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By Erin Glanville

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With $24K On The Line, Council Should Take A Second Look

Uploaded: Jan 23, 2014
At last week's City Council meeting, council was asked to select which slight modification to the current logo would be used for the creation of a style guide. According to the contract with the selected graphic design vendor, the development of the style guide (which will help ensure consistency in city publications) will cost another $24K. That brings the total cost for the logo "update" to $49K. Following media scrutiny and public frustration over the spending, the City Council had some careful questions for City staff during the meeting. Unfortunately, not all of the relevant information was made available. With $24K on the line, I would urge the City Council to reagendize this issue for a closer look.

During the meeting, multiple council members referenced their concern with cost and asked what the City's contractual obligations to complete the contract were. The contract was not included in the Staff Report for review ahead of time. More surprisingly, staff did not have a copy of the contract on hand during the meeting to reference. In answer to council questions about where they stood with the contract and how much flexibility the City had, staff responded: "The contract obligates us to do the second phase". A standard and clear termination agreement in the contract disputes that point.

Staff should have contracts on hand to answer questions on issues that council is being asked to vote on. In this case, had council been given the correct information about what was in the contract (a termination agreement), the City Council may have wanted to terminate the contract due to cost. The vendor that was selected by the City had a bid that was much, much more expensive than the bids from the other two competing vendors. Based on my math, it was 178% higher than the bid from the second vendor, and 341% more than the third. (The reason given for the selection of the bid was "Best quality proposal and highest level of experience for this project".) The selected vendor may be first rate in terms of quality. If the City were embarking upon a massive rebranding effort, maybe that premium for outstanding creative would make sense (although I confess to finding those percentages mind-boggling). Once, however, the council directed staff to scale back from a brand new logo rebranding effort and to simply shore up consistency and quality by tweaking our current logo and by creating a style guide, this doesn't make sense.

The City Council may also want to take a closer look at the Statement of Work (SOW) (something else that should have been made available to them prior to or at the meeting) to make sure they are comfortable with the deliverables the City would be receiving for $24K. For example, a council member asked specifically if the City would be receiving new PowerPoint templates for council meetings. The SOW does not specifically mention templates of any kind. Revisiting the issue with all of the documentation in front of them would give council an opportunity to clarify what deliverables the City will be getting for this substantial sum.

I understand why the City would want to develop a style guide to help make sure that City publications and documentation maintain a consistent quality. Given the information that is now out there and the more limited scope of what the City is now trying to accomplish, that deliverable can be done for much less money. Based on the questions and concerns the Menlo Park City Council raised on this issue, they should take a beat and reagendize the issue?this time with contracts and SOWs in hand. After all, this is a lot of money and logos have been redesigned for much less.

1.24.14 Postscript: I did some additional research into the cost of the Lake Oswego logo, including obtaining copies of their 2013 contracts and SOWs. While the cost to deliver a revised high quality logo image in various formats (TIF, JPEG, monotone, stacked text, etc.) was $4,290, the cost for stationary design and various templates was another $2,730. The development of a graphics standards/ logo style guide was $1,490. The contract total was $8,510. The City later contracted for 18-21 more templates to be developed for an additional $1755 bringing the total spent for logo development, all templates and a design guide to $10,265. This is, of course, only one example of a City?s logo rebranding effort.
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Posted by Erin Glanville, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Erin Glanville is a registered user.

Posted by resident BH, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 1:14 pm

I am frequently amazed at the incompetence of the city staff. I use incompetence because it is the best possible reason to explain their actions, trying to assume their behavior is not intentional. How often has city staff not provided necessary information to council prior to a meeting? Even at a council meeting city staff, the technical/professionals, who should be able to explain the details to a contract or proposal cant seem to answer any questions. So they are either incompetent (unable to remember to bring "important things" to a meeting or unable to get out information packages to council ahead of time) or worse, which is it?'
I am also frequently disappoint that council lets this continue. Council needs to take their oversight role seriously. How can they look at agendas, see topics that require a decision and not demand the necessary information they need? This is why the council has hired the city staff. This is a pretty dysfunctional group effort on display- its just a logo!
So what is going on? Is the city staff incompetent or have they decided to do what they want to so and they are managing council members? Is the job of oversight too hard for council members or are they just disinterested?
Are there other explanations?

