Municipalities, like companies, change over time. Their inhabitants, points of interest, neighborhoods, priorities, and more shift, evolve and diversify (or not). Kingston, a city of 25,000 located 100 miles due north of New York City on the Hudson River, has a long history spanning back to 1651 with early Dutch settlers in the New World. Over the centuries, the city’s various industries came and went, each leaving its mark in architectural styles, neighborhood development, and physical impact on the landscape. With so much history, including being the first capital of New York State, Kingston was a natural tourist destination for history-buffs. However, following the closure of large technology plants in the 1990s and economic struggles that ensued, Kingston needed to do more than champion its past – it needed a common brand concept that celebrates the present, speaks to the city’s strengths, and offers a vision for the future.
What Kingston needed was a brand message that could embrace the entire community on multiple levels, and provide the city’s leadership (in government, business, non-profits, activists, etc) a communications tool that could be used to promote, reference, and celebrate the ‘new’ Kingston. The city also needed a brand concept to distinguish itself from surrounding towns and other places with ‘history’.
Raleigh Green Inc. was hired by the Kingston city government to develop a brand concept that celebrates the city’s present and future, while respecting its past. Following an extensive research process of interviews and comparative surveys, a tagline was developed to summarize a compelling brand strategy for community development: “Historic is just our beginning” – a reference to Kingston not only having ‘history’, but is ‘historic’, an important difference between it and other older towns in the Hudson Valley and beyond. The tagline also projects a confidence in the future and that its history is a terrific foundation upon which to build.
Following the development of a positioning and tagline, a logo was developed to reflect various characteristics of Kingston. Raleigh Green Inc., using the design skills of Rodney Durso, developed a charming logo that expresses many key attributes of the city. The logo’s font reflects Kingston’s strong creative community; the skyline’s buildings represent actual buildings from different communities within Kingston; and the red color reflects Kingston’s history in brick making, and a synergy with the “I Love NY” logo developed by Milton Glaser in 1977. The brand was also designed for a horizontal format for more ‘formal’ applications, and a vertical treatment for more ‘pop’ applications such as posters.
The new Kingston branding does not replace the official government seal, but is to be used in promotional, community and economic communications such as the new 2014 Visitors Guide, tourism advertising, websites and more. The brand is also intended to be more of a ‘pop branding’ initiative (vs. ‘traditional/formal’). The hope is that the new logo will be appropriated and customized to suit the unique needs of different communities, while still sharing common elements of the brand concept. This has already happened with the appropriation of the font type in a popular city website for events and news.