Graphic artist Emily Elmore just wanted to promote the city she loves. So she provided Kansas City government with a new marketing brand. For free.
By LYNN HORSLEY
The Kansas City Star
It rolled out at a recent party, where Elmore and others celebrated.
The next day, boom, it was the talk of the town, and a lot of the talk wasnt nice.
City officials were surprised by the huge outpouring of opinion and have since forcefully defended the new design.
You might think the woman whose good intentions created the storm would feel somewhat hurt.
She insists she doesnt.
Elmore, managing partner and creative director with Single Wing Creative, says she doesnt recoil from all the commentary and criticism about the new branding symbol of an interlocking K and C.
And she embraces the mantra of every good marketing guru: Any press is good press, she said.
Youre always going to have people you cant make happy, she said. Whether they love it or hate it, theyre talking about it. Thats what you want your brand to do.
Indeed, plenty of people both love and hate the new design.
Supporters have called it contemporary, classic and clean. Detractors, including the designer of the city seal, say it is boring and looks more like a monogram on a shirt or a cattle brand.
Elmore said the design emerged from a variety of symbols with links to Kansas City history. The C in particular mimics the interlocking C and H carving thats found on brass door handles in City Hall. And the interlocking K and C intentionally resemble the logos of the long-revered Kansas City Monarchs and Blues baseball teams.
The symbol is not replacing the familiar heart-shaped fountain seal approved by the City Council in 1992, but it is the new image on city publications, city news releases and on the revamped city government television channel.
Public sentiment on the new symbol already has shifted since it was first revealed at a branding party the evening of Oct. 10. An unscientific poll posted Oct. 11 on The Kansas City Stars website initially showed two-thirds of voters against it. But as that poll has stayed on kansascity.com, the voting has shifted to more than 3,200 favorable versus more than 2,300 unfavorable.
City Communications Director Danny Rotert, who decided more than a year ago that it was time to update the fountain symbol, was surprised by the level of public interest and the civic engagement the new image has produced. He notes that more people responded to The Stars poll than generally respond to the citys citizen satisfaction surveys, which usually get about 4,000 responses.
We may have done the largest focus group ever via The Star on the new logo, he said.
Interest in the design also has generated unprecedented traffic to the citys website, and a city-produced video on the design got more than 2,700 views, compared to 400 views for the next most-watched city video.
Because its open source and available to anyone, its also cropping up on other groups Twitter avatars, on T-shirts and posters and anywhere anyone with good intent wants to display it.
Its also subject to modification. In something called Feature Friday, city officials are inviting people to submit new images to incorporate into the design every Friday.
Were changing it up, said Deputy Communications Director Chris Hernandez, adding that its all intended to build interest in city affairs. People can send ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is their logo, Hernandez said. This is their government.
Elmore, 31, got her bachelors of fine arts from the University of Kansas and lived in Springfield before moving almost five years ago to Kansas City, where she started Single Wing Creative, a small design and marketing agency in the Crossroads.
She became acquainted with city officials over the past few years by working on the mayors Launch KC initiative, to attract and develop high-tech and arts entrepreneurs in the city.
Rotert said Elmore knew of his interest in rebranding the city and offered to do the design.
We like to work on civic projects like this, she said.
Elmore still admires the familiar fountain seal. Its a pretty mark, and I really like the way it looks aesthetically, she said.
But both she and Rotert noted that its a complicated marking, developed long before the digital age, and said it doesnt reduce that well.
Logos need to get super small to show up on a smartphone, Rotert said.
This week, Rotert had a lengthy conversation about all these issues with the fountain logos artist, Patrice Jobe, who has her own firm, EAT Advertising & Design. In 1992, then-Mayor Emanuel Cleaver and the City Council approved her design for a new seal with the heart-shaped fountain and the words City of Fountains: Heart of the Nation.
Jobe said her phone rang off the hook the day after the new design was unveiled.
She was adamant in an interview Wednesday that her fountain design remains both the official city seal and official logo of the city.
The logo is the logo, she said. What this new piece could be is a moniker.
She said she considers it a supportive device, born out of simplicity. Itll never stand for the city on its own. But its part of the brand system.
She also said it should be modified and the typography should be in the same style type as the fountain brand, because the new typography to her appears clunky and the C looks like a horseshoe.
Elmore says she doesnt have a problem with criticism or The Stars FYI section contest to build a better logo. Shes fine with any benign changes people make to her design, as long as its with good intent.
The artist cant be too sensitive about the public reaction, or criticism, she said.
Its all in good fun, she said. Whatever makes people happy. You cant really let that stuff bother you.
To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to email@example.com.