By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Residents and business owners gained more knowledge about the city’s new Branding Dearborn initiative during informational meetings Feb. 12 and 13 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center.
Some of the topics discussed were the logo and the color scheme behind it, transformational strategies, a committee or board of directors, ways to use the Dearborn brand, representation of shapes or elements, and funding sources.
Octane Design Owner Bill Bowen explained how the colors used in the initiative reflect personality, persona and attributes of the brand being worked around.
“With Dearborn we used a lot of the architecture, diversity of culture and personality traits here to create a palette where we have a dark blue for the Rouge River and another blue inspired by the Rouge River, the sunflower gold inspired by the sunflowers that you see by the Ford Motor Company Headquarters, hearth red and maker grey inspired also by innovation and history,” he said. “This also allows designers and people are going to create pieces for the brand to create options when they are creating digital print and ads to build a story.”
A set of icons inspired by the city were also created which featured sunflowers, mosaics, parks, circles relating to unity, Arab American community such as the Arab American National Museum and wheels for the automobile industry.
The five transformational strategies mentioned to reach Downtown Dearborn’s vision are image, mobility, cohesive community, next-gen appeal and innovative retail.
Applied Story Telling Founder and Principal Eric La Brecque explained the color-coded branding map which shows different districts that can provide visitors location details and help businesses in the community.
The districts are East Downtown, West Downtown; Civic District; Innovation District; MoCa; Souk; South End and University-Fairlane.
“So the Civic District is a newly named district which is the space between east and west downtown which never really had a name, now has a name,” Brecque said. “It is where you come to do your city business or where the city comes together for major functions.
The Innovation District is also a newly named district down Oakwood Boulevard, by where Ford is building their new facility, across the street from The Henry Ford and across the street from the hospital where there is innovation going on in the medical space.”
Economic and Community Development Director Jeffrey Watson, who moved to Dearborn for the position 10 months ago, said a discussion that needs to take place internally is how the branding initiative can be used outside of the city and what areas around the country does the city want to tell Dearborn’s story.
“One of the things that’s really important about the whole branding effort is it really is about the community and how do we tell our story out in the world and what does that look like?” he said. “Dearborn is really an incredible place. It’s a wonderful community, it’s a beautiful community and I think there is tremendous opportunity in the branding effort to tell more about Dearborn to the world.”
Some of the questions asked by attendees focused on which other cities have good branding initiatives, wayfinding implantation, how the brand will encourage retail and businesses, understanding the city’s icons, current and future issues for the project currently, and the logo.
Downtown Dearborn Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius said the wayfinding planning process should transpire within the next year followed by necessary investment and strategy for installation after that.
During the presentation, an attendee who identified himself as “Olivier” who’s business has worked with local businesses on branding said he felt the city missed the mark when it came to the new “D” logo.
“The problem with the execution is really at the foundation of the artwork which is the logo itself as an icon, the design and concept,” he said.
Further explaining his point, Olivier said he looked at other cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit and Traverse City regarding their logos.
“All of those logos have a couple things in common that I think this misses the mark a little bit,” he said. “They all have — where if 100 people look at them they’re going to have one of two reactions — if I remove those names from those icons and it does not say San Francisco they’re going to either immediately recognize it or are going to be lost but when I say it’s San Francisco they’ll say, ‘I get it, the Golden Gate Bridge.’
“We can look at San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge or Detroit with placing the Spirit of Detroit as the forefront of that logo and people get it. This doesn’t have that. There are a lot of things we can use to describe Dearborn, I don’t think the hexagon is one of them.”
In December, the city revealed a green, white, yellow and blue “D” as its branding logo which drew mixed reactions. The logo represents “manufacturing background; our mosaic of people, traditions, and neighborhoods; and our connectedness,” according to the city.
The city government seal will remain and will be used for official city business while the “D” logo will be used as a marketing tool for the city allowing for flexible usage.
According to the press materials, “the hexagon shape is inspired by both the beehive, symbolizing community, and nuts and bolts, supporting the theme of hands-on innovation. The rounded corners convey friendliness and approachability, much like the personality of Dearborn.”
The year-long process to unveil the logo was developed through feedback of more than 1,900 community members and business owners in addition to more than 30 stakeholders who took part in the brand strategic planning efforts.
That included leaders from the the city and its downtown development authorities, Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce, Ford Land and other major Dearborn institutions.
The total contract amount for the development and implementation of the branding campaign was $480,000. The WDDDA and EDDDA contributed $179,000 and $147,500, respectively; city of Dearborn $50,000; Ford Motor Co. $100,000; and Fairlane Town Center $3,500.
As for committees and boards of directors residents can join, design and economic vitality; promotions and organization; Downtown Dearborn steering team; bike share or scooter; branding; event subcommittees and fundraising subcommittees were the ones listed.
“This is a community that is going to build its downtown,” Sheppard-Decius said. “You’re involved and engaged in every aspect of it. That’s what we’ve been doing over there last few years, building more people to be apart of that action and helping us to look at what they want. So, we’re asking more people to be a part. There is a lot of going around in terms of things to do and we need volunteers.”
Branding Dearborn launched in November 2018, which was a two-year project in the making after it grew out the strategic planning effort for Downtown Dearborn that began in 2015, the project’s website said.
“The project will gather community – from residents, business owners, community leaders, employees and beyond,” according to a presentation event press release, “to better understand and articulate what makes Dearborn and its downtowns interesting, special and an ideal place to live, work and play.”
For more information on Branding Dearborn or Downtown Dearborn go to www.brandingdearborn.com or www.downtowndearborn.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])