The City of Cape Town's new logo.

Design professional Damien du Toit has found himself warming to the new City of Cape Town logo.

Cape Town - Thousands of Capetonians have discovered for the first time that their city has a logo.

Leaked online last Friday, a new logo for the City of Cape Town spread quickly across media websites and social media channels, accompanied by reports of budgets in the millions and also raising questions about the various procurement and tender processes.

The public response to the logo has been nothing short of scathing. Many are upset about what seems to them to be a misuse of taxpayer’s money, or that their opinion wasn’t considered. Blame has been placed with the mayor, the premier, the city itself, and design agencies.

Some prefer the existing logo, while others have compared its proposed successor with a variety of things – from a police badge, an artichoke, origami gone bad and a robotic sphincter to a vacuous hole, or something that was produced by children playing with Spirograph or Microsoft Paint.

An online petition calls for the rejection of “this stupid new emblem”. In a poll of 10 000 respondents, 80 percent voted against the logo. Tweets call it “a hideous travesty” and “a mockery of the creative talent” that can be found in the city, this year’s World Design Capital.

Seldom has a rebrand captured public attention on such a large and passionate scale. Pick n Pay’s in 2007 and Cell C’s in 2010 are two similar examples that come to mind. Conversely, some brand revisions pass us by with barely a whisper. Telkom dropped the push-button telephone “T” symbol from its logo in favour of a simpler wordmark last September. DStv dropped the cumbersome swoosh and tagline from its logo in 2012.

Despite the inevitable and unfavourable criticism that accompanies the subjectivity of design, and a resistance to change in general, any attention is considered a big marketing win. As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. But when your new logo is leaked, and the carefully considered creative rationale is replaced with gossip and misinformation, you have a big problem on your hands.

The leak forced the city authorities into an unfortunate posture of damage control, and they worked quickly to regain ownership of their new identity and its launch.

Executive mayor Patricia de Lille briefed the media on Monday to clear up any misconceptions. Official versions of the logo appeared online shortly thereafter via the city’s website, Facebook and YouTube pages. What we learnt from this is the city’s primary motivation for the rebranding, which is to update and realign its corporate identity with the values, strategy and vision of the city; that is, to build on the legacy of the existing corporate identity (which communicates passive service delivery) and work towards a city of opportunity, dynamic collaboration and shared responsibility.

The political controversy aside, the proposed logo holds a lot of potential at a conceptual level. As is clear from the video released by the city on Monday, it draws inspiration from a kaleidoscope (a word meaning “observation of beautiful forms”), which is perfectly appropriate for a city that was voted the number one travel destination by the New York Times and The Guardian this year. It’s a clever visual metaphor that mirrors the many changes taking place in the city every day, and it provides the overall brand identity system with a dynamic and flexible foundation on which to build.

The execution of this kaleidoscope concept by the design teams has produced a rounded symbol consisting of four concentric rings, each of which is composed of six shapes that outline the city’s most iconic landmark, Table Mountain. The three inner rings represent government, business and civil society coming together as one, with this unity represented by the outer ring. The symbol is accompanied by the name of the city in English, Xhosa and Afrikaans, followed by a new tagline: “Making Progress Possible. Together.”

Walk around Bo-Kaap and you have a good idea of the inspiration for the colours. The brightly coloured rings (green, blue, pink and orange) combine to create a vibrant palette that is unique to Cape Town.

It took me a while to form an opinion on the leaked logo with nothing to base it on other than the logo itself, since judging an identity on a logo alone is pointless, and a leaked one even more so. But, like everyone else, I did and concluded that the colours were conflicted, the mountainous rings felt forced, and the typography could have carried more weight. Overall, it looked weak and lacking in substance.

I’ve since found myself warming to the new logo with its slightly different colours and larger, more balanced type. Compared to the existing logo, it’s a positive step forward. But the execution of the concept is still lacking, and I find it difficult to associate with the boardroom rationale behind the layout of the rings. The tagline and other potential corporate identity assets could more effectively convey the shift in strategic thinking that motivated this rebrand, and, in so doing, share some of the responsibility dumped on the logo.

Sometimes, all you need is a good-looking logo representing a brand that speaks for itself.

* Damien du Toit is an independent design professional. You can follow him on Twitter at @coda_za

** The views expressed hereare not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus