Almanac

News - February 5, 2014

Menlo Park proceeds with new logo, graphic redesign

by Sandy Brundage

Since work is already underway and other cities paid more than Menlo Park did for similar projects, Vice Mayor Catherine Carlton said during the Jan. 28 City Council meeting that she had changed her mind about asking her colleagues to reconsider whether to reconsider spending an additional $24,000 for design work on a new logo and style guide for the city.

Earlier this month, the council appeared ready to stop the project to modernize the city's graphic design standards. But after being told the contract could not be canceled, council members settled on a minor upgrade to the existing logo — a new font and fresh topography — and agreed to purchase a style guide.

Ms. Carlton had asked for the reconsideration because new information had come to light, "which I believe is the definition of when we bring things back," she said.

But while originally uncomfortable with the cost when the council voted to proceed with the project two weeks ago, she said, her recent research turned up two local cities that paid $65,000 and $56,000 for logos and style guides, suggesting that Menlo Park "got a great deal" on its $49,000 contract.

The councilwoman later told the Almanac that the cities were San Carlos and Palo Alto.

Fellow council member Peter Ohtaki opted to leave the reconsideration on the agenda, however, and moved to approve it. Mayor Ray Mueller seconded, saying he was doing so only to support a fellow council member; but the motion failed to garner a majority vote when Kirsten Keith and Ms. Carlton dissented. Councilman Rich Cline was absent.

Mr. Ohtaki explained that he still had questions regarding what exactly Menlo Park will get — will the work include presentation templates, for example? — and whether the contract has a provision for termination, contrary to what the council had been told on Jan. 14.

"I would like to see a statement of work," he said.

Ms. Carlton noted that after the council approved the redesign two weeks ago, the contractor — 2 Sisters Design, based in Redwood Shores — had begun the second phase of the project and "now we'd have to pay to stop," since the city would be billed for completed work to date.

The discussion shed some light on who decided to redesign the city's logo, a move that caught council members by surprise when they were asked to evaluate alternative emblems, developed for $25,000 during the first phase of the project; their comments at the time indicated they didn't know their support of a "rebranding" effort would include changing the logo. Contracts under $50,000 are not subject to council approval under the city's policy.

Ms. Carlton said Jan. 28 that the idea appeared to have originated within the Community Services Department. How the project evolved "was not egregious enough" to warrant reconsideration.

During an interview with the Almanac, she said the idea had initially started as a rebranding of recreation services, which eventually expanded to encompass the entire city.

She agreed with the need to develop a professional, consistent style for city documents and graphics, but "just wanted to make sure in my own mind that I was comfortable with that much money" and would have preferred more community outreach by staff for a project as large as changing Menlo Park's brand.

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