I offered someone a chocolate bar last week. I know – you’re gripped already.
“Which one do you want?” I asked. “Snickers,” was the response. “Fair enough,” I said. The kind of whip-smart dialogue, I think you’ll agree, capable of catching the ear of Quentin Tarantino.
A few days later, I’m asked, “Where’s my chocolate bar?” Sheepishly, I respond, “Oh yes. Chocolate bar. Of course. Sorry. Marathon, wasn’t it?”
Marathon. A chocolate bar that was last branded as such in 1990. My already shaky credentials as a 21st Century communications professional have been rendered shakier than a belly dancer with hypothermia.
I should learn to move on. Marathons are as relevant to my daily life as the Bull Ring’s King Kong statue. However, something in my gently deteriorating brain won’t let go of an obsolete brand.
It’s a trait I evidently share with Birmingham City Council. For many, many years, the council insignia has been visible on posters, leaflets, billboards, plaques and much more besides.
I hate it.
Now, I appreciate I’m possibly on my own here. What harm, some of you might say, does a logo inflict on anybody? Why be critical of a simple formation of letters, colours and shapes?
Let me tell you why.
Firstly, chevrons are rubbish. I appreciate if you’re of military persuasion, you probably think more highly of them. To me, however, they are nothing more than an arrow facing downward. Arrows facing downwards are not good. We’ve all been through the Great Depression of 2007-2014 (let’s not be too premature about this recovery). We’ve seen the doom-laden graphics used by frowny-faced newscasters.
We are painfully aware arrows facing downwards equal poor performance. And the Birmingham City Council logo announces itself with an arrow facing downwards. No wonder we face the Jaws of Doom.
Secondly, the typeface is all wrong. Remember we’re talking about a council. It’s an organisation of huge importance, responsible for lives and lifestyles of more than one million people.
Therefore, almost certainly, its logo should be capitalised to signify its import. Or at least ‘BIRMINGHAM’ should be. If you were to argue that we could try the whole logo text as all lower case, I’d still prefer that to what we have now – though I usually associate all lower-case insignia with coffee shops selling organic carrot cakes or wine bars owned by bleach-blond men called Brandon.
And, I’m not happy with that font. It just looks…infantile. It feels one step removed from Comic Sans, the font of choice for playgroup leaders and psychopaths alike. I’m no expert on this matter, but I do know someone who is. Bear with me… hang on… just popping down the corridor… hmm… right. Have now spoken with an expert. We think it’s a Futura font. I know! Ridiculous choice for any organisation this side of the year 2000, isn’t it?
Thirdly, what in crikey is that underline about? Who designed this – an angry schoolteacher?
Fourthly (yup, I’m actually going to get to ‘fifthly’), I hate the colour scheme. Navy blue and postbox red: separately, lovely. Together: as compatible as a Labour/Conservative coalition. Funny that.
Fifthly, it doesn’t stack up. Literally. Put the chevron above the name, and the logo falls apart: the underline doesn’t know what to do; the name doesn’t know whether to go touch-tight with the chevron or roam free like an indolent wildebeest in the African plains. The logo is as inflexible as Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy.
I could go on. I’d better not though, as it’s only a logo and I’m approaching my word limit.
But I must reiterate: I really do hate the Birmingham City Council logo. I see it, and my cold, dead heart sinks. I see it, and it sends me back in time faster than Peter Capaldi ever will.
My hatred for it, which generally simmers, boiled over when I saw the new poster campaign for the revived Birmingham Rep: beautiful, contemporary, ultra-close up portraits of actors like Sian Philips and Martin Shaw, sullied by the council logo, lurking at the corner of the image like a hairy wart.
It bothers me, when I see the slick branding of the Library of Birmingham, that I know it’s going to be ever-so slightly undermined by proximity to ye olde council logo.
I just don’t like it.
I’ve seen lots recently about Birmingham creating iconic works of art to truly represent the city. Very worthy, and I’m fully supportive of it. I’d just like some of the funding supporting this creative endeavour to be diverted into redesigning the council logo. Make it iconic. Make it vibrant. Just make it better – please, make it better.
I know, I know – it’s going to cost millions. Changing the logo is one thing, but reprinting thousands of items bearing its image is another. But, if we’re prepared to spend a shedload on the introduction of wheelie bins, let’s dip our hand down the back of the sofa, see what’s left and put it into refreshing the council logo too. It may cost the city a lot, but it’ll save the city my wrath. And I know it’ll take time, but that’s fine: it won’t be a sprint. It’ll be a Marathon.
* Keith Gabriel is a Birmingham-based PR account manager