The city of of Vancouver brand is valued at $31 billion. Shocking, no? Vancouver Sun reported on it around this time last year. If the housing market is any indication of how popular our home is, this really is no surprise.
Of course, we’re not here to make political sense of it all. Vancouver simply is a hot destination for people to live and visit. We have tourism from around the World. It is this global market that brings in people from all cultures, not all of which speak English.
Yesterday, City council voted on a new branding change for the city—a new logo. Spoiler alert, the vote was passed.
According to Metro News and most other Vancouver news sources, the brief of the new mark included the need to be “more easily recognizable to those whose first language is not English”. A noble endeavour that really could push tourism to new heights.
Cities like San Francisco, Paris, and New York have all seen the benefit of branding. Vancouver aims to be the “Green” city. An image that surrounds the city with the expectation of clean air, outdoor adventure, and lush greenery.
So with these things in mind, you might have some images conjuring in your mind as to what the new City of Vancouver logo might look like.
But before we get to it, let’s take a look at what the current City of Vancouver logo is.
Not too shabby. It definitely can use tweaks and certainly isn’t the best fit for the city and the new brand direction, but the flower and colours do capture the idea of a city where plants and being green are of importance. The touch of blue captures the sense of water, and yeah, we get a lot of it (1118mm/year) and live next to the Ocean.
Even the green they have chosen specifically reminds us of spring greens and growth. It’s vibrant and uplifting.
There’s a lot to work with and live up to for a new logo for the city. But alarm bells went off in my head while reading the Metro News article when they referred to it as a watermark. Whether these are their words or the original report’s, the point stands. Watermarks are not nearly as substantial as logos.
Watermarks are those faded out graphics you see on a photo or an image. They're meant to protect an image from being stolen and used without being paid for. Think stock graphics online or maybe your kid’s photos from photo day. While these watermarks may contain a logo, the term doesn’t refer directly to a logo itself.
Which really says to us, this new mark is not being taken as seriously as a logo would be. Not as seriously as a logo should be for a brand estimated at $31 billion.
The city decided to go with the lowest bidding design firm at $8000. While that might seem like a large amount for a logo to small businesses, it makes sense that larger companies and organizations would need to spend more since more is at stake.
However, comparing $31 billion to $8k the discrepancy is monumental. Pepsi, valued at roughly $17.9 billion rebranded a few years ago now. Their logo cost? $1 million.
While more doesn’t always mean better, it often does have a relationship in logo design. It shows just how important the success of your brand is to you. And if the city is not willing to invest in a logo and brand initiative that is meant to drive tourism, why would the tourists invest in coming?
Let’s get to it. The new “Watermark”:
Recall that one of the main goals of this new logo was to be more friendly to non-english speaking visitors.
This new logo drops the flower graphic all together. This new word mark is just that, words.
For those that don’t read English, this hardly seems any more appealing. The strength in a logo is often its deep rooted ability to transcend written language. Using a representative graphic tells a greater story than a few words ever will.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words after all. It baffles me why this new mark would drop the graphic when in fact a more graphic-centric approach would better fit the bill. Something along the lines of the Metro Vancouver logo seems a lot more straight-forward.
It is a proven fact that all capital letters are more difficult to read than regular sentence case. This has to do with our ability to recognize letters. When we see ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, the shape of all the letters is roughly the same. They are basic rectangles.
For tourists with limited English ability, title case would better fit the brief because it would improve their chances of being able to read it.
So honestly no real improvement over the current logo in that department, and perhaps even a step backward. What about the green initiative?
Straight off the bat, we can see the colours are darker and less lively than the current design. There is nothing particularly fresh feeling about these hues. There is something familiar about them though… I just can’t put my finger on it…
They’ve also made a somewhat subtle switch in how the colours are used. Note that in the current logo “City of” is in blue, while “Vancouver” is in green. This proposed design does the reverse. That might seem inconsequential but it does play a part in the overall message.
We want to brand ourselves as the “Green” city. Does it not then make more sense that “Vancouver” the city be what is green? When recalling the new logo we will think of Vancouver in blue. How much stronger would it be if we thought of it as green?
The metaphorical hoops are so much easier to jump through.
We don’t know the discussions that may have happened behind closed doors in the development of this proposed design. The moral of the story is not that you better choose the right firm or spend the right amount of money, but stick to a brief and your objectives.
Whether you are designing yourself or contracting out, your logo will live and die by the objectives you set out for it. It needs to move your business in the direction you want it to go, otherwise what is the point?