City takes on re-branding and logo development

New branding expected to start being phased in this June

By: Chris Jackett | Royal Oak Review | Published February 13, 2013

ROYAL OAK — After years with a city logo that few within 211 S. Williams cared to use, the city has taken the first steps toward re-branding.

On Feb. 4, the City Commission voted unanimously to hire Royal Oak-based Ideation to develop new branding that can be used on city documents, the city website and eventually find its way onto official city vehicles and signage throughout town.

“It was one of the commission’s goals for this fiscal year,” City Manager Don Johnson said. “What we want to create is a uniform image.”

Although the Downtown Development Authority is a separate entity from municipal government, Johnson said various city departments have been using their own individual logos or the city seal instead of the official tree logo.

“We’ve got this tree logo. Internally, we call it ‘the blob,’” Johnson said, noting that too many trips through copy machines have worn down the logo over the years before things went digital. “It didn’t always look like that. Everything really runs together between the tree and the ground. I think that could be cleaned up and used, but I don’t know if we want to go that direction.”

With a $20,000 budget for developing the new logo, Johnson said the city wanted to get a new logo before going forward with new signs for public parking downtown. Everything would be phased into the new branding over time, expected to start with the city website and city documents in June 2013, Johnson said.

About 18 companies submitted bids, which were narrowed down to a list of seven finalists to interview, upon which a committee narrowed down the seven to two finalists; Ideation and Detroit-based Skidmore Studio.

Ideation is responsible for other nearby branding projects, such as the Woodward 5, Royal Oak DDA website, Bordine’s plant nursery and Ferndale Public Library. Skidmore developed branding for Portage-based Abraxas, Detroit Venture Partners, the City of Rochester Hills and the Detroit Jazz Festival, among others.

“What most intrigued me was the body of work provided,” Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Capello said.

Although Commissioner Jim Rasor favored another bidder, Berline, and referenced a past experience with Ideation influencing his decision, he said he was impressed with the bids from all seven finalists, including Ideation.

“I don’t want to micromanage staff on this decision,” Rasor said. “I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the bids, really.”

Bloomfield Hills-based Berline had developed the branding for Greektown Casino-Hotel, as well as print advertising development for both Buffalo Wild Wings and The Townsend in Birmingham, using existing logos.

“We ended up with a lot of really good ones,” Johnson said. “Ideation and Skidmore were frontrunners.”

With Ideation now contracted, the branding development crew was scheduled to meet with the City Commission Feb. 18. Johnson said the group would also interview various other people in the city to get a feel for different perspectives.

“Their first goal is to lay out what Royal Oak is and what image we’re trying to present for the city,” Johnson said. “The difficulty with Royal Oak and a singular image is that Royal Oak is so many things.”

Johnson said he hopes the new logo can tie in multiple aspects of the city — from the downtown area to neighborhoods, schools, parks, etc. — without looking generic. He said he was involved in the Woodward 5 branding, which Ideation also performed.

“It really changed my view on what we were accomplishing,” Johnson said.

For samples of Ideation’s work, visit or