Four Men in a Hot-Tub

Columbia, Missouri’s logo is intended to represent harmonious relations between the city’s government and its citizens:

City employees and citizens exist in an interwoven relationship. As a representation of this cooperative working bond, the distinctive City of Columbia logo depicts people joined together in an unending circle of community service. A solid version of the logo appears on city-owned vehicles, uniforms and correspondence as a reminder of this cooperative goal. [From FOTW research on the city flag]

us-mocol
Original artwork

Alas, in its simplified form used in the actual logo, it looks like four men in a hot-tub.  The city used this logo flag from 1988 until this year, when a flag contest was held to redesign the flag.

us-mocol
City flag, 1998-2016

The contest produced three finalists.

bauer
Michael Bauer’s design was inspired by Chicago’s flag. The stars represent Missouri University, Stephens College, and Columbia College.
johnston
Nicole Johnston’s design references C for Columbia, and a key sculpture at the city hall.
sheltmire
Jon Sheltmire’s design recolored the logo and placed it on a white cross (for the city’s central location) on a counter-charged field of blue (for rivers, creeks, and lakes) and green (for natural areas).

On 2 May 2016 the City Council chose Sheltmire’s design as the official city flag.

Alicia Troesser, Art Director of the marketing firm Caledon Virtual, offered a “friendly critique”.  In it she points out that using a logo — any logo — is problematic:

What happens if the city decides to update or refresh the logo 10 years from now? Do they redesign the flag?

Of course, not every logo comes with a mnemonic as memorable as “four men in a hot-tub”. For better or worse, it may be associated with Columbia for a long time to come.

(For many other examples of city flags being considered for redesign, see our Municipal Flag Improvement page.)

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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

One thought on “Four Men in a Hot-Tub”

  1. It all comes down to what we are willing to allow on a city flag. On a national flag, pictograms of any kind look like childish and inappropriate. Some might say there are borderline exceptions, like the maple leaf on the canadian flag, but that would be about it… I don’t think people can strongly associate to that flag…. 4 men in a hot tub… that’s a good one!

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