Scenario 2 - back to the drawing board.
    Here's another vision of a City logo and civic parternship icon that doesn't compare to Walmart or E-Trade and the tagline passed the Google test.
    The graphic elements are a stylized star; reflecting the new beginning the city had at incorporation in 2008.  The tagline is not only open to new businesses that may establish here, but also to current residents and commuting workers.  Now that Dunwoody is its own city, the population is going to have to advance its interests, even when they're not all in agreement.

    And here's the "partnership" generic logo that other city groups could use to indicate their part in supporting the City.  Note the rearrangement of the graphic element above.  It's consistent with the City logo identity, but the graphic layout and the text indicate a different purpose.

    Branding costs money, time, effort, experience, and expertise.  But no matter how much planning goes into it, a new brand launch is almost always a gamble.

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