The City of Minneapolis has announced its new logo. Instead of two stylized sailboats, there will be just one. Some people are complaining about the cost of the change, which seems ridiculous. That's half the number of sailboats. A 50-percent savings, right there. For all we know they sold the other sailboat to another city.
It's not as if they're hiring people to scrape sailboats off signs or use Wite-Out to remove it from stationery. They'll phase it in as needed, although it will remain on manhole covers, and municipal employees who were branded with the logo — a practice that was suspended in 1987 — will not be eligible for cosmetic surgery.
Why was this necessary? Because everyone in the city government is sick to death of it, probably. Besides, cities refresh their logos all the time to show they're Up to Date. You wouldn't want the city to have the same logo since 1927, when it was probably a gopher gnawing on a wheat scythe, or something.
The logo we have now is a '60s remnant, and looks like very sharp flying fish. It's dated. If they'd redone the logo in the '70s it would just be a big ugly M, because no one in the '70s had any taste. The new logo has a certain grace, but if you didn't know it was supposed to be a sailboat you might think it was … I don't know, someone in a billowy dress dancing on an open-mouthed shark.
But don't you go thinking this is just a logo. Oh no. According to the city's jargon: it's a "refreshed business tool," to use words spoken only in rooms with a whiteboard and a PowerPoint demonstration and earnest people wearing name tags, who nod when informed that the aforementioned tool will help optimize branded identity.
Yes, if there's a spring in the step of the locals today, it's the prospect of a civic identity that's had the heck optimized out of it.
But there's more! The news release says the logo will "project a cohesive, professional" image, suggesting that the old logo was all over the place and showed up for work unshaven wearing a tie spattered with ketchup. I don't know why two sailboats was unprofessional. What would three sailboats imply? Unconventional office hours? Gum-chewing receptionists? No one ever came away from City Hall seething with frustration because some encounter with bureaucracy went poorly and thought, "Well, whaddya expect from a two-sailboat town?"
As mentioned before, the logo will be phased in, and as long as there are double-boat icons out there, that means a protracted period of noncohesion. MnDOT spent a fair amount of money on hideous stone pylons by the freeway ramps, stubby little signs bearing the neighborhood names. You've seen those, right? The things you expect to see cave men praying to? Several have the old two-boat logo. Since it's doubtful they'll be removed any time soon, this means we will have confusing brand posture that will project a diffused identity.
This can only have catastrophic consequences. You can't attract business and residents from other states with indistinct branding. You can imagine some CEO barking at the mayor:
"Look, we were all set to move to Minneapolis to enjoy your quality of life, theater of seasons, well-educated population and hardworking Midwestern ethics. But that was based on the highway signs, which suggested you were a two-sailboat kind of place. Now you're telling us one of the boats is off the table? Sorry, we're going to take a second look at Fridley. You know what they have for a logo? A big F. A man knows where he stands with a logo like that."
True. Edina's logo looks like a crest for a private academy; Maple Grove has a maple leaf. Wayzata has an enormous W emerging from the water, as if to say I AM YOUR GOD NOW. Columbia Heights has no logo at all, yet people get through the day somehow. St. Paul has the Cathedral dome, trees, houses and squiggly lines that either represent the river or an infestation of snakes.
It's a diverse lineup, and something tells me we could do better.
I know the sailboats of Lake Harriet are an oft-photographed fixture, and of course people sail on the lakes, but there are other images that are just as relevant — the Spoonbridge, Minnehaha Falls. As long as the motto is "City of Lakes," though, we're stuck. It's sailboats, or an orange life preserver. "Emergency Flotation Devices Available When Beaches Are Staffed/Swim At Your Own Risk" isn't the most inspiring motto, either.
Minneapolis isn't a City of Lakes as much as it's a City With Lakes. If it called itself "City of Doughnuts" you would expect doughnuts everywhere, right? It's a City With Lakes, and a River, and Streams, and 10,000 Microponds (aka potholes). Perhaps that's why the city's tourism board made up its own new slogan: City by Nature, complete with a logo that shows the skyline over water, its reflection made of trees.
Except for the fact that the sky above the buildings is a shade of green rarely encountered outside of a Pampers, it's a nice piece of art.
If we're going to redo the logo, why not consider alternatives? It wouldn't cost a thing, because you can't swing a pail of artisanal ale in this town without hitting an underemployed graphic artist, and they'd be happy to come up with something for free, just to get the exposure. It's worth a try, and it's not as if the city would be forced to adopt, say, a stylized Hamm's Bear logrolling on a lake.
Not as if some wouldn't mind if they did.