A New Brand for Portland

A new brand for Portland showing the new logos


In October 2019, the City issued a Request for Proposals seeking Marketing & Branding services to assist the City in creating a municipal brand identity to supplement the City seal for the City’s routine public communications and engagement efforts. Our mission was to seek improved ways of communicating with our constituents so that we could provide clear and efficient access to municipal services, unity of messaging across all city departments, and consistent approaches to sharing information in order to lead to a better, more transparent picture of how the City is serving its residents, workers, and property and business owners. Our goal was to create a new brand and logo that will help build and solidify trust and communication with our constituents. 

The City has a wide range of people with whom it needs to communicate, including residents, workers, visitors, new Mainers, many of whom are not native English speakers, small business owners, and large companies. It was very important to us that we create a municipal brand identity that encompasses the City of Portland as an organization and service provider and not Portland as a location. A municipal brand encapsulates the values of that organization and reflects leadership, accountability, and ownership of those services. It is the visual expression of the relationship between the municipality and its citizens. Whereas a place brand is about the place or places that the municipality serves. This is akin to destination branding, which draws tourism, economic growth, and business to a place. 

In November 2019, we chose Portland Design Co to perform the branding services based on their in-depth branding knowledge and expertise, design aesthetic, and knowledge of the Portland community; and Blaze Partners to perform the marketing services. We then set out to execute the contract, but were not successful in doing so prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the necessity for emergency response efforts and a resulting lack of resources, the rebranding project was put on hold. In January 2021, we picked this work back up and re-engaged Portland Design Co to begin the rebranding effort. 

In order to guide the rebranding process, Portland Design Co and Blaze conducted two surveys to gain feedback from the public regarding how well they were aware of the services the City provides, how they interact and communicate with the City, how they feel about current service levels, and their current level of satisfaction with the City. The first survey was conducted by Portland Design Co. It collected info from almost 200 residents, business owners, and workers, and showed that improved communication could help build the trust constituents feel is currently missing from the city/resident relationship. The second survey, conducted by Blaze Partners, revealed three overarching themes -- residents are interested in more information from the City, there is a low level of awareness of the types of services the City offers, and that our website is a critical source for information.

Key findings included:

  • that the vast majority of respondents have interacted in-person with the City in some way with 86% having visited City Hall for some type of service. The City’s website is used slightly more frequently than in-person City Hall services, demonstrating the importance of our digital presence. 
  • Despite nearly 90% of respondents having used our website, there is still a lack of awareness of key services, indicating an opportunity for the City to better communicate, organize and promote services in a digestible and memorable way through digital. 
  • The City offers so much to residents, however the depth/breadth of services is not currently understood or appreciated by residents. 
With this research in mind, Portland Design Co developed a municipal brand intended to unify messaging across all city departments, improve awareness of the variety of services the City offers, and the physical locations that the City manages. By creating a municipal brand that encapsulates values of leadership, communication, and accountability of its services, the City of Portland aims to build and solidify a sense of trust and connection between the municipal government and its constituents. We believe that adopting and stewarding a unified branding system and communication strategy will help the City better communicate with the people who live, work, and visit here.

The City will begin using the brand electronically, and then will roll it out to physical assets as things need to be replaced and as budget allows. The City is also in the midst of upgrading its website platform, which includes a full website design refresh, which is slated to go live in May/June 2022. The new website design will include the new branding assets. 


View Brand Guidelines

A few notes on the design:

  • The abstract P badge brand mark reinforces the City’s communication agenda through the use of a subtle talk bubble. The mark is also an abstraction of the shape of the city. Some may also see an abstract shape of the letter P, and others have said it reminds them of the shape of the state of Maine. Abstract representation allows for creative interpretation and speaks to Portland’s diverse and evolving populations -- inviting residents, business owners, as well as new and existing community members to be part of the conversation. 
  • The wordmark’s confident yet friendly and curved letterforms represent our unique “big little city” and small-town welcomablity. The lowercase wordmark with “City of” creates an approachable sense of unity and connection by bridging the gap between the ascenders of “land” (the space between the l and the d). 
  • The primary logo colors -- “Casco” navy and “Bay” light blue -- pull from the coastal character of Portland’s location. The secondary palette, which is also assigned to City departments, give a crisp, fresh, bright take on everything the city has to offer. The “Resurgam” yellow represents a hopeful, optimistic and energetic confidence. The “Exchange” reddish orange pulls from the working waterfront and historic brick architecture. The “Parks” and “Promenade” teals/green are a nod to the City’s open green spaces and a sense of renewal. The added “Island” blue evokes reliability, trust, strength and the City’s responsibility to its people. The “Monument” color brings a subtle neutral tone to balance out the saturation of the palette as a whole.
  • The department logos exclusively utilize a locally designed typeface called Expo Sans. Expo was designed by Portland-based type foundry TypeCulture, founded by Mark Jamra.