Opinions on corporate and brand identity work.

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Live like you Hate the Logo

Reviewed Mar. 20, 2009 by Armin

Industry / Destinations Tags /

Wisconsin Logo, New

I debated quite a bit about posting this logo, because it’s like dangling a bloody bundle of fish in front of a great white shark — a great white shark that can hit “post.” Nonetheless, it’s a story that has made the news quite a bit and I think it’s worth giving it a formal run here on Brand New. Last Monday, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle unveiled the new logo and slogan for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism to help attract visitors to the state as well as helping it portray a positive image. Like most state or city logos, the Wisconsin logo has ignited plenty of criticism, and even though I am absolutely no fan of the logo I thought I could debunk a couple of its publicly mocked misgivings.

Wisconsin Logo, Detail

The most common complaint is its cost, at $50,000 of tax payers’ money. The basic response is “$50,000 for that?” No, people, it’s not. $50,000 covers more than just coming up with a slogan, a typeface and an icon. But that has always been the problem of reporting costs when announcing a logo, people just assume the designers pocketed all the money. I can’t verify that the designers — in this case, Wisconsin-based Red Brown Klé — didn’t pocket all the money but I am pretty positive this was not a $50,000-fee identity job.

The other main complaint was the slogan, “Live like you mean it,” which has been used by other products, campaigns and, as has been quoted in articles, even by motivational speakers and authors. Gasp, the horror: “motivational speakers and authors” have used a common phrase before Wisconsin! What a travesty. Again, people criticizing this logo need to get a grip, the problem with the tag line isn’t that it has been used before but simply that it’s generic without any specificity to Wisconsin. But so is “I Love New York”, you can love any darn state, so why does “I Love New York” only work for New York? It’s about building that message in people’s heads and if Wisconsin wants to embed the thought of living life as if you meant it, so be it, give it a chance.

Then there is the matter of the logo itself: a man (a boy?) doing a cartwheel over one of the strangest typefaces I’ve ever seen. Some people are offended that it was a male doing the cartwheel, ostensibly emasculating the entire Wisconsin female population. Others are offended that it’s a clown representing the state, and that the logo will only work when promoting a circus coming to town. There are many formal problems with the logo, starting with the typeface, and then the colors, but the concept isn’t as bad as it was executed. There is a free-wheeling, fun, liberating implication made by someone doing a cartwheel that does match the slogan and you can’t blame the designers for trying to capture that, it was just unfortunately not well translated into a visual.

The logo is far from perfect, and I would be the first one in line to suggest changes, but I am constantly more appalled by the behavior of people in the media who suggest that they could have done it better, or that a contest paying $500 to the winner would have been better. And the problem isn’t the resulting design, but that the process of designing an identity is completely misunderstood and the media will be the first to exploit that. Anyway, just a side rant using this logo as a delivery. Go at it, I guess.



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