Progress on a new logo for the city of Shawnee stalled earlier this month after some city councilmembers complained they were angry and disappointed they didn’t get enough input into the nine-month-long process.
‘Hometown with Heart’ is new proposed tagline
In what was to be the final update at the city council meeting Jan. 9, Kansas City marketing firm Crux KC presented its recommendation for a new logo – a circular image with a sun shining on rolling green fields and the words “Hometown with Heart” above the city’s name.
The company also presented some other iterations of that logo, featuring a Ferris wheel, horse and wagon and a farm truck on the fields.
The item was tabled after objections from Councilmembers Tony Gillette and Tammy Thomas, who disliked the idea of having only one image and its variations to vote on.
Two councilmembers upset about process
Gillette said he’d specified at previous meetings that the council should get to decide on all seven of the marketer’s preliminary logo designs, rather than voting the final recommendation up or down.
“I saw a lot of good, but I didn’t see choices and it made me very angry,” Gillette said.
Several on the council said they had nothing against the design itself, but the councilmembers who objected seemed more upset with the way the final recommendation came about.
However, the lateness of their request for more consideration could mean additional cost.
Firm gathered resident feedback for new logo
The focal point of the rebranding of Shawnee is to create a new logo that would eventually replace the 12-year-old “Good Starts Here” on everything from banners, to coffee cups to city vehicles.
The current logo also features a green but leafless tree. That tree is the thing that Mayor Michelle Distler said she has received the most negative comments about, referring to it as “the dead tree.”
Crux confirmed that general opinion after gathering feedback from 12 small groups, six “pop-up” events, seven community events and more than 700 surveys.
Residents who remembered the logo and disliked the tree tended also not to think “good” was strongly positive enough, or that the fonts used on the current logo were eye-catching enough.
Still, the overall response to the city’s current logo was mostly neutral, with 46% having a negative view of it, according to their results.
Mayor-appointed group recommended a final design
Crux drew up seven alternatives for a new logo, and a special panel of nine people appointed by Distler whittled it down to a final recommendation.
Distler told the council at the Jan. 9 meeting that she tried to appoint residents with a variety of experience.
The panel consisted of Distler, police officer Justin Graham, Battalion Fire Chief Darrin Nelson, deputy city manager Caitlin Gard, park and recreation director Tonya Lecuru, city communications director Julie Breithaupt, Visit Shawnee director Kevin Fern, Chamber of Commerce president Ann Smith-Tate and artist Bryan Thomas.
Some councilmembers objected to the fact that no one from the council was on the panel, and that so many members of the panel were employed by the city.
“Some of that input could have been given had you had the right people in that echo chamber you’ve been sitting in,” Thomas said to Distler.
Gillette questioned marketing firm’s contract
The city has reserved $300,000 in its budget for the rebranding. Crux’s contract, awarded last spring, was for $127,200, with the remainder available for the city to spend on installing the new logo.
Gillette was especially unhappy because he said he made the option of councilmembers choosing among multiple logos a condition of his vote when the contract was awarded last year.
A check with the audio of the meeting on March 28, 2022, shows that Thomas asked and was reassured that councilmembers would see the options.
Gillette at that meeting asked whether the council would make the final decision. However, no one ever specified that a vote on all options would be written into a final contract. Most of the discussion then was on the cost and whether a new logo was needed.
At a later meeting, Sept. 12, both Gillette and Councilmember Eric Jenkins pressed for a chance to look at all seven designs and were advised by Breithaupt and Distler that it’s much harder to get consensus the more people are involved in more choices. That informational meeting took place after the marketing firm had already been hired.
City may have to pay more to continue logo talks
Since Crux has apparently fulfilled its end of its contract, the council must now decide how much more work they can ask for before it may need to spend more money.
“If this is another $50,000 the public needs to know,” Distler said.
Starting over from scratch is not an option, a company representative at the Jan. 9 meeting said.
Even going back to the three-on-one meetings council members had with marketers earlier in the process could involve substantially more time, the representative added. However, Crux officials indicated a willingness to add a few more hours.
New logo has been tabled for now
Councilmembers voted unanimously to table the discussion and come back to it later.
Others said they wanted to be unified when it came to the logo.
“I don’t want our brand to be something that’s divisive and controversial,” said Councilmember Jill Chalfie.
Jenkins, who still expressed doubts about the need for a new logo, said, “At $300,000 a pop, I hope we can get our act together and come up with one that works for a while.”
Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist who reports frequently for the Post and other Kansas City area publications. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.