Register Monday | June 24 | 2019

No Logo Like Home

Ten city emblems put to the test

In the Cities issue, Melissa Aronczyk puts five city logos under the microscope in “A Brand to Call Home”(Issue 18). We asked writer and web designer Brett Schaenfield to measure how ten additional metropolises—from Zurich to the City of North Pole—are trying to brand their town the City on the Hill.

Canberra
Intelligent Design—it’s not just for milquetoast creationists. Canberra’s logo and positioning statement, See yourself in Canberra, is the result of a recent re-branding strategy to promote tourism and bolster flagging domestic interest in the capital region. All that glitters: Parliament House reflected in the gold federation star (representing the federation of the colonies of Australia, born on January 1, 1901). Aussies, if you don’t see yourself, you’re not looking hard enough. Overall: shiny, happy, short ’n’ snappy. Good on ya. —A

Minneapolis
Let’s see. “City of lakes” + twin city of St. Paul = two sailboat icons. Makes sense. Or, at least, it did. According to my source at city hall who believes the logo was designed in the sixties, the quantity and quality of regattas has since fallen sharply, as have any notions of linking the city with its rival sibling. Hmm. So it was relevant. but now it isn’t. Hey, just like the old Prince glyph! Good news—it’s available. —B-


Prague
Lost in translation. Completed in 2002 at a cost of CZK1.8 million (that’s a paltry CDN$86,000), this language lesson has become an urban surrogate for the city’s historical coat of arms. A promising objective: To emphasize openness and present the city as a born-again multicultural centre. The result: A bland, four-way PRA | NUNCIATION guide. Visually inoffensive but emotionally flat—is this the same place they once nicknamed “the heart of Europe”? It’s a great town—just pick a name already and stick with it. C

City of North Pole
Believe it or not, the City of North Pole was originally formed to attract toy manufacturing companies. The endeavour failed. Undeterred by this surprising setback, the local elf government devised a powerful strategy—to create the world’s most tasteful and appropriate municipal logo. Its unchallenging yet saccharine theme would attract trade and tourism from around the globe. It would include poignant, enduring symbols of the Cold War and shopping malls. And it would be more bubbly and better illustrated than a colouring book. And guess what happened? —F

Zurich
Swiss miss: What if someone designed a high-priced visual identity kit with a word processor and nobody noticed? To the punks at Interbrand Zintzmeyer & Lux AG: there is no such thing as a “victimless crime”; I’m calling your parents. Space oddity: It’s not so much a logo as it is a poorly kerned typeface (Bauer Bodoni Book) that sits uncomfortably close to a hyper-magnified pixel thingamajig. A clue from the online usage guide: “Orange stands for modern urban life and diversity, for warmth and joie de vivre … large-scale use should be avoided.” Indeed. —C

Dallas
Nice brushstrokes. Seriously, I applaud the initiative, I do. Everyone knows old stereotypes die hard. Try, then, to forget what you thought you learned from TV. No more hot cheerleading (aw!), no more look-Bobby’s-alive-no-way crap. What we got here is a new, right-brained Dallas—an emerging frontier town for art and fashion and food and music. Shut up, it could happen. But if we’re going to shrug off old Texan bromide, let’s start with the half-cliché, half gangsta-fab tagline Live Large, Think Big. Damn it, y’all, think bigger. —B

Fargo
Points for the clever integration of M (for twin city Moorhead, Minnesota) into the logo. But when I think of Fargo, I think of whiteouts and desolate, icy landscapes and Peter Stormare stuffing Steve Buscemi’s body parts into a wood chipper. Mainly that last one. I don’t want to but I do. So do a lot of people. The bottom line, folks: The movie didn’t help and the logo ain’t doin’ ya any favours. —C

Barcelona
Finally. The wild popularity of the letter b with the congeniality of an emoticon. —B

Las Vegas
Only in Vegas? Oh no! They know we know and they’re telling everyone! Who’s next? Atlantic City? Bangkok? Ibiza? Tooting your own horn is such a turnoff. But let’s be fair. This is Vegas, where braggadocio and tacky are the traditional leitmotifs. So the lady is a tramp—what else is new? Visually: no real surprises, retro-tinged, maybe even a little tame. Overall: appropriate; a pathetic grab at an old chestnut—an oldie, sure, but a goodie. Viva. —B+

Stockholm
Suspend your disbelief: It’s impressive, it’s Swedish and it wasn’t assembled with an Allen key. Historical: Based on the blue and yellow coat of arms (which in turn was based on a seal dating back to 1376), the man in the centre should be Saint Erik, the city’s patron saint. Hysterical: It is alleged, however, that when the city wanted to standardize the arms in the nineteen-thirties, the artist used a statue in an old church as a model—a statue that was later identified as Saint Olaf, Norway’s patron saint. You can so tell. —A