Orange County Registrar of Elections uses their vehicles to promote voting | branding
By population, Orange County, California is the sixth largest county in the US. It's suburban sprawl sure. But full of cities that have a minimum population of 100,000.
I write a fair amount about how local governments can and do employ branding and identity systems to promote what they do. This particular piece, "Using the Purple Line to rebrand Montgomery and Prince George's Counties as Design Forward," comprehensively lists many of those posts.
Many governments fail to take advantage of the resources they have, such as the opportunity to utilize vehicles as rolling billboards. Some communities use their "garbage trucks" to promote environmental messages, but most don't.
DC Water (WASA) misting tent, Adams Morgan Day Street Festival
Here and there agencies stand out, using branding, clever logos, and identity programs to promote what they do, such as "DC Water," the rebranded DC Water and Sewer Authority.
But typically, even if one agency stands out in this way, this kind of approach to design and identity, unified through branding, doesn't extend across a government.
Sometimes too, there is criticism that this approach makes it harder to understand what government does.
For example, when the Portland Development Corporation, the redevelopment agency for the City of Portland, Oregon, renamed itself "Prosper Portland," Carl Abbott, a prominent urban historian criticized the move ("Public agencies shouldn't hide behind feel-good words," Portland Oregonian). From his op-ed:
The Portland Development Commission, a public agency whose name has lasted since 1958, is renaming itself "Prosper Portland." This is one more example of a perplexing trend. Public agencies in Oregon have been going stealth by adopting new names that mask their basic character.The OC Registrar of Elections has a consistent identity-branding system across their vehicles, brochures and other materials, and their community outreach program such as booths like this one at a farmers market in San Juan Capistrano.
Once we had an Oregon Department of Economic Development. Now we have "Business Oregon." It used to be clear that it was part of state government. Now it is easy to confuse with the private Oregon Business Council, which I assume is the reason for the name change.
Once we had a Housing Authority of Portland. Now we have "Home Forward," a name that doesn't conjure much of anything in the way of an image.
And now comes PDC turning itself into "Prosper Portland." I've been trying to figure out the grammatical implications. Is this an imperative statement that commands Portland to move forward: "Prosper Portland! Or else!" Get your act together and get moving. Or is it a fragment of a larger phrase like "Prosper Portland Style," which makes someone of my age think of the classic cinema comedy "Marriage Italian Style" starring the incomparable Sophia Loren?
Seriously, the pattern here is disturbing. What is lost in the name change is any acknowledgment that these organizations are parts of the apparatus of democratic government. Gone are "administration," "commission" and "department." Public agencies are hiding behind feel-good words like "progress" and "home" and trying to avoid the nation's testy anti-government mood.
They have a special election this week, which is one of the reasons they were out promoting voter registration.
Probably because it is increasingly difficult to get poll workers, they have a program where high school students can staff voting activities.