What A Council Logo Says, Part 7 – Conclusion

Published on 30 November 2008 in , , ,

What does your council’s logo say about your area? I was pondering this very question whilst walking down the street and looking at the street signs near home – their Merton Council logo blazing quietly in the corner, radiating out its waterwheel goodness. The entire of Merton is represented by a waterwheel for example. Why?

And so, with that on my mind, I headed on a journey of discovery, looking at places where I’d lived and visited, asking what each council logo said about the area it serves.

In the final part, I try to make head and tails of the motley collection of logos I’ve assembled.

The Conclusion

Over the past week, I’ve looked at seven different councils, and one assembly for good measure, covering six different areas, and different council types.

Area Council Name Type Year Created
Tameside, Greater Manchester Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council Metropolitan Borough 1974
Durham City of Durham Council Non-metropolitan district 1974
Durham County Council Non-metropolitan county 1888
Ealing, Greater London London Borough of Ealing London borough 1965
Greater London Authority Regional authority 2000
Merton, Greater London London Borough of Merton London borough 1965
Greater London Authority Regional authority 2000
Isle of Wight Isle of Wight Council Unitary authority 1995
Edinburgh The City of Edinburgh Council Unitary authority 1975

Of all the councils, Durham County Council is the one that has stayed in a roughly similar size and shape for by far the longest – all the rest are more recent concotions – the results of several mergers and reorganisations. Durham as a county level has been in existance for a long time.

That said, the Isle of Wight Council is also old, being a continuation of the Isle of Wight County Council. However it did have a significant reshuffle in 1995 so it makes it one of the newest council – the GLA not being an authority.

Looking at the logos of those councils, it’s possible to pick out several themes running through them, that no doubt are familiar themes for councils everywhere in the UK.

History and Heraldry

The council logos of Durham County Council and City of Durham Council

You could say that heraldry shows a certain pomposity, but certainly it can be used to give a sense of heritage, history, importance and grandeur. The two Durham councils – City of Durham and Durham County Council, both rely on it to provide their logos – City of Durham via it’s simple, modern looking crest, and Durham County Council by its older, less trendy option.

Both provide logos that seem to fit in nicely with the elderly statesman of British cities that they serve and surround. Durham is a city steeped in its history – impossible to escape – and therefore nicely played in the logos.

Merton Council logo

Merton too plays on its history and heritage – this time without heraldry and using a modern representation of a landmark that helped power an industry. The Merton Abbey Mills waterwheel was part of the industrial revolution for the area, powering the Liberty Print Works. The council logo celebrates that history in a simple and subtle way.

City of Edinburgh council logo

Edinburgh also tries to play the history card for its logo, but does it in such a poor way that it never celebrates nor venerates the local history and heritage of the city in any meaningful way.

The Physical Landscape

The other main logo type sees councils try to represent the physical landscape.

Ealing, Isle of Wight and Tameside council logos

Ealing does this through its trees, Isle of Wight via the shape of the island it serves, and Tameside via its representation of the River Tame. Tameside is also the only council I looked at that also uses its logo to represent a letter from the council name – in the form of the stylised T.

Merton Council logo

And then there’s Merton. The wavy blue line of its logo represents the River Wandle – a geographical feature that powers the waterwheel in the logo. Thus Merton manages to kill two birds with one stone, being the only logo which represents both history and physical landscape in its logo.

Just some text shoved on screen

Both the above techniques allow councils to represent nicely the area they serve, helping to connect them to the people they serve via relevant, local imagery.

Greater London Authority and City of Edinburgh logos

However there’s a school of thought that all you really need to do is shove the name of the area you’re serving, in some text, bung it on a white background and you’re done. Bottom marks go to both City of Edinburgh Council, and the Greater London Assembly.

Edinburgh does at least have some stylistic niceties – the interesting font, and the use of colour for example. However it doesn’t represent the city itself in any meaningful way which is a real shame, when there is so much of Edinburgh that could be used.

Likewise there is so much to represent London too. Yet the GLA logo has nothing bar a bland, sans-serif font shown in light blue. It doesn’t even go as far as to tell you which organisation the logo is for. Maybe this was the point – a brand for London as a city, rather than for a city wide governmental organisation. However even as a brand for the city, it’s lacklustre, dull and, dangerously for any brand trying to get noticed, instantly forgettable.

Bods’s Top Logo

So out of all the logos I’ve covered, which is the one I rate the most. Well I think it has to be Merton.

Merton Council logo

Merton wins because it manages to combine neatly the locality in physical and historical terms, whilst appearing as one coherent whole whilst looking stylish and almost timeless. Even its use of lowercase fonts – something of a fad in recent logo design (see HMV, BBC One and Next as prime examples) – does not detract from it. The current logo predates that fad, and will probably outlast it too. The lower case font sits neatly alongside the waterwheel – the representation of the Wandle nicely providing an underline.

It’s a logo that shows with a little imagination and thought, you can come up with something distinctive and local to your area. The Mayor of London may want to take note…

If you missed them, you can read all seven parts of “What A Council Logo Says” on this website.