M is for Melbourne
24th July, 2009 by Lesley High
If you were a Melbournian, an avid follower of design blogs, twitter or national media this week, a story about the rebranding of the City of Melbourne by Landor probably caught your attention. So much has been written about the new logo, that it reminds me of the controversial Qantas rebrand in 2007.
The new logo and brand identity was unveiled on July 21st, with Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle providing the rationale behind the new identity:
“The ‘M’ design will become an icon for Melbourne, synonymous with the modern, vibrant, cool city Melbourne is today and will continue to be in the future. The new identity will deliver more impact, be stronger, more flexible and reduce confusion as to who is delivering services. It will build greater long term identification and align with best practice around the world. The new brand is strong and leading edge and will be instantly recognised as belonging to the City of Melbourne.” (Press release)
Melbourne city council has been criticised in various media for spending nearly a quarter of a million dollars on the ‘new logo’ which replaces the old logo, designed in the 1990’s by Australian designer Richard Henderson.
Here are just a few of the headlines:
‘Branding Australian cities: pride of place or pointless PR?” Ruth Brown - Crikey.com
“Fancy a letter? How about this one for just $240,000 …” Anson Cameron - The Age
“Melbourne City Council spends $240,000 on new logo” Matt Johnston - The Herald Sun
Academic Mark Ritson said about the Qantas rebrand at the time: “Whenever a company changes its identity, most of the media coverage is always negative. If the new identity is too radical, journalists hammer the organisation for bad design. If the new identity is an incremental update, the media accuses the organisation of wasting money.
Of course, the various articles drew the usual raft of simplistic public comments, generally around the theme that someones 4 year old daughter/14 year old son could have designed it in 5 minutes or that the money would have been better spent policing Melbourne’s streets or providing shelter for the homeless.
Other comments along the lines of “my mate Dave is a Graphic Designer and could have done it for $10,000” or that a design competition should have been run, offering students a $20,000 prize for their winning design - were also pretty common.
Vunny, commenting on crikey.com, however, gave the rebrand a big thumbs up:
“I wish people would stop applying 1980s prices to 2009 services. Personally I love the logo because it’s a great representation of all things Melbourne. Multifaceted and a jewel to those who grow to know and love the city. I also love it because it’s a courageous decision and it’s controversial. It makes people talk, it makes people think, unites and divides as art should and Melbourne is a work of art”.
The reaction from designers was mixed - while some were positive about the design, many bemoaned the fact that the job went to a Sydney based multi-national. I must admit, with the wealth of design talent in Melbourne, this may be a valid question.
Regardless of all the generalisations about designers, this rebrand raises some crucial questions about how as a nation we value design. Does the general public understand what sort of work goes into a company rebrand, and importantly what we as designers actually do? What processes we follow? How many people are involved in a project like this?
As one Herald Sun blogger apted remarked:
“ Its very easy to bag a logo when its plonked on a website, but $240k doesn’t just get you a logo, it gets you a brand. The logo is just one part of that. Its like say you paid a million dollars for a Ferrari and just show the badge.”
Melbourne’s Studio Pip and Co’s blog claims that this is yet another case of ‘brand bashing’:
“Australians love to bash a new logo, or brand. Often a new design will enjoy a raft of public comments during a brand launch which include: that brands cost too much, we don’t like or understand the design, can’t public money be spent in better ways, designers are fat cats swanning around in black clothes, appartments and cafés.”
It also goes on to ask why the job wasn’t offered to a local design firm, and talks about the current fascination with rebranding:
“Changing brands is becoming very popular with the captains of industry and politicians, as it is a way demonstrating change and their regime swiftly – within a few weeks a brand brief can be developed, designers appointed, designs conceived, research undertaken, websites banners and business cards made, and re brand launch arrangements made.
I am also concerned that brands are fast becoming a quick fix tool used for political agendas. One feels that a brand is above agendas and represents the essence of an organisation and in turn has a life that should spans ten to thirty years. The impact of an individual as compared to the essence of a community operate on different time scales. These time scales requires brand managers who foster the bigger picture, rather than the fashion, trends or whims of a time”.
In the blog Brand New - Opinions on Corporate and Brand Identity Work, Armin offered his opinion:
“Of course, any dollar amount ignites ire in people and it’s so easy to say “$A240,000 for a fat blocky M?”. Yes, that’s what things cost people, get over it”
If this M was shown with the whole process undertaken and the breadth and depth of the thinking needed to implement over a whole organisation as well as all the various applications, maybe the wider public would have a better understanding of its value.
At the end of the day a brand is more than a logo on a letterhead. In order to understand what this logo could be it we need to see how it is used by the city of Melbourne in the future.
Is it far too early to make this sort of judgement?
And, how do we educate people about what sort of processes we follow as designers? And, what is actually involved in a substantial rebrand like this?
What do you think about the new City of Melbourne logo? What do you think about the public reaction?
Tell us about it!
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