When it comes to art, everyone’s a critic. If you’re looking at a painting or, in this case, Frederick’s new city logo, no one’s opinion is necessarily right or wrong. They are just opinions.

With this in mind, we’re going to refrain from passing any artistic judgment on this new logo — a stylized, lowercase “f” that uses colors to represent different parts of our fine city. The logo will eventually be used on signs, stationery and everything else that comes out of city government.

Frankly, there’s not a lot we could add to the scores of comments already made against the logo on our website and elsewhere on social media. “Ugly,” said many. “A waste of money,” said a few. Or our favorite, “What a surprise. This is terrible. Looks like a child’s fidget spinner.”

However, we’re drawn to a bigger problem, and that’s a lack of public input that went into the process. For this, we have no problem giving the city a big ugly F of a grade.

Basic marketing philosophy dictates that in order to get buy-in to a visible, community project (i.e., changing the logo of an historic and beloved town), you involve the people who live and work there. In this case, that didn’t happen. Instead, as Mayor Michael O’Connor told us earlier this week, any community engagement was left to North Star, the Jacksonville, Florida, design consultant the city hired.

Though O’Connor said North Star talked to about 100 business owners, nonprofits, institutions and residents, the overwhelming response indicates that they didn’t talk to enough of the right people. North Star’s website (https://northstarideas.com/top-10-branding-place-blunders) says stakeholder buy-in is essential in a list of blunders to avoid when making a new branding announcement. Judging by the reaction, it seems that neither the city or North Star took the advice.

As for how this process should have worked, we need look no further than the way Frederick County Public Schools went about naming the new Blue Heron Elementary School.

FCPS formed a School Name Recommendation Committee, which then invited the public to submit name suggestions through an online survey. After the survey, the committee brought three names before the Board of Education in an open meeting and explained the rationale of each name before a vote took place. The school community was engaged and felt respected by being part of the process.

Wouldn’t it have made sense to do something similar for the Frederick logo? The city could have solicited designs from people and design companies from here and around Frederick. (Can you imagine the creative work that could have come from Frederick’s artistic community?) Through a transparent process, the submissions could have been whittled down and then a final selection could have been made by a committee or some other respected local panel. It could have been a fun thing.

Had all of this happened, the reaction may or may not have been different. Again, everyone has an opinion when it comes to the way something looks. But in the very least, the average person might have felt part of an open selection process.

Instead, we now have a vocal segment of the community that feels shut out. That’s never a good thing, regardless of your opinion.

(44) comments

Moon otter

Have the three high schools (Frederick, TJ and Tuscarora) for the Frederick city area have an artist contest. it comes from those students who are taking art. They submit to their school. School picks the best one to represent their school and then Frederick's council picks the one for the City of Frederick. As far as for changing logos on vehicles it is usually done when the vehicle is retired and new one replaces it. Same with stationary.


Those North Star clowns sure did take advantage of our naive elected officials. When is the next election?


Well, O'Connor has succeeded in making all of us agree that what he did was wrong.


Not a tough decision. What I want to know is (1) what next? and (2) can we forgive a mistake this early in his administration? I can. He has an opportunity to make it right.


A logo change is more than $45k. And not a single person has brought this up. Re-lettering the city cars and trucks and letterhead, envelopes, and employee uniforms will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.


I agree. I would like an understanding that all stationery, clothing, automobiles, etc, will carry the current logo until the item is used up or nonfunctioning and a new item has to be purchased anyway. The clustered spires will be around for many years during the switchover.




You people do but t get it. This logo change is necessary with development of the proposed hotel. Since the proposed hotel will block the view of the clustered spires, frederick’s clustered spires will be no more. Therefore, a new logo is a must.


Again with the hotel?


This article is worse than the logo. Excuses.


What is wrong with an excuse? It may explain.


Well at least the Mayor got most folks to agree on something! ;)


This whole thing needs an investigation. A couple of facts. 1. North Star Ideas LLC is a LLC that is NOT in good standing with Florida. It was dissolved by the state of Florida for failing to file required annual reports. Since when is a government agency allowed to contract with an entity not in good standing? City of Frederick procurement do their checks? 2. The address for North Star Ideas is now for a company called Burdette Ketchum with William Kechum as its listed Officer. Burdette Ketchum happens to be the address of North Star Ideas. If a check was cut to North Star Ideas LLC it probably violates government procurement rules. As someone said somewhere else, follow the money here and someone is a friend of someone or related to someone. I'll put money on this ending up being a scandal as $45k for that "design" is a scam and is a kickback of some kind.


bcraig: The City's contract for the logo was with 'The Burdette Agency doing business as North Star Destinations'. If you go to the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations website and search for The Burdette Agency it seems to have filed all its annual reports. see http://search.sunbiz.org/Inquiry/CorporationSearch/SearchResultDetail?inquirytype=EntityName&directionType=Initial&searchNameOrder=BURDETTEAGENCY%20P960000931771&aggregateId=domp-p96000093177-3c46bc8b-e423-4c6a-8f8b-ed7db5a70558&searchTerm=The%20Burdette%20Agency&listNameOrder=BURDETTEAGENCY%20P960000931771


This entire logo process was a fiasco. The city blew it. Best bet now is to can the logo that nearly everyone hates ( with good reason). Consider the money lost and move on.

