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Mentzer: Think you can design a better logo for Wausau? Let's see it. (column, with video)

12:30 AM, Jun. 19, 2013  |  Comments
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You know that thing where you stare for too long at a word and it starts to seem like not a word at all but some weird configuration of symbols that are familiar to you but not quite right?

That is the way it is with a logo when you see it for the first time. Especially, I think, when the logo is supposed to represent a whole city.

I did a bunch of reporting on community logos in 2010, when Marathon County was creating a new brand and logo for itself. Pretty much all the branding experts I talked to told me the same thing, which was that most of the time, when a new logo is unveiled, everyone hates it. It's unfamiliar and that's jarring. But part of the problem is that it's being seen out of context. Like that word that stops looking like a word, even the golden arches or the Swoosh can seem wrong if you stare at them for too long.

And sure enough, that is basically what happened when Wausau premiered its new city logo, which was designed by the local firm Adrenalign Marketing.

Daily Herald Media's online commenters picked it apart. (There were some positive comments, too.) At last week's meeting, City Council member Keene Winters called the logo "good, but not great." Enough council members agreed with him to prevent - or at least delay - the city's adoption of the logo. The council tabled the matter. Maybe they'll end up accepting it, but maybe not.

New logo needed

Let me say first of all that I like the new logo. I think promoting Wausau's downtown is a smart strategy; the skyline works for me. Someone with design sense on the Internet suggested that it would be better without the words' reflection at the bottom, and that seems right. But I'm pretty much on board.

A little bit of what the Internet calls "real talk," now: The old logo is not cutting it. It looks all right in full color, but in black and white (as on stationery, or on those little sidewalk images downtown) it looks like a series of overlapping blobs. And besides that, the pastoral images and "Welcome Home to Wausau" do not describe the city that we have in 2013, which is growing, diverse, active. Wausau is not Manhattan, but no longer are we a sleepy hamlet, either. That's not us, and it's not the image we ought to want to project.

So let's not ask "What was wrong with the old logo?" It is dated and bad. It needs to be updated and I for one applaud the city for taking the matter up.

Maybe you liked the version the city tried out, or maybe you hated it.

Maybe you think you could do better.

No, really. Could you do better?

Your design here

Why not try? I for one would love to see what our readers can do. So starting today, Daily Herald Media is announcing the "Design Wausau's Logo" contest.

Think a more pleasant, pastoral design is called for? Let's see it. Know just the right icon that symbolizes the city? Let's see that.

A wisegal commenter on our Facebook page suggested that, with all the recent controversy around funding the Humane Society, the logo "probably should show some stray cats in the skyline." Someone else suggested that what we needed was "perhaps something symbolizing the bike trails, international kayak appeal, proximity to the Ice Age Trail and The Grand." Which sounds ... complicated. But who knows? Maybe you could make it work.

Satirical or tongue-in-cheek designs are welcomed. They're encouraged. If you have serious design concepts, we'd love to see them, too. We'll publish a gallery of the logos we receive and let readers decide for themselves which ones are best. Email yours to opinion@wdhmedia.com.

Let's see what you've got, readers. Design Wausau's new logo for us.

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