Visalians confront council over logo rebrand

Visalia City Council meeting on May 20, 2024.(Rigo Moran)

Visalia City Council responds to public outcry over new logo at recent meeting, planning further discussions

VISALIA – The City of Visalia recently unveiled a new logo to provide a modern twist on their branding, but the new design has drawn the ire of the community.

On Monday, May 20, Visalia City Council decided to revisit the recent unveiling of the City of Visalia logo. Their former logo was in use since 2018. Although the new logo saw several years of work with little public input, it recently received community pushback in the form of online petitions against the logo’s design, which received thousands of signatures and numerous angry comments.

The driving factor in the negative response is the minimalist style of the logo, which was described as too simple by several speakers during public comment. In particular, the use of the Fox Theater in the logo has been described as a “llama” or a “mission,” while the generic mountains in the background have been called “pyramids.”

“We hear you, and the reason this is on the (meeting) agenda…is because we heard the message,” councilmember Steve Nelson said. “I will listen to anyone who is civil, but when you threaten me, that is not the way to get a reaction. To have that done tonight in this public forum, to be threatened – I can’t accept that.”

While there were no direct threats made, some speakers mentioned the upcoming elections as a veiled threat to apply pressure on the council.

“This debacle has ignited a firestorm of civic engagement. Residents disgusted by this uninspired ‘bank symbol’ logo are researching council districts and learning how to hold our elected officials accountable, especially with city council elections looming in just six months,” said April Lancaster, a resident of Visalia.

Lancaster also mentioned that over 5,000 people have signed petitions on MoveOn and Change.org in an attempt to “reject this minimalist logo that We The Creative has presented to the City of Visalia.”

The initial goals set forth by the city council were to create a modern, simplified logo design while also creating a new mission statement and updating the recruiting process to fill vacant jobs in the city. Despite numerous opportunities for public input throughout the process, the efforts for outreach by the city did not reach members of the public, many of whom spoke at the May 20 city council meeting saying they did not know about the rebrand until after the process was finished.

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Presentation on City of Visalia’s past logos at the Visalia City Council meeting on May 20, 2024. (Rigo Moran)

“Hindsight is good, and at this time, we are dealing with hindsight,” Nelson added. “At the time we were moving the process forward, I didn’t see any of you at the meetings, so I didn’t get that discourse. I didn’t get to hear that voice.”

Due to regulations, council members were only able to vote on moving forward with bringing the item back to be further discussed at the next meeting on June 3. Thus, council was not able to make a motion to revisit the logo design at the time. Space has been reserved at the Visalia Convention Center for the next meeting to allow for more members of the public to come forward and voice opinions. 

“I hope this does at least stir people to look at the agenda and look at it every two weeks on the first and third Monday,” councilmember Liz Wynn said. “We are here to serve you. Come on, let’s get more involved, let’s get the big, big issues that we have to keep the quality of our lives here in Visalia vibrant. We can only do that if you talk to us.”

Several council members mentioned the “Council Corners” events, which are an opportunity for the public to get one-on-one time with council members and are rarely attended. It was noted that, often, the events last less than 30 minutes and see just two or three people show up.

Vice Mayor Brett Taylor admitted to the difficulty in doing outreach, stating that his wife wasn’t even aware of what was happening, and after the fact, wasn’t a big fan of the final design herself.

“We are always willing to listen to you guys. If we messed up, we messed up, and we can fix this,” Taylor said. “I appreciate the engagement, I appreciate the positive suggestions. We’ve received lots of emails and text messages and phone calls, and there is a lot of positive criticism that we can do better and we will.”

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Visalia City Council meeting on May 20, 2024. (Rigo Moran)

One contentious issue was the hiring of a design firm from Irvine instead of working with a local Visalia firm and another in Fresno. City Manager Leslie Caviglia explained that the decision to go with the out-of-area firm was based largely on that group’s prior experience handling similar projects for municipalities. 

The cost of the project has also been brought into question with several members of the public stating that the money could have been spent on homelessness or other priorities that are more vital. There has been questioning about the total cost with some sources stating a project cost of $150,000. Caviglia explained that the design work and branding cost $75,000 while the other $75,000 was spent on recruitment efforts and a new mission statement.

“I will admit that we got something wrong, and we got this wrong,” Mayor Brian Poochigian said. “I’m happy that our residents of Visalia love the city so much that they are this passionate about the logo. I think it shows their passion for the city. I wish that we could all be engaged with everything that is going on.”

Poochigian also noted there are opportunities for citizens to be more involved. City council meeting agendas are available online and a live stream of meetings is available through the city website. Past meeting videos are also available for review. The city also operates a robust social media team to help spread the word about the various decisions the council makes, upcoming projects and other information the public might find valuable. 

“I’m hoping this lights a fire under people and they are engaged in things we do, because we do have bigger problems that I would love for the community to be more involved in,” Poochigian said. 

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