Provo currently is in the midst of a now-controversial rebranding process. It’s controversial because the city recently opened up a survey with slogan and logo options, all of which have been met by apparent universal hatred.
In any case, while researching rebranding I found a couple of illuminative articles. The first one discusses Cleveland’s various attempts at branding, pointing out successes and failures. The authors draw a distinction between “trying” and “being” — which makes more sense if you read the article. But what stands out to me is that the more successful examples seem to embrace both reality and humor. Cleveland is kind of a hardscrabble town; the best branding didn’t whitewash that fact, it embraced it and made it into a positive thing.
The second article discusses efforts in Chattanooga to develop a unique font for the city. As someone with an interest in typeface, I was perhaps more excited by this article than most people, but it was nevertheless interesting for several reasons.
First, the branding efforts are being influenced from the grassroots up. We’re in a veritable grassroots age today, so this approach is not only financially prudent but also taps into the indie, DIY zeitgeist of our time. (That’s a factor I think many rest-on-their-laurels corporations don’t comprehend.)
Second, the efforts are focusing on a font. That font will be used in many ways, but the beginning efforts are zeroed in on one, comparatively basic element.
In any case, those two articles offer some interesting patterns for rebranding.
I also wanted to mention my own reaction — whatever it’s worth — to Provo’s rebranding efforts. I actually wrote a lengthy post explaining my own background in writing, filmmaking, visual rhetoric, and teaching, then offering a critique of the various options’ strengths and weaknesses.
On Saturday, however, councilman Sterling Beck wrote in the Support Downtown Provo Facebook group that there was “enough public input and concern” that “we’re going back to the drawing board.” As a result, I’m not going to post my original piece.
Instead I will say just this: when I saw the branding options I began to wonder if I was wrong about Provo’s progress and excitement. That was just a fleeting thought for me, and one that I quickly dismissed because I rationally know that the tremendous momentum in Provo right now can’t be stopped by a terrible logo.
But if the branding ends up looking like something a 50-year-old amateur business card designer would hang in his bathroom, the city will be disconnecting itself from members of the younger generations (among others) who are now emerging, wanting to make a difference.
Those are the stakes.