Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Great concept, but I don't love the videos: Orlando's "Discover Your Urban" promotion campaign

A very early blog post of mine (late in December I passed 10,000 entries, although some are reprints, and others mostly just a photo, but even so it represents a body of work of many millions of words) from February 2005 is "Town-City branding or 'We are all destination managers now'," where I make the point that those of us in commercial district revitalization, urban revitalization, tourism development, cultural planning, economic development, etc., are "brand managers" for our communities.

Later I extended this idea in a couple commercial district revitalization framework plans I did for two small communities, Brunswick, Georgia and Cambridge, Maryland, where I wrote:
Just as the study team believes that “we are all destination managers now,” elected and appointed officials in particular and in association with other community stakeholders serve as a community’s “brand managers”—whether or not they choose to think of their roles in this manner.

That means that decision-making on land use and zoning, business issues, infrastructure development (roads, sewers, water, utilities, transit), technology (broadband Internet, etc.) and quality of place factors (arts, culture, historic preservation and heritage, education, public schools and libraries, etc.) must be consistent and focused on making the right decisions, the decisions that collectively achieve and support the realization of the community’s desired vision and positioning.
Richmond Virginia probably has one of the best branding frameworks in the country. Years ago I came across a "design identity system book" for Richmond, produced by the art and design program at Virginia Commonwealth University.  See "Can The Old South Rebrand Itself? Richmond Tries, With A Dynamic New Logo," Fast Company, and "Sticking it to Richmond: the origin and future of the RVA sticker," RVANews, although recognize that a "logo" is only one element of a brand.

-- RVA Creates

And if you work with campaigns, or sign onto campaigns, it's not unusual for an identity system to be in place, with constraints on how you can use logos and other identification elements.

Were DC to develop the concept of brand management for the city, such a document would have to be produced. (This isn't the Richmond branding guide I found--which is buried somewhere in my files or piles of stuff that need to be filed--but it's comparable.)

I came across the "Discover Your Urban" campaign from the Downtown Orlando organization and while I think the execution in videos is too wacky for my tastes--featuring players from the town's hockey team, I guess because "snow-related sports" would be the last thing that comes to your mind when thinking about Orlando, Florida--the tagline is super strong as are the print-based materials.

According to Jen Hiatt, the chief designer and Graphics Supervisor for the City of Orlando's Office of Communications when the campaign was originally developed:
This work was done in conjunction with the Downtown Development Board marketing team during my tenure at the City, most notably Kelly Allen, the Downtown Orlando Marketing Coordinator. While I developed the creative concepts and design for the campaign, I cannot take credit for all the hard work invested by others on the concept, tagline, content, advertising/marketing plans, photography and award-winning videography.
What I find very interesting is how as Graphics Supervisor, Ms. Hiatt acted as a "brand manager" for the city within the position and the Office of Communications & Neighborhood Relations. According to Ms. Hiatt's resume:
Daily responsibilities included developing overarching vision for the City’s brand and marketing initiatives; designing marketing collateral for the City’s initiatives, programs and events while coordinating with City departments, including the Office of the Mayor, on marketing initiatives and brand development. Also assists with digital branding, including website conception and design.
I find that conceptualization of the "job" as graphics supervisor very interesting.

For all the talk of cities and reformulating how they approach information technology, innovation, and data (e.g., in Boston "Walsh appoints Haverhill native as city's first chief data officer," Boston Globe; "Chief Innovation Officers in State and Local Government," Government Technology), cities need to be reconceptualizing how they think about, implement, and execute their communications program, using the design method and process--managing the city's brand and "brand promise," but through the lens of authenticity, not merely "selling." (Note that no brand manager would ever say that they are focused merely on selling.)

-- Orlando, Free Time, video
-- While Staying Downtown, video

What strikes me about the RVA logotype is how versatile it is in so many different applications.  I am not particularly enamored with the DC Cool campaign, see "I don't get DC's visitor marketing ad campaign at all, for the same reason I don't like the Downtown Orlando videos, because neither the DC ads nor the Orlando ones accurately captures either city's identity and authenticity--and note I came across the Orlando ad on tv, during a rebroadcast of the Citrus Bowl Parade.

It might be just that I am a fuddy-duddy, having written a couple years ago ("Area Tourism Development") about the Pure Michigan campaign and Visit Fairfax video, which I think does a good job of capturing the variety of elements that characterize Fairfax County, although it's not quite so punchy as a 30-second ad.

Many states have strong marketing and tourism development programs.  Ones that stick out besides Pure Michigan ("State: Pure Michigan campaign prompted 4.6 million trips in 2015," Crain's Detroit Business) are Utah's Life Elevated ("Utah chooses slogan: 'Life elevated'," Adweek) and the Love New York state marketing program ("'I Love New York' Campaign, 30 Years Old, Gets Web Push," New York Times).

Still, these campaigns remind me the importance of reiterating a couple of my thoughts about graphic design, the design process, and urban planning, that:

(1) I have argued that cities need a "Graphic Design" element in their master plans

-- Design as city branding: transit edition
-- City (and university) branding: brand deposits; brand withdrawals; brand destruction
-- Georgetown: A subtle but important difference between branding and identity-positioning--- Identity ≠ branding or Authenticity is the basis of identity
-- The taxi livery debacle as a lead in to a broader discussion of the importance of "design" to DC's "brand promise
-- Illustration of government and design thinking: Boston's City Hall to Go truck
-- (DC) Neighborhoods and commercial districts as brands

(2) the design method may be superior to the "rational planning methodology" for planning but also for thinking about how to deliver public services

-- Social Marketing the Arlington (and Tower Hamlets and Baltimore" way
-- All the talk of e-government, digital government, and open source government is really about employing the design method
-- Best practice bicycle planning for suburban settings using the "action planning" method
-- A DC [Government agency] example of branded communications

I have come across a couple of planning firms that use the design method and process in their approach to planning projects, including Arnett Muldrow.

(3) I haven't gotten around to writing about the opportunity for universities in creating "graphic design studios" comparable to the community planning and architecture design studios that typically exist, such as the Nashville Civic Design Center or the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative program by Kent State University, to work with community programs on communications and design matters.

-- Graphic design, advocacy, and social marketing

One example of a program that does that kind of work is Artists for Humanity in Boston, and depending on the term, some of the design studios at MICA in Baltimore.

-- Boston Hubway Bike share program expands presence in Roxbury neighborhood: insights into transportation equity
-- Engaged civic planning efforts

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At 6:30 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...


At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lake Eola? It makes me think of Ebola. or E-Coli.


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