While assistant to the city manager Joellen Haines requested that Birmingham city commissioners approve a request at their Monday, April 23, meeting to direct staff to issue a request for proposal (RFP) to solicit a professional firm to create a new city logo, after a lengthy debate, commissioners took no action and sent Haines back to work with staff to first create a new RFP.
City commissioners in July 2016 approved a rebranding initiative involving McCann Detroit and the Birmingham Ad Hoc Brand Development Committee to establish a new brand through a new logo that communicated the city’s image in a positive, evolving and refreshing way. She said McCann was chosen to create a logo to represent Birmingham “today, and where it is going.”
However, a year later the commissioners felt the logos presented were a “work in progress,” which needed to be refined. One design element included an icon of the Marshall Fredericks sculpture located in Shain Park, with Birmingham: A Walkable City, in classic typeface, which was preferred by the agency and the ad hoc committee, but the commission felt no one could identify it. Others were deemed too generic.
The current city logo features a tree.
In January, the city, under Haines direction, conducted an online survey which included five previous logos, two new ones with a tree logo and the city's existing logo, to gauge public opinion.
“It was one of our most popular surveys, with more than 1,700 responses. We got a lot of positive responses from people,” Haines said. “I'm here to present the data and move the process forward.”
She said the top three designs had trees in them. “Everyone loves trees. They identify trees with Birmingham,” she said.
She proposed the next step would be to “take the binder full of data and issue an RFP to finish the process we've begun to have a firm finish the process.”
“An RFP to move forward is open-ended. Are you asking for direction? Can you be more specific,” said commissioner Mark Nickita.
“A draft RFP to the commission so the commission can respond back on the survey,” Haines responded.
“It's not based on the survey – it's just a part of the work over 15 months,” countered Nickita. “You're saying you're asking a consultant to incorporate it into a new logo.”
“I think this is going right back where we were a year-and-a-half ago. We did issue an RFP, had a firm, and had a committee,” said commissioner Rackeline Hoff. “We've had one of the best advertising agencies in the world, and we didn't agree on the logo. I think the data is more confusing. I don't think we're going anywhere.”
“Do we want to change the logo?” asked mayor pro tem Patty Bordman.
“What's the motivation for a new logo? I'm seeing a dearth of motivation for a new logo,” said mayor Andy Harris.
“I think historically it was from the city commission,” said city manager Joe Valentine. “There were a lot of communities doing new logos two or three years ago. There's a lot of talent in town and we thought we should redesign.”
“It's our brand. Personally, I think it's subpar,” Nickita said. “Having something like this for 30 years or so is where it began. I for one feel if Royal Oak and Ferndale and other communities can upgrade theirs, so can we.”
“Some logos endure for decades and decades and suffice,” noted Harris.
“I recommend we give Joellen the opportunity to put together an RFP for us to see. I believe we can get there. It's our job,” said Nickita.