What’s in a City Brand? University City Retreats from New Logo

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University City, MO - city signUniversity City, MO - city sign

This past week I noticed University City workers replacing a weathered "Entering (Leaving on the others side) University City" sign with a shiny new blue and green "Entering the Neighborhood to the World, University City" sign. Other than being new, the sign was awful. "Neighborhood to the World" is just an odd phrase. While the claim shows that small municipality boosterism isn't dead (and that's fun), I don't think a city slogan should force one to contemplate what it means (apparently it's meant to celebrate diversity).

For the past week as I walked past the "Leaving…" sign I asked myself, if I am leaving the neighborhood to the world, am I in fact passing into the world as I pass this sign? Then there are real problems with the design of the sign itself. It's legible enough for someone walking down the street, but someone driving past won't get to the bottom of the sign, where you know, the actual name of the city sits, somewhat smaller than the slogan. I really disliked it, even joking on Facebook that I'd found my signature issue (and campaign song) to catapult me into U-City political office: Signs, signs, everywhere bad signs…

Now it appears that the U-City city council heard my threat! I'm joking of course, but it turns out that others weren't too happy with the logo, or the process. According to University City Patch, the city council has voted 4-3 to unbrand the rebranding. This means all the signs, stationery and other supplies displaying the logo will be removed. According to the Patch story, the rebranding effort cost $39,000 with an additional $10,000 already spend on new signs and banners.

How and why did the process get this far only be rejected? From Patch, "(Council member Paulette Carr) looked into previous efforts to give the city a brand identity and a logo. The last change occurred in 1975-76 and Carr said her research indicated that the council voted to approve a recommended option after ideas went through the Municipal Commission on Arts and Letters, a public viewing and then brought back to the council." There were also objections that the new colors no longer matched those of the school district, as the older logo had.

At the time the re-branding was revealed, several months ago, Mayor Shelley Welsch told University City Patch, "Our new community identity, ‘Neighborhood to the World’ captures the true brand essence of University City." Through focus groups and interviews, a branding consulting firm identified the following community attributes: the city’s central location, arts and culture, parks and recreation and the friendliness of the residents. At least they didn't go with the now passed "Half Way to Everywhere" (which, incidentially, is no where) once used in The Grove.

Not satisfied with the logo and slogan status quo? Surely for a fraction of the $39,000, the guys at STL Style would have licensed their design:

U-City sign_King of the InnerRing

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  • STLgasm

    Great post! We would happily talk to U. City officials about licensing our logo (and/or slogan) if they are interested. I think “King of the Inner Ring” truly says it all.

  • matthb

    On the other hand I found the new little banners on the Arch ground’s light poles very attractive. Not kidding.

  • RyleyinSTL

    “Neighborhood to the World” Really? Sounds boring, stale and completely uninspired to me. Additionally the boringness of the new signs are a clear safety hazard because when you read them you fall asleep immediately.

    STL-Style’s take however, as usual, is brilliant.

  • Verbely

    I LOVE “King of the Inner Ring!” But then, I’m a UCitian who has likely been relegated to village idiot status since I intensely disliked the new-and-now-old logo and howled loudly about it at the outset. According to UCitians who are apparently NOT crazy (in other words, not me and not a whole bunch of my friends,) the new-and-now-old logo has a “silent majority” behind it. The sane UCitians like having to have logos and colors explained to them and like explaining it to others. It makes them feel as though they’re in on an inside joke or something.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Love it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/rebeccaclendenen Rebecca Clendenen

        I don’t like either of them. I think as opposed to there being a silent majority of support, it’s probably more like silent haven’t-noticed-cause-it’s-not-interesting. I’m glad they’re canning it.

    • KathyL

      NOT a fan of “King of the Inner Ring, U City”. The name of our neighborhood is University City, and the many nationalities that make our neighborhoods great are well reflected in “Neighborhood to the World”. I don’t think we need to proclaim ourselves King of anything.

      • Alex Ihnen

        The new signs make it seem that the city is a neighborhood, or that the name of city is “Neighborhood to the World” since it’s the largest type. Just my opinion of course. If you didn’t see the comment below – the “King of the Inner Ring” suggestion was a joke.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/George-Lenard/503027276 George Lenard

    5 comments? I see only 4. And not mine. Hmm….

    • Alex Ihnen

      Six comments now (mine will be seven). I don’t see another from you either – care to try again?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/George-Lenard/503027276 George Lenard

        I thought it was censored. I dissed the stupid inner-ring effort for it’s poor color choice, dumb double-drop shadow, use of terminology (inner ring) that many people probably don’t know) and more. I also commented that the point of the slogan was using two key words that came out of focus group research and make a lot of sense. U City residents feel and experience a neighborhood, smaller-town feeling within a large metro area. Unique among StL area municipalities? maybe not, but it is a reality with which people identify favorably. Ditto “World.” Yes, there’s Grand Ave. and other places with an international flavor, but between the Olive Asian business district and all the international faculty and students at Wash. U., we do have a cosmopolitan, worldly feel. So the diversity goes well beyond race; though we have more of that than most places in the Metro area. This whole fiasco was just about political power-plays and posturing in runup to 2014 elections.

        • Alex Ihnen

          Fair enough. There’s no “inner-ring effort”, that was just a joke on my part. It’s a real T-shirt, but that’s it.

  • Loopy

    I think George Lenard and KathyL just might be among the “silent majority” of “sane” UCitians who, as Verbely mentions, “like having to have logos and colors explained to them” so they can explain them to others. Rest assured, us “crazy” UCitians still have our senses of humor intact. Long live the “King of the Inner Ring.” I just might have to buy the shirt and wear it to annoy these people…