Parks & Recreation is one of the greatest television programs ever made. It stars the bubbly bureaucrat Leslie Knope and her team in the Parks Department of Pawnee, Indiana. This is the show I watch when I need a laugh, a break from the craziness of the world. The show is a favorite of mine and, as with other favorite pop culture things of mine,…I had an idea. What if I were selected to put together a revamped visual brand identity for the town? How would I represent this vibrant, unique, colorful star within Wamapoke County? Let’s find out.
First, I collected some photos to look at as I sketch some ideas. The photos I collected were the City Hall building, the current seal of Pawnee, the Unity Concert logo, the show logo, and the welcome sign. Moodboards, for me, are less about how the logo will look and more about getting a feel for the city. It wasn’t long before I came up with a concept and an idea of the color scheme, inspired by the board.
Logo Design + Colors
My idea for the brand surrounds an illustration of City Hall. In my research of other municipal brand projects, I found that a lot of them have an iconic image at its center. The city hall icon is housed with a curved shape of the state of Indiana. I could have just used a circle or square but I thought it would be great to have that reference to make the overall mark unique.
Now with the colors, I took my inspiration from the current seal and flag design. I applied the blue and yellow to the designs after I finalized the shapes. Always focus on the design first and make sure it works before adding color. I utilized Adobe Color to build a complete color scheme. I used the eyedropper tool to pull the blue straight from the current seal and then used the Split Complementary color harmony rule to produce the other complementary colors.
The wordmark is actually custom. Usually, I just try to match a font with whatever I designed. However, this time I took on the challenge of designing each letter within the PAWNEE mark. With my logo being full of curved corners and edges, I wanted the wordmark to have curves. So I started the build of the letters with a single circle, which became the P which became the A. From there, I created the N, which informed the W and the Es.
Now, because of my brilliant idea to include the asymmetrical shape of Indiana, I had to figure out how to make a seal surrounding it. I couldn’t make it quite like the city seals I was look at for inspiration. It was a happy accident that I discovered I could use the slant at the bottom as a part of the seal. From the bottom to the top middle, the seal is blue. After discovering how to incorporate the shape, the rest flowed with adding the text. I also incorporated a star between the founding text and the city name as a nod to the stars on the Indiana state flag.
With all the designs and colors taken care of, I could go crazy with the applications of the brand. The visual brand identity I’ve built includes an official city flag, a welcome sign, an official van, city office door display, and multiple apparel mockups. I’ve also included mockups for my official city of Pawnee business card. Mocking up various applications of a brand is a fantastic playground experience. Your imagination can run wild now that you can equipped with the complete brand toolkit.
Iconic Icons + Pattern
I was ambitious with this project so I had the idea of including a few icons that represent some elements of the character, history, and landmarks of the city of Pawnee. The icons include the waffle (with syrup making the two Js) for JJ’s Diner, a tribute to Lil’ Sebastian, and an icon for Pawnee Commons, the park finally established on Lot 48. I ended up using these icons and the city hall illustration to create a pattern along with the brand color scheme.
I hope you enjoyed the full presentation of visual brand identity for the city of Pawnee, Indiana. I took my time with this project and it went some places I did not expect. Passion projects like this feed and teach me as a designer and help me to discover new ways to interpret ideas visually. It’s also just a very cool way to pay tribute to a show that brings me joy.