City Logo Fail #1

One theme which always makes it’s appearance in my new logo alert stream are designs for US Cities or municipal authorities of all types. They rarely make it onto the blog as usually their quality or significance is relatively low.

However with some regularity these logos have a story of some sort behind them, often a negative one. That may be something to do with local media attempting to drag a story out of nothing or it could be the authorities choices when deciding how to source a new brand.

So this is the start of an occasional series looking in brief at some of these logos and the stories behind them. It won;t be restricted to tales from the States or even cities but they will all be public sector of some sort, perhaps libraries or services, lets see.

Amarillo, Texas, USA
Designed in house

The 'new' Amarillo logo
The ‘new’ Amarillo logo

When Amarillo, of Tony Christy fame and the 14th most populace city in Texas (thanks Wikipedia) wanted a new logo they gathered some focus groups, ran some surveys and asked some questions. Several designs were then submitted (no idea by whom) and the city created a new logo with all this information in house.

Trouble is after it’s grand unveiling at a special gala honouring the 100th anniversary of the city charter someone spotted that it looked like something they’d seen before, a logo for Emaar, a Dubia property company involved in the worlds tallest tower (at the time of writing) the Burj Khalifa.

And it doesn’t just look similar, it’s almost an exact copy, despite assurances by City spokesperson Sonja Gross that “the design was an original one the city developed…”.

Now the Mayor is deciding what to do.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the logo is a complete copy, the sun rays and hill strokes below match up almost entirely, the Amirillo just has a bit of different colouring (worse) and new lettering (also worse), so someone has ripped off the Emaar logo by choice, wholesale, even if the idea of “sun rays coming up from behind some hills” was an independently reached idea.

Could it have been spotted earlier? Perhaps, but this isn’t the real issue, the designer (unnamed) is to blame. The city needs to admit this and discipline whoever put it together.

via Amarillo Globe News

Emaar Logo, registered 2006
Emaar Logo, registered 2006
Old Amarillo Logo, shudder
Old Amarillo Logo, shudder


Sand Springs, Oklahoma, USA
James Byrom, resident and student

New Sand Springs Logo
New Sand Springs Logo

After sitting on their hand drawn logo for 25 years, Sand Springs decided in August 2012 to develop a new one.

The intriguing thing about this logo isn’t really the final thing, which in all honesty is a bland looking thing with 2 rather uninteresting strokes making a river shape and an SS initial mark. Councilman Michael Phillips who voted against the design pointed out the issue of initialising Sand Springs to “SS” was a little Nazi Germany, and he has a small point.

But no the interesting thing was how they sourced the design.

They took 2 routes, firstly asking local University students to develop a design and secondly running a competition on the miserable logo design website, 99designs.

James Byrom who created the final design is a local student, so the Uni won out. We don’t discover how the 2 competition routes interacted. Check out the results, including the winner of the 99designs contest still live on their bad logo competition page. I’ve screen grabbed it below should it ever disappear.

Here you can see all the entries, the winner of $425 as well as the brief (which is very brief) and comments from the organiser as the competition progressed. Fascinatingly the winner was an S shaped river all be it in a rather bland roundel.

It seems to me 99designs was used to develop ideas to feedback in other directions, spending $425 for ideas, although 14 designers entered so 13 created ideas for $0.

I think government organisations often fear paying money to professionals to create brands as the public backlash is always pretty much the same (see this in the comments of any of these local newspaper articles), that’s “We spent how much?”, “My 5 year old could do better” and “Why not run a competition?”. So they go in house, or to online logo competition sites or to students to save money and save face. However the results are often unsatisfactory and as we see copies or controversial.

99designs contest winner
99designs contest winner
Old Sand Springs Logo, shudder #2
Old Sand Springs Logo, shudder #2


via Tulsa World

Screen grab of
Screen grab of

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