Real Life Graphic Designer Looks at City Logos

Earlier this week, I received  the following Facebook message from a contributor:

A few writers were in a conversation that turned to city logos and how awful so many are. We thought it would be fun to post the logos, or water tower pics if they have the logos, and have some commentary.

As it happens, I am personally acquainted with a real life professional graphic designer who thinks about logos (and other things) for a large company right here in Minnesota. This is our conversation…

Streets: Hello. You’re a graphic designer who thinks about logos a lot?

Real Life Graphic Designer (RLGD): Yes.

Streets: Tell me about city logos, you know, those things on the water towers or the websites or the truck that fills potholes.

RLGD: Lexington, KY has an awesome city logo, designed by Pentagram (a nationally recognized agency) with a really cool campaign that went with it – it really shows the potential a city logo has, but Lexington probably has a high tax base and can afford to hire a top-tier agency to do their logo.

lexington logo

Streets: Nice! Blue horse.

OK. What’dya think of this one?


To me, it makes me think of Grimace from McDonald’s.

RLGD: I like the typeface for Richfield, but they should get rid of everything else. And yes, that is Grimace Purple.

An even more horrible one is Eagan’s logo:

eagan logo

Streets: God, what font is that? It’s like the word “Eagan” is draining into a sewer.

RLGD: That city might as well be. Plus the tree always looked like the back of a woman’s head to me.

Streets: Kinda like that “optical illusion” thing with the old woman and the young woman!

womans head illusion


RLGD: I have always liked the logo of Apple Valley, though I dislike much about the city itself. It’s a nice, clean logo that looks good large or small, whether it’s in color or B+W, easy-to-read typeface, and it incorporates the apple tree without looking cheesy. I don’t know much about how it got designed though.


Streets: Apple Valley’s is exciting. It picks a concept and carries it through.

OK, Duluth.

duluth logo

RLGD: That Duluth logo would be passable if they got rid of the city and just had the type/wave thing.

Streets: Too busy?

RLGD: I think the fallacy of most city logos is that they try to cover too much ground in one image

Streets: Indeed. They feel like they have to represent everything.

RLGD: A good logo is a simple mark, a symbol. A simplified crest, or mongram-ish image

Streets: OK, here’s an old chestnut for you. This would seem to qualify as simple.

mpls logo

RLGD: Minneapolis isn’t the worst. But it lacks personality, especially in the typeface.

And I hate that blue, that is default-web-link blue.

Streets: How about Saint Paul? Saint Paul would seem to fall into the “too busy” category, but maybe makes up for it with the simplified black and white color scheme?

st paul logo

RLGD: Saint Paul has kept it classy.

Streets: Score!

RLGD: It would look busy if it was more than one color

Streets: Luckily there’s not much color in Saint Paul.

How about this? Stillwater ugh? Or does it work? It reminds me too much of a rocking chair somehow… Or maybe it’s just that I don’t like Stillwater.

stillwater logo

RLGD: Too many swashes. I also hate how the tagline doesn’t line up with “Stillwater”

Streets: It’s offset to the left! I didn’t even notice that.

RLGD: And I hate beige. That’s so 1985

Streets: Stillwater is so 1985. OK, how about Anoka with its symmetrical A’s?



RLGD: Not the worst, but I swear that their water tower logo was really nice.

Streets: Is this the one of which you speak? That bridge kinda looks like a butt.

anoka watertower

RLGD: No, that wasn’t it, I might’ve been thinking of a different city.

Streets: OK, apart from the fact that there aren’t any white pine forests in Blaine…


RLGD: No, just Aveda Headquarters. That logo would make a nice iron-on.

Streets: Yes! reminds me of a thrift store sweatshirt

Spring Lake Park…


RLGD: The image looks like a guy’s head with face paint

Streets: Could it be cheesier? It makes me think of a parade float in a small town. I am fond of that “Minnesota” font there, though. Is it the same one from the license plate?

RLGD: It’s not the same script font.

Streets: OK, I think this is the last one…


RLGD: Not the worst. But it wouldn’t look good small or viewed from a distance. And city logos usually are.

Otherwise it reminds me of the Caldecott Medal… sorta…


Streets: Here. A reader modified it slightly…

Ham Lake

RLGD: Done! The type on it is very thin for being reversed.

Streets: Oh, one more thing. Any thoughts on the Mankato one? Or any concluding remarks?


RLGD: One should never look to the Olympics as inspiration for a good logo.

Streets: Isn’t their 5 rings thing iconic?


RLGD: I’m talking the ones for each city/year.

london olympic logo

Streets: Oh god, those things. They’re almost epically bad.

And why? Why? Design by committee?

RLGD: Yes, too many cooks in the kitchen I suspect

Streets: Do you think the Mankato logo is too swooshy?

RLGD It’s just a tired look. And what does “Now Playing” really mean for them?

Streets: It wouldn’t be a city logo without the bad pun.

RLGD: Most cities should avoid taglines.

Streets: Well, thank you for your professional time and experience. This has been most valuable!

RLGD: You’re welcome. This was fun!

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.