Iowa Department of Transport Logo can’t see the road for the asphalt

When you’re short $215 million a year for road infrastructure repairs asking the public to swallow a rebranding exercise that you cost at $100,000 is a tricky task.

But that didn’t deter the Iowa Department of Transport (Iowa DOT) who earlier this week revealed a new logo and put that $100K price over 5 years on making the rebrand happen. Again despite some clear messages from the DOT that this involves the actual application of the brand (new livery for vehicles, signage etc) AND that old stationary won’t be scrapped but used up, that headline figure has gotten folks wound up.

The logo itself DID NOT COST $100K.

I can’t find who designed the logo or any indication of cost, at the time of writing the isn’t working to help me dig about.

Still one does have to wonder if the rebrand was the wisest choice at this time? Rebrands can be great, refreshing the look and feel of an entity can be the fulcrum of other “updates” be that helping to turn the philosophy or culture.

Putting a new logo down which encapsulates your new offering can draw a line in the sand, you can use it to invigorate your staff, to boost morale and to launch new products and services. A new logo won’t fix problems with all of these things, it won’t do any turd polishing, but using it as a new start and marker for reorganisation can be great.

With the Iowa DOT being so short and having to encourage law makers to raise tax on fuel to cut the deficit you can assume it’s 3000 staff aren’t at the peak of the moral pyramid, the public face of the service certainly isn’t great as with such a shortfall keeping infrastructure that folks use daily  spick and span will be difficult, no one likes bumpy roads and speed limits to protect bridges and the like. Therefore refreshing the brand seems a good idea, but you’ve got to wonder if they could have waited until some of the issues were resolved first, waited perhaps until they were in credit with the public perception?

Does it cost too much?

However despite that seemingly enormous price tag of $100,000 the reality is that’s less than 0.05% of the $215 million shortfall, a pittance, even more so taken over the proposed 5 year period, assuming the same shortfall per year it’s less than 0.01% a year ($20,000 of $215,000,000).

Looking that way it’s not such a bad deal.

An Uninspiring Design

There is one final thing to say, and that’s on the logo itself, which is simply awful.

It could be the logo for anything, 3 generic swoosh shapes, which one assumes these have developed from some of the forms on the old logo, these have some depth added for no real reason, and a brutal super bold a little condensed font. The tag line “Smarter | Simpler | Customer Driven” sits uncomfortably below in a lighter more condensed face and it’s all rendered in dull reds and greys.

The old logo (below) was a little due an update with it’s East German aesthetic, but this really does it no justice. According to DOT Director Paul Trombino, the rebrand is a repositioning of the whole agency:

Trombino, in an email to DOT workers, said he recognizes the agency’s old logo – which dates to the mid-1970s – is “near and dear to our employees, as well as our customers.” But the state agency is trying to reinvent itself, which is reflected in the new logo’s design, containing the tagline “Smarter, Simpler, Customer Driven.”

“I hope you will find that the new logo represents the department in a modern light, while still harkening back to our historic mark,”

It’s a shame then that the result is so uninspiring.

The replaced Iowa DOT logo
The replaced Iowa DOT logo

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Kieran Harrod is a freelance designer based in the United Kingdom. more…


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