Symbolism abounds in city logos

  • Article by: MARY JANE SMETANKA and MARIA ELENA BACA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 27, 2012 - 12:21 PM

Cities try to sum up their history and reason for being in the designs that can appear on everything from police cars to water towers.

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Lino Lakes logo

A city logo would seem to be a simple thing: A decal on the side of a police car, a giant symbol on a water tower, an emblem on uniforms and stationery.

But considerable thought goes into some of them, with cities angling to promote their "brand" in a single image. While some logos are simple -- Maple Grove uses a maple leaf, and Mound's sailboat, which was created by students in a design competition -- others are trying to communicate a whole range of attributes.

In Lino Lakes, Plymouth, Bloomington and Edina, logos were designed to convey dynamism or boldness or to pay tribute to history.

Here's the story of the logos of some north- and west-metro cities.

Brooklyn Center

The image of a B and C (like a block with three bites out of it) was designed in the late 1970s to replace Brooklyn Center's old slogan, "The Something More City," said Assistant City Administrator Vickie Schleuning. The designer of the logo was the city's finance director, Paul Holmlund.

"Some people don't know what it is," Schleuning said of the somewhat abstract logo. "You have to look at it. But then, some people really identify to it because it has been around for awhile. It's different from others, and it has its own character." The only change has been that it has evolved from plain script to italic.

Lino Lakes

The image of a blue heron was created to represent the colony of birds that long has been a source of pride for city residents, especially since the colony nearly disappeared and has been rebuilt in recent years. The logo was adopted in 1993 by the newly formed Economic Development Authority, and then by the city in 1995. Once solid green, it was updated this year to a blue and green design. It is on all of the city's correspondence, on its website and on its vehicles.

"The community responds very strongly to it," said Economic Development Director Mary Alice Divine. "They really identify with our blue heron colony. That's an important piece of our history, and the blue heron really symbolizes that."

Coon Rapids

The raccoon in the city's name has been back for a few years, after a hiatus at the start of the last decade, during which the city was represented by an oak leaf. The current design shows the mischievous masked critter and the Mississippi River, which forms the city's western border, with an oak leaf symbolizing the oak savannah on which the city is built.

Blaine

The city logo, with trees and farmland in the foreground and the city rising in the background, was adopted in the early 1990s. The city probably will stick with it, said Heidi Andrea, the city's web coordinator, because it continues to reflect the city's values of balancing city amenities with nature.

Robbinsdale

The sleek bird in flight replaced a chubby robin and was adopted in 1997 to indicate a "city on the move." Although the city is named after 19th century businessman and state senator A.B. Robbins, the robin was adopted by the city after it was used by businesses and the old Robbinsdale High School. Because the school colors were blue and gold, the bird is in the logo is usually blue, but sometimes yellow, black and white are used.

Perhaps because robins make a meek mascot for today's high school teams, the city's two high schools use the Falcons and the Hawks.

One unusual use of the city logo is by residents who call themselves "the birdtown group." Their shirts have the city bird on the front and the slogan, "It's better in birdtown" on the back.

Plymouth

The city's bold blue "P" represents the city's lakes, streams and wetlands, while the green stands for parks and open space. The plant symbolizes a commitment to the environment. The gear indicates a stable, diverse economic base.

The city has used some form of this logo for more than 30 years, last tweaking the design about eight years ago

Maple Grove

The city's current logo featuring an autumn maple leaf dates from 1985. The image refers to the extensive maple trees throughout the city and represents the vast timber area, City Manager Al Madsen said. The motto, "Serving today shaping tomorrow," was added in 1985 to reflect the city's development.

Bloomington

The blue-and-gold logo shows a cityscape framed by the Minnesota River, with residential and business structures and trees that are meant to convey "the city's unique balance of nature and established community" along with natural habitats and parklands, according to Janine Hill, city communications coordinator.

Some people think the logo's swoopy base -- the river -- looks like a bird, in particular a kingfisher. The 2003 logo "turned out to be a little more dynamic than we planned," Hill said. But the coincidence is a happy one, she said, further promoting the idea of balance in nature.

Edina

The green-and-white logo is one of the oldest in the west metro, dating from the city's 1988 centennial. The center is a four-leaf clover, with each quadrant focusing on history: an "e" for Edinborough, Scotland, which gave the city its name, a thistle to represent the city's Scottish history, a clover leaf for the city's Irish roots, and a mill for the building around which the city was built. The biggest city logo is on the Gleason water tower. In 2011, it was painted with a 30-foot-wide city logo.

Victoria

The city's unusual logo features a church topped by a cross, a salute to the St. Victoria Church, which was key to the city's founding. In 1856, after years of disagreement, families located on opposite sides of Lake Bavaria agreed to build a church on 30 acres of land donated by people on one side of the lake and named it after St. Victoria, a favored saint among families on the lake's other side. From there sprang a church and school and later the city of Victoria, which was incorporated in 1915. The current city logo dates from 2006.

Staff writers Tom Meersman and Kelly Smith contributed to this report. mbaca@startribune.com • 612-673-4409 Twitter: @bacamaria smetan@startribune.com • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan

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