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Mentzer: Here are the Wausau city logo designs readers came up with (column, with gallery)

4:05 PM, Jul. 5, 2013  |  Comments

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The proposed new logo for the city of Wausau, which depicts Wausau's city skyline and uses a rainbow color scheme meant to reflect that of Marathon County's "Wisconsin Central Time" logo, when it was unveiled, got a huge reaction from Daily Herald Media readers. It was not all negative; some readers either liked the new logo or at least thought it was a big step up from the old, dated "Welcome Home to Wausau" logo.

But the basic upshot of the comments was that everybody had an opinion about what was wrong with the logo and what a better way to represent the city would be.

So it was in a kind of putting-your-money-where-your-mouth-is spirit that I wrote a column last month opening up a call to readers to submit their own designs for the city logo.

Here's what they came up with.

Designers don't like this

I should note that the contest also triggered a not-unsubstantial freak out from Wausau-area designers, in part because of a misunderstanding that this was actually something the city was doing to get a new logo, not just a dumb idea by a local newspaper writer.

"Spec work contests like this, wherein people are expected to provide a free product that may not be used, don't work," wrote Andy Laub, who is a friend of mine. "Local designers who are talented enough to deliver a solid product are unlikely to (and shouldn't!) waste otherwise billable hours on a project for a clearly unappreciative and difficult client."

By which he means, I guess, the public.

There is really no arguing that the public is a difficult and unappreciative client. Ask a public servant how appreciated he or she typically feels - or ask any politician if it's easy to align the various desires and priorities of her constituency. Or read online comments.

But in my opinion, designers needn't have worried. We had some good, fun designs submitted, as well as some that were clearly tongue-in-cheek. But are any of them likely to inspire unanimous agreement among commentors or City Council members? It seems unlikely.

And along with the designs themselves came a lot of rough sketches and a few phone calls from people who wanted to describe an idea, not draw it. Which is fine, except that it's the actual designing that is the trick.

"You know how Wisconsin looks like a hand?" one caller asked. "Use the hand. And it could say, 'We're the palm of Wisconsin.'"

Well, it's an idea.

What readers came up with

We received a trio of "serious" entries, from Teng Lee, Pakou Lee and John Thao. I liked the relative simplicity of Teng Lee's design, a black-and-white design that depicts the top of the Dudley Tower. And Pakou Lee's design has a nice narrative element with it, with a representation of the seasons of the year as we experience them here.

And, of course, since we said we embraced tongue-in-cheek designs, we also received one that played on City Council member David Nutting's recent reference to Wausau's gay community as "deviant-behaving individuals." The design depicts Nutting putting on a Mister Rogers sweater, standing before a bright rainbow, with the tagline "Mr. Nutting's Neighborhood."

Bravo.

Laub also took a logo he had designed for the blog Citizen Wausau, crossed out "Citizen" and asked if he won. When I told him it could work, he said his invoice to the city would be forthcoming.

If there are any lessons in all this, maybe they are that there are as many ideas as there are designers, that every design is going to have its strengths and weaknesses and that the journey from idea - maybe something that uses the hand? - to actual design is a long one. Turns out designing a logo is far from simple.

I liked seeing the submissions we received, and thank everyone who took the time. I'm also looking forward to hearing what other readers think about the submissions.

But, really? Honestly? Maybe Wausau is probably better off with the new logo it got.

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