WICHITA — They’re calling it Wichita’s own version of the Gap debacle.
Along with unveiling almost $1 million in renovations at Century II late last week, the city debuted the center’s new logo.
The Wichita design community is not impressed.
“It made the rounds pretty immediately,” says Jarrett Green of Blink Interactive. “There was just a collective sort of, what is this?”
Among the comments is that it looks like: something a child drew, a part of the female anatomy, the top of a wok, the top of a grill and a briefcase in motion.
“I like it,” says John D’Angelo, the city’s arts and cultural services manager. “I think it’s nice. You know, it helps update the image.”
He says the logo will brand Century II as a performing arts center.
D’Angelo says he doesn’t mind the critical comments.
“We’ll take both criticism and compliments and review them. Absolutely. We’re always interested.”
The city paid $1,150 to Catherine Lewis of Exchange Design, who does a lot of work for the city’s division of arts and cultural services, to create the logo under its direction.
Not everyone with the city agreed with the direction, though.
“From a pragmatic point of view, I struggle a little bit — being in the business — with a logo design of that nature,” says City Council member Jeff Longwell, who has been in the graphics business for 30 years.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder here,” Longwell says. “Some people may just absolutely fall in love with the design. There’s elements of the design I kind of like.”
There are other parts he finds less appealing, and Longwell is concerned about reproduction issues.
He says the brush stroke that has a paint brush effect is hard to reproduce on, say, a shirt. He says there would be other screen printing reproduction issues as well.
Longwell plans to share his concerns with others at City Hall this week.
Several design experts have very specific concerns about the logo.
“For a premier center . . . the logo doesn’t work well in terms of clarity nor will it reproduce very well in other applications,” says Ann Willoughby of Willoughby Design in Kansas City.
“There are a lot of practical reasons it doesn’t work. For example, I don’t think it would work well as a sign, number one. I don’t think it’s going to reverse out.”
She means it won’t look good for times when it needs to be presented with a dark background.
Also, she says, the graphic isn’t in the right proportion to the letters.
“It will not function well as a logo for all the applications that you’ll need it for.”
There are broader issues as well, designers say.
“Century II is an iconic structure, and it really deserves something bold and elegant, and we just did not achieve that,” says Sonia Greteman of Greteman Group.
“A beautiful calligraphic line can be a very elegant interpretation . . . but this one, it just doesn’t communicate the grandeur or the splendor of Century II. It just doesn’t represent us well.
“I think it would be an embarrassment for our city to move forward with this.”
Compared to what the city spent on renovations, Greteman says the logo wasn’t given the same amount of attention.
“It was just like an afterthought almost,” she says. “If you’re going to change the logo, it better be an improvement.”
Bill Gardner of Gardner Design says he’s not sure how the logo got approved.
“Somebody at the city should have been watching out for something like this,” he says. “If that’s the level of aesthetic that we can claim as our uppermost reaches of aesthetic, then boy, we’re pretty bereft.”
The issue is so important, Gardner says, because the logo will be used in myriad ways to promote the center and the city.
“It’s going to have an impact on the city for years to come,” he says.
“There’s a place for casual, informal logos, but a building like Century II certainly isn’t that kind of place.”
He says there are numerous architectural elements that could be reflected in the logo.
“There’s so much detail in that building. A good identity reflects the detail of that which it’s representing.”
He adds that the logo won’t scale down well.
“It looks like a doodle that’s designed to represent a masterpiece,” Gardner says. “It doesn’t represent much beyond a child’s craft corner.”
Green of Blink Interactive issued a call to local designers to see if anyone is interested in trying to do better.
“Our goal is not to throw it in the face of the city,” he says. “We’re kind of hoping maybe somebody goes, ‘Oh, we maybe should have put out an RFP for this.’
“It’s a big deal. It’s Century II, for god’s sake.”
The site is www.century2point0.com.
There are several potential new logos — some serious, some not — on it.
One of them even spoofs the Gap logo with a small blue box that the company recently debuted and then quickly abandoned.
“The Gap ate crow and retracted their logo, and they listened to their customers,” Greteman says.
It looks like the city might as well.
“Well, it may turn out that we learned a lesson from Gap last week and that we may have to reconsider,” City Manager Robert Layton says.
“Boy, if we’re having an adverse reaction to this, it’s worth reconsidering.”
It sounds like a number of designers are willing to offer their skills as a public service. That includes Gardner, who in addition to having an ad agency has LogoLounge, an international resource for logo designers.
“If it came down to looking at that thing for years to come or doing one for free, then I would gladly do one for free.”