A few friends got together last year and started talking about how cool it would be if Salt Lake City neighborhoods had their own logos. And now more than 20 neighborhoods and areas do.
Those weren’t just any Salt Lakers; those were graphic designers.
“For a little idea that started out really over a beer a year ago, this has turned out to be quite something,” said Jocelyn Kearl of Third Sun Productions.
There are yin-and-yang style 15s for the 15th and 15th neighborhood. A capitol dome for Capitol Hill. A cool flag for Fairpark. A Hispanic flavor for Guadalupe. Eye-catching graphics for The Avenues and Rose Park.
The idea originated — sort of — several states away, when freelance designer Michael Yount was visiting his in-laws in Minnesota and “stumbled across” the story of a woman who was creating logos for the state’s lakes to “keep the creative juices flowing.”
“That kind of led me to to think about doing a similar thing on my own with neighborhoods,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in the history of the city and there’s a lot of neighborhoods that people don’t know about.”
But the idea “kind of got buried in a notebook” until he mentioned it to “my former colleagues at Third Sun and Paige [Kershaw Slagowski] and Lucy [Blatt] from Coast to Coast Studio.” As they talked, they got more excited about the idea “and that just kind of got everything rolling.”
They divided the city up into neighborhoods — some familiar (Sugar House, Glendale); some less familiar (Swedetown, Japantown); some real (East Bench, 9th and 9th); and some fanciful.
“We included some wild cards, like Brewery Mile, which is not a thing but is kind of becoming a thing,” Kearl said. It’s the area where you can find brewers Proper (857 S. Main), Epic (825 S. State), Kiitos (608 W. 700 South) and A. Fisher (320 W. 800 South).
The wild cards included the Bar Block on Main Street, and Sugarhood “because that’s what people call Sugar House.”
Designers randomly drew neighborhoods and set to work on “a project that was intended to be fun,” Young said. “Designers love the fact that we get to do something really community-oriented and creative without having to do it as part of our day-to-day jobs. And do it without a client, just with a real design focus.”
Not that graphic designers don’t rely on (and, generally, like) their clients, but the Neighborhood Project would have turned out differently if the designers had worked with committees from each neighborhood. “It would have been a lot less joyous, let’s say,” Kearl said with a laugh. “When a client’s not sitting on your shoulder, you just get to do what you want to do.”
The Neighborhood Project wasn’t a competition — it was an exhibition that was part of Salt Lake’s Design Week earlier this month. The organizers did, however, announce People’s Choice winners, selected by members of the public who attended their event on Oct. 8:
First place Japantown
Second Place The Avenues
Third Place Swedetown
Yount is quick to point out that all of this is just for fun. “Nobody is officially adopting these,” he said. “Don’t call your community council and say, ‘I hate that thing!’”
Well, none of it is official — yet. Several groups have contacted the Neighborhood Project about the logos.
“There might actually be some potential partnerships,” Kearl said. “Each designer can decide if they want to give that work away or sell that work. But it’s certainly created some nice conversations with people.”
People like Amy Hawkins, the chairperson of the Ballpark Community Council. The banner with the Ballpark logo — which looks very much like what you might see on a baseball jersey — is in her house right now. “I was very excited,” she said.
Hawkins plans to present it to her board and, if they approve, “come to a mutually beneficial agreement” with the designers.
“It’s the perfect opportunity for local designers to meet with people who really need their services, Hawkins said, “but who might not quite have the resources to … adequately compensate people with their skills.”
This is the first time local graphic designers have done something quite like this, but organizers said it won’t be the last.
Kearl said there’s interest not just from the designers who participated this year, but from designers who didn’t — and from people who want to see more new logos. (Not all of the neighborhoods and wild cards the project outlined were assigned this year.)
“Somebody in Provo reached out and asked if we could come down and do their neighborhoods,” she said. “We’ve had some some suggestions about doing things in [Salt Lake] county. ... Another idea is to have all the neighborhoods branded as sports teams and give every neighborhood a mascot.
“We’ve also had a kind of a crazy or maybe obnoxious idea about everybody doing Salt Lake City, because we feel like the city’s brand — and especially the flag — could be a lot better.”
Speaking of flags, the organizers have at least given some thought to the much-maligned Utah state flag. “Well, that’s on the list for future projects,” Yount said with a laugh. “I would love to take on that flag.”