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A $46,000 Logo. A Frustrated State. An Unfortunate Situation.

Tennessee residents are frustrated over the new state logo designed by Nashville agency, GS&F. However, the simplistic red, white and blue logo with the state abbreviation is not the main focus of the uproar.

It’s the price tag — a $46,000 price tag to be exact.

Local news station, WSMV, broke the story on May 20, 2015 and residents immediately took the story and ran with it. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the angered residents do not comprehend the process, time, and effort that go into a logo.

Is It a Bad Logo?

Sorry GS&F, but it is not the best logo.

Tennessee should have a logo that proudly boasts our expansive history, heritage, culture, and future. Designers have so much inspiration to draw from — the upbeat and unique vibe of Music City, the detailed history of the Civil War, the jaw-dropping Smoky Mountains, so on and so forth. Sadly, this logo does not accurately represent our fine state.

The taxpayers of Tennessee agree, and endless social media comments, shares, and rants proved just that. Common arguments included:

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You can imagine just how colorful the other comments were.

As it’s been taught by numerous graphic design professors and professionals:

A successful logo must achieve simplicity, uniqueness, and metaphor.

Does this logo accomplish this? Not quite.

With this in mind, why the high price tag?

A Bad Logo Does Not Mean a Bad Designer

Naturally, the state is furious at the $46,000 price tag for this attempt at a logo. This logo cost more than an annual salary for most state employees.

However, before you go off on a rant about GS&F’s cost and execution, the state’s decision to rebrand for that cost, or how your gerbil could have made a better logo, think about the process.

Due to the nature of the logo’s use, this very well could have been a Design by Committee situation. To make a long story short, DBC is when a design team conducts research, examines the brand strategy, and spends what seems like never-ending hours, days, weeks, etc. crafting various designs to present to the client. The client receives the logo designs and sends it to his committee. The committee, who may or may not have any legitimate design or branding experience whatsoever, then adds their two cents. By two cents, I really mean a whole dollar.

The designer then takes this pile of miscellaneous changes, tries to make sense of it, completes the fixes, and the process starts back up all over again.

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After all is said and done, the people who think they know what a good logo is, end up becoming the puppet master and the designer becomes the puppet. This unfortunate situation is caused by the fact that everyone and their mother’s neighbor’s sister-in-law thinks they are a designer.

With each round of changes the puppet masters provide, the agency has to charge. Therefore, an entire committee making continuous changes and throwing uneducated feedback into the mix will rack up a hefty bill. By uneducated feedback, we mean no research, just personal preference.

When we see this logo with that price tag, we see a stressed out team of designers attempting to grasp onto whatever shred of creativity is left after 100 rounds of revisions, a frustrated project management team, and an account representative with a bad case of insomnia.

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Before you sling out another harsh comment, think about the hundreds of hours of drafting, revisions, and pitches that went into this.

If we were to see the original logo presentations GS&F created, I bet we’d be stunned at the level of creativity and artistic expression. Instead, we are only exposed to the beaten down, defeated end product as a result of a committee acting as if they were on Mad Men.

Standing Behind Their Work

We are not affiliated with GS&F, nor have we ever worked with GS&F, so the majority of this article is pure speculation based on our own similar experiences.

However, we applaud GS&F for taking a stand for their work. In a Facebook post, the agency had this to say:

Here’s our point of view: We (GS&F) explored hundreds of brand identity directions and ultimately created a strong and simplified brand identity system for the state government of Tennessee. We stand by our work. The State Seal and the iconic Tri-Star (including the flag) will continue to represent our great state. The brand identity system for the Tennessee state government system was designed to make state offices more efficient and government branding and communications more effective by making these offices more immediately recognizable to citizens of the State of Tennessee. This cohesive, easily identifiable system is projected to save Tennessee taxpayers money by combining many disparate logos and improving purchasing power across the board.”

There are hundreds of unanswered questions revolving around this situation, including:
  • The time it took to complete this project
  • The original project scope
  • How many revisions were sent back and forth
  • When the project started
  • How many individuals were involved
  • Additional projects revolving around this logo design
  • How it will benefit the government and state
  • Why the state agreed to a $46,000 project

To the residents of Tennessee — We agree that this is a poor logo for the state of Tennessee. We also agree that the $46,000 price of the project is enormous. However, before you rant on and on, think about the designers who were involved. Believe us, they didn’t sit down, draw a box, type “TN”, and laugh all the way to the bank. 

To the staff at GS&F — We understand your frustration as well. We’re sorry this situation garnered an excessive amount of media and resident backlash. The hours of labor and the endless meetings all accumulated into a terrible situation. You have our support and the support of others who understand this competitive industry, don’t worry.

We are sad to see this happening to another agency in our industry and to our state. It’s a lose-lose situation for all involved.

Update:

WSMV Channel 4 News reached out for our stance on this developing story.



Join the Conversation

6 thoughts on “A $46,000 Logo. A Frustrated State. An Unfortunate Situation.

  1. There also could have been several rounds of focus groups which would have added to the cost. Having spent most of my career in advertising, I do not think this logo was very expensive. Unfortunately, it is not very good.

  2. Having been involved with the designing of logo for a worldwide nonprofit organization, I can guarantee that this was a ‘Design By Committee’ process.The real question shouldn’t be who designed it but rather who gave approval for the project to begin and who gave final approval for acceptance.

    1. Hi Andy,
      Very good question. We’ll see if the story develops and provides any further details on the process, those involved, and the future of the logo.

    1. Tim,

      Thanks for commenting on our article! I took a look at your post, too! You make perfect points about the usage of this new logo. It certainly is something the State of TN needed. Regardless of personal aesthetic preferences, we can all agree the state gov needed a functional, consistent, and simple mark across all departments (and all of us in this industry know simple is hard to do).

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