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‘So boring, so plain.’ Why Visalia is walking back a hundred thousand-dollar logo rebrand.

The redesigned, minimalist logo sits atop the Visalia city council chambers
Esther Quintanilla
/
KVPR
The redesigned, minimalist logo sits atop the Visalia city council chambers

VISALIA, Calif. – On a recent Monday evening, Visalia’s Main Street is buzzing. Dozens of pedestrians are scouting dinner spots along the quaint corridor.

In the distance, a giant yellow mural splashed against a wall displays the city’s name in what’s best described as a “California Adventure” font. Another mural down the block shows the giant sequoias that are found just outside the city.

At every turn, the town’s personality comes to life. And its city logo – displayed along city buildings and property – is no exception.

A vibrant 1998 design showcases detailed city hallmarks such as the FOX Theater, the Kaweah River and a snow-capped Sierra Nevada. Grapes hang from the sides and atop is a beloved sight: a Visalia Oak.

A vibrant mural in downtown Visalia displays various city hallmarks, such as the local crops, the Fox Theater and the big Sequoias.
Esther Quintanilla
/
KVPR
A vibrant mural in downtown Visalia displays various city hallmarks, such as the local crops, the Fox Theater and the big Sequoias.

“It really has the look and feel, the history of Visalia,” says Amber Lyttle, a small business owner in the area.

Lisa Wegely, a former Visalia resident who now lives in Sacramento, was walking along Main Street on a recent day. She says that logo “makes me feel very much at home.”

But in early May, local leaders unveiled a completely new emblem. It was in honor of the city’s 150th anniversary.

The city enlisted an Irvine-based marketing firm called We The Creative to create a rebrand package for Visalia. It cost more than $150,000 to produce marketing materials, training and recruitment videos – and the new logo.

The reimagined design attempted to take a simple, minimalist approach.

It depicted mountains, hills and what resembles a small chapel. Or perhaps it was the FOX Theater. That was the problem for many – they couldn't quite make out what was in front of them.

All of it was captured in dull hues inside an inverted triangle, resembling a “V” for Visalia.

Immediately, online reaction made it abundantly clear: residents did not like it.

“It’s very sterile,” says Wegley, the Visalia native who now lives out of town.

“It’s just so boring, so plain. It completely missed the mark, 100%,” says Lyttle, the small business owner. “It doesn't feel like Visalia at all. It could be any random city.”

Sylvia Romero, a tattoo artist in Visalia, says a local artist could have, maybe, drawn up a better image.

“I'm just baffled that they changed it to such a simple thing,” she says.

The Visalia logo has seen various designs through the decades.
City of Visalia
The Visalia logo has seen various designs through the decades.

Frustration didn’t just stay on the streets. Dozens of residents attended city council meetings, demanding the city return to its legacy logo. An online petition garnered nearly 3,500 signatures.

Resident’s like Patrick Daly say Visalia’s “small town feel” and “unique charm” is what the old logo reflected.

“The city has a lot of pizzazz,” he believes. He says the old logo competed with those from other cities, which, he says, “are a lot more muted and quiet.”

Visalia Mayor Brian Poochigian says the public outcry was unexpected. The day the logo was unveiled, the city had also passed a local ballot measure to tax marijuana within city limits.

“We thought that would create a lot of headlines,” Poochigian says. “Obviously we were wrong. It was the logo that created all the headlines.”

Poochigan acknowledges the city missed the mark. But he and other council members have taken steps to make things better.

The city is now asking its artists to submit original designs to be considered for the logo.

The mayor is hoping that the city and its residents will come to agree on an emblem that fits the city — even though many argued nothing was wrong with the last logo in the first place.

In fact, the city decided to keep the most recent design as a “legacy logo” to be displayed on city buildings alongside the new logo. When a design is chosen in early August, the mayor says it’ll be used for social media and other marketing purposes.

For all the headaches, Poochigian says he hopes the logo fiasco has at least inspired people to continue participating in their local government. He says the city faces other pressing issues, such as homelessness, public safety and infrastructure.

“Nothing against the logo, but we have bigger problems in the city,” Poochigian says. “We would love for our community to be involved in these items.”

Esther Quintanilla reports on diverse communities for KVPR through the Central Valley News Collaborative, which includes The Fresno Bee, Vida en el Valle, KVPR and Radio Bilingüe.