Much ado about logos or, blogs as bully pulpits

There it is. The logo that launched a thousand negative social media comments, and a few positive ones. It's the new design for the state's Tourism and Commerce Corporation. That is, it's meant to do two things: attract tourists and new business.

The tourism video landed many more positive responses, but was pulled from YouTube when it was discovered that one of the scenes was filmed in Iceland. That was cause for further online outrage.

Other than the tagline: "Cooler & Warmer," the biggest cause of agita was that the $5-million dollar project went to an out-of-state firm. The logo itself was designed by Milton Glaser, of "I  NY" fame. Having grown up in New York when the campaign was launched, it was almost second nature for me to call this blog "I {heart} Rhody," adding the brackets to symbolize a hug.

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I know everyone's holding their breath, waiting for my opinion, so here goes:

I {heart} Rhody. For so many reasons, they couldn't possibly fit into a pithy, graphically intriguing logo. Even so, I think this new logo fails its mission on some basic levels.

First, the design itself seems very retro to me. It's not the kind of thing that points to the future. The obvious sailboat triangle is derivative and unimaginative. I don't love the colors, either, though color preference is too subjective to deduct points.

Second, even with the slogan, the logo doesn't do what it's meant to do, which is make people want to come here. It's just bad logo design when you have to explain it.

The slogan itself generates more questions than it answers. "Cooler & Warmer?" Than what, or who, or where? What does it mean? Again, turn to the explanation. But slogans shouldn't have to do that, either. Also, are you really cool or warm, if you have to tell people that you are?

Honestly, I didn't care for the tourism video, either. Visually, it's beautiful, but the voiceover is wrong. The script makes it sound like the state is cheering up its residents, not convincing people and visitors to come here. It sounds like a "please don't leave me" piece.

The narrator also has a slight accent that I've seen described as Southern, though I wouldn't call it that. But it's not Rhode Island, and it's not American Midwest Standard (my phrase for what you hear mostly on TV and in the movies). The narrator has a lisp that's distracting.  They should have gotten the narrator from this video of two years ago, which suspiciously seems to have some similar clips.



Also, it would make more sense to have a video for tourism and one to attract businesses. Tourists don't come here for the same reason that businesses would. Trying to shoehorn information for both groups makes parts of the video pointless for each group.

Most tourists won't care that we manufacture here, or have great creative design firms (hint hint). Most businesses won't care about our wild and crazy nightlife, unless they're hoping their employees will show up for work hung-over.

Finally, I have to agree that sending the work out-of-state is not just insulting to the artistic community here, but also counterintuitive to the message. I've seen suggestions that there should have been a competition for logo design within the state. The winning design's artist would get recognition, and feature in part of the marketing effort. Letting the public vote on the design would have generated local buy-in.

Finally, the hashtag: #WeAreRI. Written like that, it's fine. But most hashtags are all lower-case. Then we get #weareri. Is that Wear RI? Weary RI? Wear Eri? Lots of chances for misinterpretation. Such is the problem with multi-word hashtags in general.

I think the state missed the mark on a lot of this campaign so far. But it's early days, and the willingness to invest in tourism and business-attraction is a good thing. Rhode Island is cool enough, and warm enough, to rise above misguided marketing.

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