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BMA not sold on proposed flame concept for town’s tourism logo

A proposed town logo featuring a central flame above the word “Jonesborough” failed to ignite members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, who requested a redesign during their Dec. 10 meeting.
Jane Hillhouse, of Hillhouse Graphics, presented the flame logo as well as a second logo featuring the town’s name in a historic font. While board members seemed to agree that the flame concept was more legible, the icon itself was not well received.
Hillhouse explained that the flame illustrates “the central fire of storytelling,” adding that its “spark,” “warmth” and “history” can “like Jonesborough, grow with the times.”
BMA members weren’t buying it.
Alderman Chuck Vest said the flame reminded him of the 2006 Olympics in Atlanta while Mayor Kelly Wolfe said it resembled a religious symbol of some kind.
“I understand your explanation of the flame,” Wolfe said. “But is the flame self-evident in terms of its relationship to Jonesborough? How long do you think it will take for the flame to become synonymous with the Town of Jonesborough?”
Hillhouse has said in nearly every committee meeting that branding is a lengthy process and people should not expect immediate results. She reiterated that opinion last week.
“Building a brand is a process,” she said. “It takes a number of years to get it to the point where you could display that flame and have it mean Jonesborough on a broader basis.”
She estimated it would take one to two years for town residents to begin associating the flame with Jonesborough.
“We don’t have unlimited advertising funds,” Wolfe said. “I’m afraid we don’t have the resources to build brand identity if it’s not more apparent about what the relationship is.”Calling it a “pretty big decision,” Wolfe said the board would need to “thoroughly vet” the logo options before coming to a final decision.
“If you start changing tourism logos too many times, you’re wasting your time,” Wolfe said. “We want to make this a 20-year investment.”
In addition to studying it further himself, Vice Mayor Terry Countermine said he wanted to get other people’s opinions, too.
“I don’t think that we (on the BMA) represent what the other 5,000 people in Jonesborough think,” Countermine said. “I’d like to show it to a lot of people and get their opinions. It is their town.”
Claudia Moody, director of the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association and member of the town Logo Committee, said she and fellow committee members felt the flame concept was aimed at a “new generation,” one that is “more interested in sparks and actions,” than the fact that Jonesborough is Tennessee’s oldest town.
Alderman Adam Dickson, however, questioned what was being used as the “proof” of the committee’s claim that the design is “attractive to both young and old.”
The one thing everyone did seem to agree on was using the phrase “Storytelling Capital of the World” in the town logo.
“Whether the flame stays or not, in my opinion, ‘Storytelling Capital of the World’ has got to stay,” Moody said. “Otherwise somebody’s going to take it over.”
Vest agreed, sparking a decision for town staff to work toward getting the phrase registered so that other communities cannot use it.
As for the icon, Wolfe asked that Hillhouse try to replace the flame with something else. He recommended she try an “architectural piece” or something based off of the Tennessee flag’s stars and circle or even a different flame with a different overall shape.
Tempers flared following the recommendation when Hillhouse asked how to proceed. Hillhouse questioned whether she should take the new concepts her firm designs to the Logo Committee or if the BMA is now considering itself the Logo Committee.
Wolfe took offense to what he perceived as a sarcastic comment.
“We can ask questions without being ugly or presumptuous,” Wolfe said. “I think it’s our job to thoroughly vet what we’re doing here, and I don’t apologize for it.”
Hillhouse apologized for how her comment was received, saying she merely needed to know where to go from there.
Moody volunteered to help Tourism and Marketing Director Alicia Phelps show proposed designs to people at a statewide meeting of visitors bureaus at the end of January. The BMA also suggested creating community focus groups to weigh in on the decision.