Why you should care
Re-branding our government could make our democracy healthier.
This is the first video in a multi-part series brought to you by Adobe on the Rising Stars of Marketing. Watch new stories each week on OZY.
The average urban dweller is bombarded by more than 3,000 logos per day, says design strategist David Jalbert-Gagnier. And that’s just in the physical world — it’s hard to calculate how many branded messages, logos and symbols catch our eyes online. “Every pixel counts,” Jalbert-Gagnier tells me enthusiastically, and that’s why he’s convinced that the public sector — yes, the government, in all its forms — should do a better job of branding itself with strong, clear logos.
With more unified logos, says Jalbert-Gagnier, citizens will know what government does and be able to easily identify an authentic government website from a fraudulent one. But not only does democracy need better logos, those logos must also be consistent. In his opinion, a unified “visual identity system” should be implemented, like in the Netherlands — and like in Canada, where Jalbert-Gagnier grew up in rural Quebec.
Jalbert-Gagnier’s niche obsession has always been the public sector. A self-confessed nerd fascinated by symbols and logos, he can name the American state symbols (favorite state logo: Colorado’s) and any national flag in the world (favorite flag: Switzerland’s). It started with his memorizing the flags in his well-worn Larousse — a combo dictionary/encyclopedia that is a staple in every French-speaking home. Passionate about both design and democracy, Jalbert-Gagnier headed to the U.S. to ply his trade, since Canada already had a streamlined system. He has yet to get a federal-level contract, but starting with the city of Oakland, California, he hopes to work his way up to the top.
When I tell Jalbert-Gagnier that a single logo across all federal agencies might sound a little Big Brother-ish to most Americans, he quickly points to cost effectiveness: Rather than pay for hundreds of websites and designers for all the digital services, there could be centralized design services to cut costs. Cheaper? Now, that could sell the American public on the idea.