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.