There is a principle known as Brandolini’s Law. I’m trying to run a family program here, so look it up to understand how it applies to what I am about to write about. I was pointed to some media reports and a Facebook thread about the City’s work on updating its logo, and the conversation is spiraling with misinformation. But in a vacuum of better information, this is inevitable, so I’ll take a bit of time to address the denominator of the Brandolini equation.

“The City is spending Half a Million on Rebranding to get rid of the Royal City”  is not an accurate description of the report that came to Council on Monday, so let me unpack a bit.

Here is the City Logo:

This logo was approved in 2008, during Mayor Wayne Wright’s second term. The old logo (a crest featuring the City’s Coat of Arms – you can still see it on some older City vehicles and equipment, which actually becomes important later in this story) was replaced by what we mostly use now, a St. Edwards Crown pictogram and a serif typeface. It looks a bit dated now, but was probably informed by the 150th anniversary of the City being imminent. It is a product of its time.

The City has been talking about a new logo for most of a year now. It was a topic of discussion through the last municipal election (perhaps an over-played hand), and in the 2023 budget discussions. Council actually approved this path forward back in June of 2023, but the roll-out has been slow due to staff priorities being elsewhere. Staff are now ready to move forward and wanted to inform Council before they went to the public.

By “move forward”, they mean hire a design consultant, and start a public consultation. This is envisioned as a two-phase consultation, where a committee of community members will be assembled to guide the consultation, and they will bring the larger public in through a full public engagement process. Council would need to approve any final design, and staff will need to guide the consultation, but the goal here is to have the public lead with the ideas, setting a vision, and working with a graphic designer to develop those into a refreshed logo. We have $40,000 in the budget to fund this work. Public consultation takes time if you want to do it right, and it takes a bit of an investment in this time.

There has been a $450,000 number thrown around about the cost of the rebranding, which needs to be clarified. Staff were asked last June what the “total cost to replace all letter head, decals, signs, etc.” and provided this response to Council in a public report:

“In response to Council’s questions regarding costs to rebrand City assets – i.e. re-decal vehicles and signage, and replace uniforms, stationary, and other branded materials – staff estimate a total cost across City departments to be approximately $450,000. It should be noted that these costs could be accommodated over time and within existing departmental budgets, with new products only ordered as existing stocks are depleted and/or replacements are required. This was the approach followed when the existing logo was introduced in 2008. For example, some City fleet vehicles continued to feature one of the previous logos until the vehicles reached the end of their service life and were replaced

So the $450,000 number isn’t a real cost, it is the estimated value of current branded materials. This is not a new spend unless Council for some reason decided to throw away all materials featuring the current brand and replace them immediately with the new logo. That would not be a responsible way to manage public assets. We will instead continue to use the current materials until they are exhausted and/or meet end of life, then will replace with new branded material instead of old branded material, like we did last time. This is why you can still see the old coat-of-arms crest on some older equipment and vehicles.

Still, $40,000 is a real cost, and some will argue it is not worth it. I disagree, as I think re-looking at our branding is aligned with the Community Connections and Belonging pillar in our Council Strategic Priority Plan. A logo is art, and it is art about us. It is healthy and vital for a community to have a conversation about what kind of art we would like to see represent us. Even having the Public Consultation will bring people together to talk about what they value in this community. This has a potential to be an interesting community building exercise. I’m sure Mayor Wayne Wright and his Council felt the same way in 2008.

I can perhaps also respond to a few of the points raised on Facebook, though I do not want to link directly, because that feels a little weirdly like “punching down” on innocent people who are just sharing their community concerns. So here is a bit of a retort to general themes, not specific people:

“Why not fix the roads instead?”
$40,000 doesn’t fix many roads. In our recently-approved capital plan we are investing more than $20 million on pavement management, road repair and upgrades. No money is coming from those investments to pay for this. We have Engineering staff dealing with roads, EcDev staff dealing with logos and the City’s brand.

“Why not invest in helping homelessness instead?”
I agree that homelessness in a rich country like Canada is an embarrassment. This is why we have never stopped advocating to the Provincial and Federal Governments to re-invest in affordable and supportive housing in the City and across BC. In my time on Council, we have approved every affordable housing project put before. 96 units of affordable housing are about to open on 6th Street by the high School, we just broke ground on 356 units of student housing adjacent to Douglas College, and have more than 100 units of deeply subsidized affordable housing approved by the City right now waiting for the Province to come forward with the promised funds to break ground. Meanwhile New Westminster continues to support the Homelessness Coalition, the Rent Bank, and the most aggressive anti-demoviction and anti-renoviction policies in the province, in order to keep people facing housing insecurity in their homes. We also announced this spring a $2 Million commitment to a Three Crises Response Pilot to directly support people suffering homelessness in our community. We can do all these things and have a community conversation about our logo, they are not mutually exclusive.

“Why are you erasing history?”
I don’t agree that updating a 16-year-old logo is erasing history, but it could be a great opportunity for us to talk about and call attention to our City’s history. I hope that people born here and people who chose to move here and make New Westminster their home are both engaged in a consultation about what a logo means. This is where the community building can come from, if we are open enough to hear other voices.

Anyhow, I hope this clarifies where we are going, and I hope everyone so passionate about the City’s logo on Facebook show up for some of the public engagement to come, because comments on Facebook are not recorded for posterity!

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