Cities often take one of two paths when creating a new visual identity – seeking input via a public competition; or employing a professional designer or agency. Either path is likely to incite debate and strong opinion in the residents of the region, and also, in the age of social media, from much further afield. As Glickfeld states, “logos increasingly have to communicate an ethos rather than represent something figurative or literal” (Glickfeld, 2010, p. 27)… when compared, the visual identities of two regional NSW cities, Newcastle and Dubbo, show a move towards this philosophy over the last 40 years.
(The City of Newcastle [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved 4 August 2016 from http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Council/About-Council/Our-Organisation/Our-Logos)
Newcastle, established over 200 years ago, is a NSW coastal city with a very strong sense of community, sometimes viewed as introspective. Its logo is a representation of the well known Civic fountain, along with a wave which represents both the ocean, and well known local headland. The figure is a literal interpretation of actual places, the typeface a friendly lowercase serif with high x-height, but feels dated.
(Dubbo City Council [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved 4 August 2016 from http://www.dubbo.nsw.gov.au/Default.aspx?PageID=1447846&A=SearchResult&SearchID=8246665&ObjectID=1447846&ObjectType=1)
Dubbo, an inland city at the geographic centre of NSW, forms a meeting point or nexus of interstate highways, rail, and air travel, for both passengers and freight. The city focus is less introspective, with a firm awareness that the local economy benefits from being a way point. Dubbo’s logo evokes this juncture in an abstract way. Lines reaching towards multiple convergence points represent the Commonwealth star, the multiple ‘paths’ that pass through the city, while using various colours to represent, earth, sky, water, indigenous culture and the built environment. The typeface is all uppercase serif, neatly forming a block below the star, as a solid contrast to the playful use of colours above.
Neither Council’s website states the year logos were designed, but the difference is stark – one literal, based on defined local objects, the other abstract. Both visually anchored in the periods in which they were designed – likely 1980s for Newcastle and 2000s for Dubbo.
Which is more successful? As a designer, I find the abstract approach of the Dubbo logo easy to understand. The strong star shape I immediately understood as representing converging roads, the colours speak of vibrant diversity and indigenous culture. Sadly, the Newcastle logo, while familiar to me as I was born in Newcastle, appears staid and aged – simply out of date…. and no longer represents the culture of the region.