"...and then a final section could have been made ...." One would think that an editorial would would have an EDITOR or two proofread it prior to publication. EDITORS, where are the EDITORS?!


Modern news papers are on a srict budget. Editors were in the past.


As a marketing professional, I am quite surprised (and disappointed) that the FNP would advocate for a process involving spec work. "The city could have solicited designs from people and design companies from here and around Frederick. Through a transparent process, the submissions could have been whittled down and then a final section could have been made by a committee or some other respected local panel. It could have been a fun thing." It is not quite a 'fun thing' to ask professionals to engage in a process like this. Just consider the response if you were to ask a dozen lawyers to write a brief for you, from which you would then choose which one to pay. You pay professionals for their expertise, knowledge, time and talent. There is way more to a rebranding process than what most understand. I’ve seen one of the documents delivered to the city and it involved way more than what the public is aware of. I’m personally not a fan of the logo, don’t get me wrong, I just am pointing out that devaluing the profession by asking for spec work is never a good answer.


I’m betting many of our local artists would love to participate in such a process, Jennifer. The winner would be paid.


Oh I don't doubt people would participate in this for the city, just simply pointing out the bigger implications that most don't consider. :)


Agreed seven, it happens all the time elsewhere. Organization X puts out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to the public, and anyone who believes they can do the job submits their detailed response. Yep, easy peasy.


This is an call out from the Whistler v. Ruskin libel trial of 1878. This is Whistler's response question in cross-examination, "The labor of two days is that for which you as two hundred guineas?" : 'No, I ask it for the knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime.'


Point well taken and I did not think of it.


Totally agree. Anyone involved in marketing or branding knows throwing it to a contest does not work. You end up with even more hurt feelings and even a legal issue sometimes, just like the Ravens' first logo.


Why is a new city logo even needed? I really like our current one.


I agree!?


What residents should be concerned about is the waste of 45k of taxpayer money. I can think of many other more pressing needs in the city that the money should have gone toward. What else is the BOA and Mayor wasting money on and not using intelligently?


Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if they ended up with a better result. This reminds me of when Coca Cola came out with "New Coke."


Let’s be charitable, now that the point is made. Frederick residents love their city. We are passionate about our city. We are terribly proud of and support our local artists. We each of us have something to say about Frederick, something we would love to tell the world. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t care so much about this “rebrand” and this terribly misguided logo. Now you know, Mr Mayor and Board. Let’s do this over. Let’s do it right.


$45K should be deducted from his pay check.


I like this idea!


"neither the city or North Star..." neither/nor


and "either/or.."


By unconsious desgin, the logo directs us to closer examine the rules of transparency and ethics as penned recently, then ceremoniously signed into ... is it law in Frederick? Or a guidepost? No matter how this obviously coastal, marina, yacht looking the mark, or alcoholic labeling brand - there is the distinct aroma of nepotism in the air. This logo directs us to the downtown economic plan: Party! Then flop at our hotel/conference center. Buy a piece of easy to understand art, and then, on your bike. Please forgive me. I am big on that barked comment by Ricky Bobby: "I piss excellence!" Isn't that what Frederick keeps telling us, and the world about itself? Or is the plan: Downtown Frederick Beer & Wine Outlet. The link here is the Frederick County, Maryland Code of Ordinances: 1-7.1: Ethics. Curious bit is the Lobby section: https://www.frederickcountymd.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1618/Ethics-Law


Thank-you for keeping this real.


Best all over the map response ever!


Say what?


Mayor & City officials need to apologize to residents & start the process over involved City residents. Unfortunate $45,000 will go to waste and could have been better spent, like cleaning up flood damage.


After the online thrashing Mayor Michael got, he admitted he goofed and will try to fix this. At least a couple of the Aldermen want to be involved in selecting a new logo. Perhaps the FNP can get involved in the process.


Perhaps the PUBLIC can get involved! I bet, if left to the local artistic community and all of us Fredneckians, we could come up with a beautiful city logo! Without opportunity, there is no avenue for us locals to flex our creative spirit. I have a toothache I go to my local dentist. If I need a haircut I go to my local barber. If I am stressed, I take a hike in one of the beautiful local state parks. If I need a new city logo, going to Jacksonville, FL to find it is as wasteful as asking for help from an alien in Area 51. The mayor really screwed this up. Very bad look. Very bad optics. I hope this ridiculousness is not going on with other city initiatives! At the next staff meeting, some folks need to be yelled at - and the mayor needs to take better command of the ship.


When did he do that? I am still concerned with the fact that he feels the clustered spires are a polarizing symbol


The logo in a word - SUCKS! I don't see where it represents anything Frederick has to offer, looks like, or dreams about! It is just plain ugly and you should write it off as a loss. Get the public involved, use locals for design and even hold a contest with a cash reward for the logo voted best and the rationale behind it. Cheaper than 45k! It looks the " artist formerly known as "PRINCE" designed it"! His was much better in my humble option!


The $45,000 should be taken as a loss and the door closed on any change. If the city were to proceed with this unwelcome change, what would be the estimated cost of all the necessary replacements of the current clustered spires logo? How much does it cost to reprint all stationery, change the emblem on all of the city's vehicles, etc.?


O'conner thinks that he has done his job, leaving it up to North Star to find out what people like? The same company that is being paid $45,000 for the design? Come on, O'Connor get off your behind and do your job.

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