- Community members were invited to provide feedback on four concepts for a new arts district brand. (Photo: TBD Staff)
Not to be lost amid the complex commotion over plans to apply an "arts district" brand to the U Street, Logan Circle and Shaw neighborhoods: the fact that the new brand is going to be rolled out early next month, whether anyone likes it or not.
And so curious community members stopped by the Long View Gallery on Monday night to find out just what their $200,000 in city-funded grants has produced thus far. Following a carefully worded presentation that laid out precisely how much public input they've already gathered (via three public meetings, an online poll, and a formal survey [PDF] conducted by an independent communications firm), branding project leaders Carol Felix and Andrea Doughty showed off four potential concepts and asked for feedback.
First things first, the name. At this point, they've ruled out MidCity Arts District altogether (survey respondents didn't respond to it favorably enough), but are still considering The Arts District, DC Arts District, and Arts & Design District.
But in what appears to be a concession to some of the early criticism leveled against the project, all four example banner concepts shown Monday night included space for an additional "mini-brand," or neighborhood name. So the Arts District banners on U Street would also say U Street, the Arts District banners in Shaw would also say Shaw, the Arts District banners around Logan Circle would also say Logan, and so on.
It's an idea born out of a well-intentioned desire to pay respect to the existing identities of these neighborhoods, but it's also ripe for potential problems. "Who's going to tell the people who think they live in Logan Circle that they really live in Shaw?" as one man at the event put it. Not to mention, the fourth mini-brand proposed to be used by the group is in fact "MidCity," a name that's not so much a neighborhood but a shopping and dining area that overlaps with parts of Logan and U Street.
It's not hard to imagine the process of determining exactly which blocks would get which mini-brands ending up bogged down in yet more contentious arguments about geography and identity. In her role as master of ceremonies for the event, local art collector and graphic designer Veronica Jackson acknowledged that the exact locations of the mini-brands are "logistics that still need to be worked out." By the end of the night, she openly wondered whether she and the other designers would opt to keep them at all.
As for the designs, all four look like they were professionally conceived of and executed, even if none of them blew anyone away. If there was a frontrunner at Monday's event, it was the option dubbed "No Boundaries," which incorporates dots and lines reminiscent of D.C.'s streets and traffic circles.
Much of the feedback gathered at Long View (helpfully written in big marker on easels of paper) noted that among the logo concepts, the ones that focused on the letters DCAD (for DC Arts District) were too vague. "Nobody's going to know what D-CAD is," as one woman put it.
Oh yes, and there's a tagline: "It's more than art," which Felix introduced as their solution to another bit of criticism, that the "arts district" concept focused too much on galleries and theaters and not enough on restaurants and retail.
Once again, the branding team will now sort through collected feedback, this time for only about a week, before coming back at another public meeting set for Nov. 8 at the Hamiltonian Gallery. Felix says they should have narrowed the options down to one of the four design concepts by then, with perhaps a few slight variations from which still to choose. The final brand and logo will be selected shortly thereafter, with the street banners to be printed and deployed by the first week of December.