As far as wordmarks go, the one put forth by Hermiston’s Futures Task Force: Hermiston You Can Grow Here is fine. As a branding effort, however, the wordmark alone does not complete the package. It is missing a visual element.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, City Manager Byron Smith brought up the wordmark as part of the city’s branding package, seeking direction from the council as to how it should be put to use. While it was not his intention, the conversation immediately turned back to the water tower, specifically the wordmark painted on the tower, replacing the watermelon that has adorned the tank for many years — a decision that was not popular to many in the community.
While Smith wants to resolve how the city puts the wordmark to use in the future, apparently the council wants the water tank issue resolved first. Nobody is looking at the big picture, however, although it has been touched upon on the periphery. The bigger picture is the branding package.
As Councilman Ron Hardin pointed out, the wordmark currently painted on the tower looks drab, and he’s not wrong.
While the colors used in the wordmark lettering were intended to be earth tones, reflecting the city’s agriculture background, it does look drab, especially when painted over a tan background and without context — a visual element.
Visual elements are eye-catching and can help people associate different concepts. Without a visual element tying everything together, Hermiston’s wordmark is nothing more than just words — the brand is not complete. A visual element is needed to complete the idea that Hermiston is growing and has a lot to offer.
Which brings us back to the popular fruit for which Hermiston is known. The city desperately wants to sell the idea that Hermiston has a lot more to offer than its watermelons. Yes, watermelons make up less than a quarter of Hermiston’s agricultural production, but people in other parts of the state or in Idaho or Colorado aren’t talking about Hermiston potatoes or onions. Those crops are grown, and to the same effect, in other parts of eastern Oregon; they are not exclusive to Hermiston. No, they’re talking about Hermiston watermelons because they are different than your average melon: They’re sweeter, juicier, just plain tastier than regular watermelons.
Hermiston watermelons helped put the city on the map. Not including them in the city’s branding package seems wrong and, perhaps, ungrateful. At the same time, Hermiston has a lot more to offer than just watermelons: a growing city, strong job market, access to transportation, etc. And if you have a branding package that includes the wordmark “Hermiston You Can Grow Here” with the only visual element a watermelon, it does send a rather singular message.
But why not can’t we have a visual element or elements that reflects the message of the wordmark while still paying to the watermelon. Other cities have subtly incorporated the product for which they are renowned in their city logos. Gilroy, California, has a garlic clove subtly included in the G. Vidalia, Georgia, has the outline of an onion underneath the city’s name. Sequim, Washington included a sprig of lavender as part of its design. Walla Walla, Washington, does not feature a Walla Walla sweet in its wordmark or graphic. Then again, Walla Walla sweet onions have their own website.
Surely, a watermelon can be drawn into one of the letters of Hermiston’s wordmark next to a separate visual element representing the rest of the message the city is desperately trying to send. Or, what if the C in Can is a thicker font that would allow for the green and pink colors of a watermelon. Throw in some black seeds, and you’ve got the watermelon concept, and there is room for another visual element.
The point is, the city’s wordmark and the branding message that Hermiston has a lot to offer does not mean watermelons have to be excluded. But, without a visual element to help people associate the wordmark with Hermiston, thus completing the branding package, the message is lost altogether, whether its painted on a water tower or printed on city stationery and business cards.
— Jessica Keller is the editor of the Hermiston Herald. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org