Off the Hoof

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Philadelphia, my love.


I grew up in North Philadelphia. It’s not a pretty place, but it’s where I’m from. And my Philadelphia pride goes deep.1 Although I live in SF now, there are three times a year when I can still put on a Phillies cap and walk into AT&T Park to root for my beloved hometown team. (It’s worth pointing out that I’d never have the cojones to walk into a Philadelphia park wearing enemy colors.)

This morning I read about the Philadelphia rebranding on the always informative Brand New. Although I agree with author Kosal Sen’s main point that the logo sucks, I disagree with him on one very important point:

Philadelphia’s history does not start and end with the Liberty Bell. Any visiting tourist knows all the other historic must-sees like Betsy Ross’s house, Independence Hall, and Penn’s Landing. Conceptually, the choice of using the Bell could not be more uninspiring and obvious.


We own the hell out of that bell. You can’t look at it and NOT think Philadelphia. Few cities are lucky enough to have as strong an iconic representation as that bell.

Our informal office survey came up with this short list:

  • Paris and the Eiffel Tower
  • St. Louis and the Gateway Arch
  • Seattle and the Space Needle
  • Philadelphia and the Liberty Bell

I’m sure there are a few more, go ahead and comment away, but you get the point. (There was one lone vote for San Antonio and the Alamo, and before all you New Yorkers start complaining, the Statue of Liberty is more an icon of America and not the city per se. Enjoy your apple.)

The issue here is on Mr. Sen’s use of ‘uninspiring and obvious.’ By which I believe Mr. Sen means it was not a ‘clever’ choice. And I’d agree with that. It’s not clever, but neither does it have to be. The goal of design is to nail the problem, not showcase the cleverness of the designer. There are times when the solution to the problem is such a ridiculous slam dunk that cleverness only gets in the way of good work.

The problem with the new Philadelphia brand isn’t the bell. It’s the crap execution. No doubt impaired by the committee of 652 that oversaw the project and came up with that ridiculous tagline.

Don’t blame the bell though.

1. As proven by our I’m not angry, I’m from Philly t-shirt. Featuring the Liberty Bell.

2. …and by the way, anytime 65 Philadelphians get together to come up with a city tagline and it doesn’t come back as “Phuck New York!” you know you have a problem.

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