From his office chair, City Administrator Tom McCarty can glance around the room and spot several logos for Stillwater — all of them different.
There's a city emblem on a framed mission statement from 1995, and then a different symbol on the city letterhead, which is not the same as the logo emblazoned on the fire department's vehicles.
As Stillwater adjusts to changes created by the St. Croix River bridge and prepares for the opening of its historic Lift Bridge as a bicycle and pedestrian crossing next summer, McCarty said it's time for the city to reconsider its brand identity.
"There needs to be a uniformity of message," he said. "Consistency counts."
Last week, a team of MBA students from Augsburg University presented its research to the City Council, recommending that the city create a set of brand guidelines, including graphics.
The four students spent the summer surveying Stillwater residents and visitors, interviewing business owners, reviewing the city's existing branding and consulting with city leaders.
What the City Council decides to do remains to be seen, but the issues raised in the students' research have been a topic of council conversation the past couple of years, McCarty said.
"This really fits within the context of looking broadly at the future of the community," he said.
Implementing a uniform logo may seem insignificant, but it can get to the heart of what unites a city, said Cory Erickson, the adjunct professor at Augsburg who oversaw the project.
"You want to establish a common theme, common ethos, common DNA," Erickson said, adding that the students' work is a "foundational step" for Stillwater to do that.
Based on their surveys and interviews, the students concluded that the new logo should include the iconic Lift Bridge. McCarty said that recommendation has already sparked some debate, at least in city offices where some are partial to emblems featuring a lumberjack.
Zachary Dreis, 25, one of the students who worked on the project, is a Stillwater native who works for Andersen Corp. in nearby Bayport. He said he's eager to see how the council proceeds with the recommendations, and that he was proud to spend the summer talking to Stillwater residents and visitors about what they love about the city.
As for the logo, he admitted to a slight bias:
"I have the Lift Bridge tattooed on my side … so I think it'd look great," he said.