Perspectives 04.16.2020

Civic Brandstanding From the Inside Out

By Katie Janson, Senior Branded Environments Designer

Have you ever thought about your local government’s brand? We hold this truth to be self evident: a brand and a logo are not the same thing. A brand is a culmination of what you stand for, and what your audiences (internal and external) believe you to be. A logo (part of your identity) is merely a token of these ideologies and perceptions created with the intent of helping you stand out in a crowd, evoke an emotion, and solicit a following. The beauty of its design is not just aesthetic, but also meaning. Your government has a brand regardless if they have a logo, and regardless if they’re mindful of it.

Can Governments Benefit from Branding? Absolutely.

It is no surprise we’re seeing an up-tick in public sector branding. A government’s offering is a promise to their citizens—and employees. Risks of not branding are damaging; redundancies that waste funds, confusion differentiating between services and departments, and poor recognition of government brands as they fight for attention with outside entities. The advantages are tremendous; increased recognition, improved citizen satisfaction from strengthened communication channels and cost savings through standardization efficiencies.

Gwinnett County, Georgia exemplifies a visionary, model government that recognized this opportunity and set out to find one common voice through branding. In retrospect, our journey together focused on 3 areas: Realize, Reset, Rally.

Realize: Where We Are, Where We Want to Be

One of the fastest growing counties in the US, Gwinnett was drawn to Perkins and Will Branded Environments because they were looking for more than a logo. They were looking for a symbol that would help to activate their brand and sense of place; that would attract business and unify their vast organization, hence improving their delivery of superior service and commitment to excellence. Their official government seal featuring a scroll and cotton-gin were obsolete and no longer represented their population; their existing 110+ disparate department/organization logos were hindering their communications and unity. They realized they needed a brand and identity that would help them reach new people born of an imminent population boom. With consensus on our side, we set out to design an identity that would help their brand flourish.

Embodying a kaleidoscope, Gwinnett County's new logo unifies over 110+ departments and organizations.

Reset: Designed to Unify

The process was iterative, exploring and reacting to scores of concepts, sketches, color palettes, type treatments. A “Vibrantly Connected” Kaleidoscope design rose above the rest, embodying both Gwinnett’s desired personality and symbolism of diverse, collective ambitions for the future. After being voted into law in 2017, we continued to design a suite of communication and social media templates that portray a consistent visual voice across channels and departments, ranging from Human Resources and Finance to Parks and Recreation and Police. Both logo and communication standards and style guides were produced to assist designers in maintaining unity in any occasion.

Rally: Mission Critical Brandstanding

Initial engagement was extensive, but unlike many civic brand/rebrand efforts our engagement efforts did not end there. Anticipating that change would be hard for some, we strategized ways to generate internal adoption and momentum.

With great foresight, Gwinnett rallied internal ambassadors that understood the vision and were enthusiastic about growing a future together. They’ve hosted organization wide Communication Academy forums to inform, share and align efforts. They’ve formed internal design groups to support and coordinate techniques to evolve as one Gwinnett, and integrated a new asset management system to ensure efficient use of resources. And they share testimonials of peers, colleagues and constituents that can attest to ways the brand and new identity are benefiting their interests.

We held a seminar session in January where we went over the process of creating Gwinnett County's new brand.

This government branding undertaking has been a dedicated effort by visionaries who astutely modified the learnings from private sector branding to better their government. Fearlessly moving beyond what has always been done before, Gwinnett County is a testament to the power of branding and will be reaping the benefits for generations to come.