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Slogans and Logos - Time for a Change?

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle last week (see below) got me thinking once again that it might be time to move on from Richmond’s enigmatic logo and slogan.


The City’s slogan is “City of Pride and Purpose,” and its logo (above) is, well, whatever you want it to be. Some people see a bird, others a sail. Some see an arrow. The logo was born, rumor has it, when a 1970s redevelopment director, Lance Burris, needed something to dress up a report and had a staff person whip up what became the City’s logo these past 30 years.



We had a different logo for our centennial year (below), which was refreshing. But we can’t use it anymore, unless we take out the words “centennial,” which would look weird.


It seems every city has a slogan, and so should Richmond. Click here for a comprehensive list of city slogans. The origin of the slogan, “City of Pride and Purpose,” is more obscure, but so is the logo itself. People struggle to discern its meaning. Pride, being one of the seven deadly sins, doesn’t seem to be a good start for a slogan. And as for purpose – what purpose?


I tend to like city slogans that are rooted in place and history. What better slogan for Richmond than “We Can Do It!” the words found on one of the best known graphics in the United States, the Rosie the Riveter recruiting poster.


No other city currently claims this slogan, and with Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park being located in Richmond, we have a unique claim to the words. And the words have meaning today, just as they did over 60 years ago when Richmond actually  “did it” and became the home of the largest shipyard in the world, producing 747 ships in the time it would take to complete an environmental impact report today. The slogan is a message of both hope and confidence and suits Richmond well. It provides an instant positive association when people see or read it, and it actually means something. The trendsetting multi-racial, multi-ethnic and bi-gender composition of the shipyard workforce is well suited to the diversity we celebrate in Richmond today.


Regarding a logo, I tend to favor reaching back over 100 years to Richmond’s original 1905 seal. It has all the right images, including water and hills, a ship, a train and a building (a condo?). All present today as they were in 1905. In fact, I am having it placed on my city business card in lieu of that silly looking bird thing.


I would like to hear from E-FORUM readers what you think about the City of Richmond’s logo and slogan, and whether or not it’s time for a change.
San Francisco Chronicle
June 30, 2008
By Peter Hartlaub
The drive down Highway 101 from San Francisco can be mind-numbing, especially when you get in that everything-looks-exactly-the-same zone between Salinas and San Luis Obispo. But just as the journey reaches its most depressing and desolate point, I know I can count on one good laugh, in billboard form: 
"It's Happening in Soledad!" 
And if you drive into Soledad, you'll run into a smaller, but no less optimistic sign: "City of Soledad ... Feel the Momentum."
The point isn't to ridicule the fine, hardworking people of Soledad, who, for the most part, have been able to keep the inhabitants of the nearby maximum security prison from running rampant throughout the state. But Soledad does highlight how, with a few exceptions, city mottos are laughably ridiculous - as if they were all written by Christopher Guest.
City slogans are no doubt created to market the city for tourists, lure in new industries and often promote population growth. But in many cases it can only have the opposite effect. Has anything good come for Eagle Pass, Texas, since it introduced the city slogan "Where Yee-Haw meets Olé"?
San Diego is the latest city to unveil its new campaign: "San Diego: 365 Days of Ahhhhhhh!" - a motto that brings up more questions than answers. If that was the best it could come up with, what were the rejected slogans? Did someone actually bill the city for the work on this motto? Why use seven "h's" in "Ahhhhhhh," as opposed to 10 or even 20? "365 Days of Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" sounds even more relaxing. Book me a flight today! 
There was a great episode of "Weeds" in the second season, in which the Kevin Nealon stoner councilman character points out that the city can't afford a new stoplight because it blew all its money on the new motto: "Agrestic: Best of the Bestic." The thing is, that slogan is a lot better than several real city mottos, which presumably weren't named by Hollywood screenwriters searching for a laugh. (See: "The Aliens aren't the only reason to visit!," Roswell, N.M.).
City slogans are so frequently bad that it's almost shocking when someone gets it right. No matter how much it has been done to death, the Las Vegas "What Happens Here Stays Here" motto was genius. And the Bay Area has at least one classic with "It's Great to Be Alive in Colma!" It must be so much easier to live in a place with hundreds of thousands of dead bodies buried within the city limits, knowing that your town leaders have a sense of humor.
Unfortunately, too many cities opt for what amounts to false advertising. No doubt there are many fine people living in Soledad. God bless every one. But I would guess that even a few longtime residents would acknowledge there is absolutely nothing happening there, unless you want to count a high school production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." 
"Livable, Lovable Lodi" is another city motto that seems a little desperate, perhaps because that Creedence Clearwater Revival song has forever put city leaders in an impossible marketing position. They could build an art museum more prestigious than the Louvre, open 10 new four-star restaurants and lure the Boston Celtics into town, and people would still sing the words "Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again" as they roll past the Central Valley city on Highway 99. 
In the Bay Area, the city slogans aren't much better. A good 50 percent of them seem to start with "Gateway to the ..." ("Gateway to the Silicon Valley," "Gateway to the Peninsula," "Gateway to the Delta"), which need to be replaced. All being a gateway does is remind potential tourists that there's something better one town over. 
Here are a few more Bay Area city slogans in need of an update: 
"The Industrial City," South San Francisco: OK, I get it. You're the Industrial City. Now just once in my lifetime could I drive northbound on Interstate 280 and not have to be reminded of it in giant white concrete letters? Get rid of the sign and plant some flowers on the hillside.
"Climate Best by Government Test," Redwood City: I've long been confused by this motto, printed on an archway in the city. Apparently, this is based on climate surveys that were taken by the U.S. and German governments before World War I, which seems a bit outdated. We're guessing that because of global warming, the climate center has shifted northward, somewhere around San Bruno.
"It's All the Name Implies," Pleasanton: While I'm not sure it's grammatically correct, I sort of like this one. I was even thinking about buying one of the key chains that's for sale online. (Seriously, there are T-shirts, too.) But then I found out that Paradise (Butte County) already has the moniker "All Its Name Implies." There's only one way to resolve this: Thunderdome.
"City of Opportunity," Vallejo:After becoming the largest city in state history to declare bankruptcy, it's probably time for Vallejo to get rid of the "City of Opportunity" sign visitors see when they drive into town. An eBay auction seems appropriate.
As for Soledad, I would ditch the things-are-looking-up platitudes and take the Colma route with the city slogan. Something like "Happy to be free in Soledad!" Now that's a billboard that might inspire me to stop and grab a Big Mac
The Bay Area's city slogans need a revamp, and we have a few suggestions. First and foremost, cities should be honest about their strengths and shortcomings. And never be afraid to use exclamation points! 
Vallejo: Chapter 9 ... But Doing Fine!"
Oakland: Have you seen our mayor? Seriously, we're getting kind of worried that he might have fallen down a well or something."
Pacifica: "No Sunscreen? No Problem!"
Berkeley: "Making San Francisco Look Less Crazy Since 1878"
Emeryville: "Ikea is Your-kea" (or maybe just "Affordable Solutions for Better Living")
Hillsborough: "Where even the help has help"
Mountain View: "Def Leppard Has Played Here 165 Times!"
San Francisco: "Without Us, Bill O'Reilly Would Have Nothing to Talk About"