City Logo Fail #2 – Menlo Park Spends $25k to keep its old logo
Original Logo
Original Logo

UPDATED: Menlo Park is a well off town in the east of California, it was ranked in the top 15 US cities in CNN’s “Best Places for the Rich and Single” to live (Thanks Wikipedia).

It’s a good job there’s so much wealth I guess because when the council decided to investigate options to replace it’s 60 year old logo, they spent around $25,000 to rustle up some new designs.

The designs were presented to the council in December 2013, they decided that none of the options (none of which I can show you, for shame) were to their taste and chose to keep the old tree with some new text to the side.

Pretty close to how the final logo will look.
Pretty close to how the final logo will look.

This then is a tale of procedure, it seems that some councillors were unaware that a new logo was in process and when presented with the solutions the overall thought was that Menlo didn’t need a new logo, just a bit of a tweak. You’ve got to think that deciding that before spending any money would have been a wise idea.

Amarillos Stolen logo
Amarillos Stolen logo

Much of the talk on the Menlo Park web scene is along the oft repeated lines of “How much? I’d have done it for less / run a competition / get school kids to make one” which is predictable and I’m happy to argue all day about why employing a professional is a wise idea (just ask Amarillo), $25k seems high but not unreasonable for a proper logo and branding process, and choosing to spend say $500 on a miserable logo competition is simply not the answer  (who knows you could end up with a stolen logo).

I tend to think you need to go 2 ways to change a cities logo, either involve the people in a significant way or just push through and be strong. I’d always argue for the latter.

New Sand Springs Logo
Sand Springs lacklustre freebee.

If you get people involved, perhaps via a vote, you risk pleasing no one (see the Everton Logo debacle for this) if you as for volunteers then well you risk getting what you pay for, no matter how talented and creative the people (see Sand Springs, part way down the page).

If you push on and make the case for a new brand then you can create something that makes a difference (great design can do things, see Kansas Cities business logo), you have to do it right and with just enough engagement to please the people but not so much as to ruin the whole plan.

Menlo Park should have manned up then and made that $25k work! Now they have the worst of both worlds, hate at the cost they spent and no new logo.

via Almanac News.

UPDATE: I discovered that Menlo record their council meetings, which is exciting. I watched/listened to the Jan 10th meeting where a good lady from the council staff presents the logo options, which by his point have been reduced to the old tree, digitised and taken out of it’s box with 3 fonts and 2 type treatments.

Screen grab of the options presented on 10th December 2013
Screen grab of the options presented on 10th December 2013

During to course of the discussion we discover that $24K was spent on developing 6 logos with an external contractor (whose name I still can’t find). This was reduced to 3 on consultation with residents and stakeholders. These 3 were put to the council on the 10th of December 2013. They didn’t like any preferring to plump for the current tree with an update. (watch here).

We also discover that the work started 2 years ago and the contractor was assigned the job to develop the logo and create the brand guidelines. These guidelines will cost a further $24K. The council debate the cost with most agreeing that whilst not perhaps essential, the city brand does need updating and aligning and the cost isn’t unreasonable. One consenting voice who suggests they have experience in marketing thinks the cost a little high.

There’s a few treats including the council staff defending the efforts as “Not just slapping a new font on a logo but guidelines”, the realisation of the council that THEY kicked out the new logos and therefore the $24K and a resident bringing the voice of internet comments to the council chamber by suggesting the whole effort is a waste.

The defence of the project is worth listening to, a councillor echoes the residents questions and the staff do a great job of explaining things.

The agenda of the December 10th meeting has the final 3 choices and a bit of detail into the project from page 7.

The Final 3
The Final 3

Above are the final 3 drafts presented on the 10th December 2013. I guess I can see why none were chosen, they’re all a little insipid, something to do with the colour. Of the 3, the middle one is my least preferred, I think moving away from the tree a mistake. Left hand is perhaps the most progressive but it’s very fussy and seems more suited to a wellness brand than a city, the right closest to where it was and the pick of the bunch for me. The design keeps the nature of the original but the trunk needs some work.

None of the type treatments do it for me, keeping the text below makes using the tree with the text very tricky, see the current Menlo Park website header to see what needs to be done to fit a vertically stacked logo in (that is drop the stacking and stick the text to the right).

All of the designs look better in 1 colour and I wonder if keeping an updated tree in the nature of the right hand design, in dark green would have been good?

Pretty close to how the final logo will look.
Pretty close to how the final logo will look.

If I was the council I would have asked the design agency to look again at this, to develop some more alternatives, in line with the existing but evolved rather than leaving things pretty mush as they are and causing this whole $24k for the same logo debacle to have been avoided!

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