On February 12th, Oklahoma unveiled the new logo and brand identity that will present the entire state. It was beloved by all and lived happily ever after – is what I would say if I were a liar. You know of my theory on reactions to new logos so you know that very few designs are universally beloved.
The year-long project involved a volunteer group called OklaX, made of over 200 people from PR and marketing backgrounds, Operative Brand Consulting (an Ontario, Canada based company), and over $250,000. According to the report by KFOR Oklahoma News 4:
The new logo is inspired by Oklahoma’s heritage. The different colors represent the earth, sky, water, agriculture, and forest. The star in the center represents our state’s original flag.
OklaX volunteer and new Director of State Branding, Amy Blackburn, said about the brand: “We really just wanted to make sure we were celebrating what Oklahoma is all about. In order to do that, we needed a diverse array of shapes and colors and we wanted to make sure we were creating Oklahoma as the hub of America”. Governor Kevin Stitt wrote, “If we don’t define Oklahoma’s brand, 49 other states will. It’s time we tell the nation our story, but it requires us to first hone in a simple, fresh brand for our state.”
So how did people react to that fresh brand? Some better than others. I didn’t even know this was happening until a designer I follow (Scott Allen Hill) on tweeted about it. I immediately searched “new Oklahoma logo” and was not disappointed. First of all, there were two main points that seemed to have folks riled up: Canadian company and $250,000+. I did question why they didn’t go with a local studio, designer, or firm to design the brand. However, without being involved in the process, it’s hard to speculate how that came about or how much sayso in the design the company had. As far as the $250,000+ price tag,…that’s actually cheap. You are rebranding an entire state! This is an absolutely massive undertaking to somehow put together a brand to present all of Oklahoma. States have spent much more than that. We just see the finished product without all the work that went into it. I’d personally love to see the Adobe Illustrator artboards on revision 46 of the logo and typography variations. It’s not just the logo but the brand language, marketing strategy, etc. The value of design, brand, and communication should never be understated. Everyone should be willing to invest in their identity and how they want to be represented. Now, some folks commented about how the money could have been used in other more appropriate ways. I’ll touch on that part of the reaction later but first…
I personally like the logo. It’s well designed and I like the different colors used. I dig the shapes around the negative space star, which represents the state’s original flag. Have I mentioned I love good negative space in design? The overall shape also works as a one color mark as well, which is important for versatility. The launch materials all look nice. The text “OKLAHOMA” is fine. It goes with the logo and has that extended K leg they seem to like in this state.
Unfortunately, a design unveiled with a star surrounded by multiple colors triggers comparisons to similar design ideas. People have wasted no time posting every rainbow circle logo they could find to showcase how they feel the new Oklahoma logo is “unoriginal” and “not worth the money”. There is one particularly yikes-inducing comparison with the UNI Financial Cooperation.
The “Imagine That” tagline is…um…ok? (Badoom-crash!) On first viewing, it felt lackluster to me but I get them wanting something short and flexible. Plus, I tend to reserve any lasting judgment until I see the brand in action. However, an interesting piece by The Last Ogle uncovered that, in the early to mid-1990s, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce used it to recruit convention business. Coincidence? Maybe.
Brand vs. Logo
Your brand is what is said about you when you are no longer in the room. So here’s the thing about rebranding anything (a state, company, person, org, etc.): the external won’t cover up the internal. No visual brand alone will make you a “Top 10 State”. The rebrand has to be seen as part of a much larger effort to improve Oklahoma and not a frivolous fresh coat of paint on a car that still doesn’t run. Your visual brand identity is just the tip of the iceberg. So, I hope this is merely a piece of a much larger plan of action.
I’m an optimistic fellow. I hope this makes the impact the state officials hope that it does. Let’s see what they imagine (hehe) moving forward under this new brand umbrella.
Learn more at https://branding.ok.gov