Logos are vehicles for ideas. Underneath simplistic but recognizable designs, they convey carefully curated ideas, themes and values that, if successful, audiences come to associate with the product or organization represented by the image.
The city of Durango’s current logo invokes the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the San Juan Mountains, but City Council member Dave Woodruff wonders if the city logo effectively represents Durango’s contemporary values.
During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Woodruff asked his colleagues to consider directing staff to determine if the community has an appetite for a new logo, what kind of values a new logo might reflect and how much it would cost to create and roll out a new logo design.
“To me, this is how we message our community to the world. And I think our logo represents our identity, who we are as a community and what we value,” he said.
Although City Council voted 4-1 to direct staff to look into the feasibility of making a new logo, Woodruff received mixed feedback from other councilors.
Councilor Olivier Bosmans tentatively voted in favor of looking into a new logo design. He said he supports the initiative, to an extent.
He said the city faces important issues such as housing and financial performance, and he is wary of spending too much money to create a new logo. He wants to understand the financial burden creating a new logo would entail.
Councilor Gilda Yazzie, who voted against asking staff to explore designing a new logo, said she is perfectly happy with the current city logo.
“I think at this point in time, I would like to put us on pause on spending money because we’ve got the 9-R building coming up. We have the $1.2 million for Big Picture (renovations),” she said. “I’d like to put the damper on the (Downtown’s) Next Steps because we don’t have any idea how much that’s going to cost.”
She said designing a new logo at this time is just another expense for the city to worry about.
Councilor Jessika Buell, who opened the digital marketing services business Marketing Concepts Squared in 2018, said she’s been involved in marketing for 20 years and the cost of designing and implementing a new logo is incomparable to the cost of renovating or building a new City Hall.
She said the city’s current logo presumably served a purpose and served it well when it was created. But it also appears to have been designed with Microsoft Word clip art, and a fresh new logo could be designed quickly and at little expense to the city.
The city’s current logo was adopted in 2000.
“We could make an effort for a very nominal amount of money that is not anywhere close to big projects (in costs),” she said.
Woodruff’s proposal is not the first time City Council has considered pursuing a new logo.
Last year, the city accepted bids from graphic design companies to design a new logo and received 15 submissions for review. The project never really took off, though.
At that time, city spokesman Tom Sluis said City Council had kicked around the idea of a new logo since 2019. The community dialogue was impassioned, and split.
“It’s obviously got a lot of emotional energy associated whenever there’s a discussion about tinkering with the city logo,” he said last year.
Tyler Rice, director and founder of Animas Marketing in Durango, said people are naturally resistant to change and might not see the point of it.
The current city logo features the train and the mountains, he said, adding that people may associate the city with those things.
Rice said change is good, but reflecting that change in a new logo design can be tricky.
“When creating a logo, you want to somehow encompass everything that the brand represents in the most simplistic way possible,” he said.
Capturing those ideas and communicating them as simply as possible is not so simple of a process, he said. It’s common for agencies and clients to draft numerous different versions of logos and bounce ideas back and forth until the targeted message or values is depicted.
“I'm glad I'm not in charge of it because (the amount) of different opinions that can go into what does our community represent, between tourism and the outdoors and the locals … can just change so drastically from one person to the next. So no matter what's created here, somebody has got to have a problem,” he said.
The city has changed up its logo several times over the decades, always keeping the city’s connection to the railroad front and center.
Between 1955 and 1979, the city rocked a blue and white logo featuring the D & Rio Grande No. 476 steam locomotive with a trail of smoke streaming into the sky.
In 1980, the city upgraded to a new color scheme, showing a similar front profile view of the train against the backdrop of a blue sky, brown mountains and a grassy field. A decade later, the city revised its logo to make lines more pronounced and allow colors to pop.
In 2000, the city adopted the current logo, which features a more minimalist interpretation of the train and mountains using simple geometric shapes and a basic color palette of black text, green triangular mountains a black locomotive.