Minneapolis and its tagline, "City of Lakes," with single sailboat and off-centered tittles

At 10:00AM on March 4, the Executive Committee of Minneapolis will be voting on whether or not to accept the proposed rebranding for the city. While there are issues with the technical execution of the design (credit to @uppercasem on Twitter for noting the tittles on the “i”s are not centered–can’t unsee–and aside from those, the font itself is the same as that used by the Minneapolis Convention Center), I believe that the proposed rebranding should be denied in favor of a better and more inclusive process. Beyond the information I share in my open letter below, I would like to stress the importance of visual identity in articulating who is in/excluded and what we as a city value. It helps shape the conversations we have and it is part of what sets the tone and the direction that we take.

Dear [Elected Public Official],

I am writing to you today to respectfully request that you DENY implementation of the new visual identity and graphics standard. Rebranding has substantial social capital and financial costs. In light of ongoing conversations about our local identity and and who has been excluded from our successes, this is of particular importance right now. A rebranding should be inclusive of all Minneapolitans.

This redesign of the visual identity has answered “is this the nicest sailboat to represent our city?” but we should be asking “what is the story we want to tell about our city and who we are?”

Sailboats, whether one or two, tell only part of Minneapolis’ story. They’re a luxury hobby, with limited access for those in Minneapolis (380 slips in 3 lakes clustered in wealthiest part of the city, short season, $450 annual access fee, prerequisite: must already own sailboat). Less than one tenth of one percent of Minneapolitans could have a sailboat in our city.

A sailboat doesn’t speak to Minneapolis as a city of water: creeks, the Mississippi, AND lakes. It doesn’t hint at our innovation, our diversity, our commitment to community, our healthy lifestyles, our environmental sustainability, our acceptance and open-mindedness, or any of the characteristics that make Minneapolis great.

Updating Minneapolis’ visual identity provides an ideal opportunity to look at who we are as a city and who we want to be. It’s a time to reach out to all residents and start a dialogue about what it means to be part of Minneapolis. As the Department of Communications will explain, a visual identity has many functions, but first and foremost it tells the story of Minneapolis as a way to strengthen social inclusion/cohesion internally and to increase visibility externally.

In this proposed visual identity, standard design procedures of on-the-ground market and audience research appear to have been neglected. When the city rebrands, it needs to be done in a way that seeks out the voices of all Minneapolitans so that our visual identity reflects the best of us as a city. Otherwise Minneapolis itself–through its logo and branding–is part of what divides us rather than brings us together.

Minneapolis skyline from the south, clear skies, refracted through a prism

6 thoughts on “Dear Minneapolis

  1. You make a great case for rethinking this logo. If I were a Minneapolitan, I too would be aghast. I know there are lakes, but “City of Lakes” seems to leave out everything that makes a city a city.

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  5. I think a sailboat is a good symbol for Mpls. You can’t represent all
    the great things. It is relatively unique. And it has been long
    established and changing does detract from it’s function as an image
    (depending on how much change).

    I do agree with Julia that relatively few people in Minneapolis have
    been on a sail boat but I do not agree that it need be costly to do
    so. One of my first exposures to sailing was a Parks Dept class on
    Lake Calhoun. Little boats are fun. For a number of years I
    organized a sailing coop with a little boat on a bouy at Lake Calhoun.
    It allowed me to sail but few other members sailed much tho they
    signed up for years – intentions and desires were greater than what
    they actually got around to. I think it would be great to have
    opportunities at events where people could just get a ride on a sail
    boat with a path to learn / do more. Kind of like what Wilderness
    Inquiry has done with canoes at events.

    Sailing is something more people should do. Have you read the book
    _Swallows and Amazons_ by Arthur Ransome about young people’s sailing
    adventures English Lake District?

    Rather than dismiss sailing as a luxury (only) we should encourage
    sailing along with swimming. Too few people – particularly inner city
    kids – know how to swim these days.

    Fred H. Olson Minneapolis,MN 55411 USA (near north Mpls)
    Email: fholson at cohousing.org 612-588-9532
    My Link Pg: http://fholson.cohousing.org My org:
    Communications for Justice — Free, superior listserv’s w/o ads

    • I appreciate the perspective, Fred, but I respectfully disagree that sailing is accessible or that a sailboat or two is a good, unique representation of Minneapolis. Regardless of the value of sailing as a sport, it’s a summer activity that is out of financial and geographic accessibility (it’s about an hour by bus from NoMi and Nordeast to the closest of the three sailing lakes) for most Minneapolitans to partake in regularly.

      The bigger issue to me is one of design. Graphic design is about context and audience as well as visual imagery. In the redesign, both context and audience have been totally ignored, especially Minneapolis’ historically (and currently) excluded and disenfranchised communities. Good design solves a problem or strengthens an identity, rather than worsening it. That’s the crux of my opposition to using a sailboat while totally ignoring the actual life of Minneapolis–its successes and its failures.

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