Posted by LOCO LOGO , a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Incompetence and arrogance best describes the performance of the City Manager and City Community Services Director in front of the City Council. I too would like to know why the Mayor and City Council didn't put this additional expenditure on hold until a contract was examined. The City Council needs to reign in the unnecessary expenditures and provide the oversight to the City Staff who seem all to flippant about how they spend public funds.

Posted by Reconsideration, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Jan 23, 2014 at 7:32 pm

The City Council has this item on for reconsideration on its agenda for next week.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Jan 24, 2014 at 7:59 am

I'm not sure the average resident will even notice the "new" logo. But I'll bet they will be appalled when they hear how much the city spent to make such a minor change.

Unfortunately, this, like so much of wasteful government spending, will be rationalized and swept under the carpet and will soon be forgotten.

Posted by LOCO LOGO, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jan 24, 2014 at 9:53 am

If the argument for paying to update the logo is to have everything uniform and streamlined then it\'s a major failure, unless the City is going to pay to redo Police Cars, Street Signs, Building Markers, etc. No need to "rebrand" any of this and I find it offensive that the City Staff are trying to sell this over priced project to the public instead of respecting the public\'s opinions on the topic. The City of Menlo Park is most definitely NOT a Starbucks, and should not be compared to a corporation. Any good Community Services Director should be engaging the community and building community. Outreach to the community, good faith and transparency are all lacking here. Change is all well and good when there\'s a need and a good reason to change. This rebranding project though is a major failure by our City Staff on so many levels who are more concerned with rebranding themselves and telling their own stories instead of listening to the Community which they serve. The change that is needed is a change in how our City is being Managed.

Posted by LOCO LOGO, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jan 24, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Web Link
Interesting postscript..seems that The City of Lake Oswego came to their senses. I know that costs are higher here in the Bay Area, but gimme a break.

Posted by Stu Soffer, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Jan 25, 2014 at 11:45 am

Stu Soffer is a registered user.

I too read the contract for design services and found something missing - the explicit assignment of intellectual property rights in the artwork to the city. (There's a vague assignment should the city terminate the contract before work completion.)

By IP rights I mean copyright and trademarks. If the city wants to put this in the public domain, so be it. The city should be able to control use of the artwork by others. For example, inclusion of the MP logo can imply endorsement or a relationship that doesn't exist. Some years ago someone pitching a plan to the council included the MP logo on the PowerPoint slides displayed to council. It was spotted as premature.

Ofcourse, this isn't legal advice. I am not a lawyer.

Posted by endeavor, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jan 25, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Erin, your headline suggests that the city should create a bold new logo simply because we have $24K on the line. Changing the logo that is on every sign, and even painted on sidewalk curbs is a giant endeavor. Creating a guide for how the existing logo should be used on multimedia presentations, web and social media is something that was not thought about in the 60's. This is money well spent, if city employees can now produce professional looking materials.

Posted by Erin Glanville, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks,
on Jan 26, 2014 at 2:11 pm


I am in not suggesting that the City should-- or should not-- create a logo. I am stating my opinion that:

- City Staff should make sure relevant contracts and SOWs are on hand to reference. (Ideally they would be provided to council ahead of a vote).

- 24K is a lot of money to pay for a style guide. As the postscript notes, Lake Oswego spent $1,490.

- Since they did not have a copy of the SOW, the City Council may be expecting certain deliverables to be a part of the money spent on the style guide that may not be. Certain items mentioned (e.g. PowerPoint templates) were not called out in the SOW. Council should be able to make sure they know what the City (taxpayers) are getting for the money spent.


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