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Committee discusses creation of tourism logo

The town’s newest committee met for the first time last week to discuss the creation of a tourism logo for Jonesborough.
Mayor Kelly Wolfe created the committee in May after months of discussion and criticism regarding a proposed logo that emerged at a Tree and Townscape Board meeting in March. The logo, which depicted a storyteller sharing a tale with an audience, focused on branding the town as the “storytelling capital of the world.”
Several town leaders and community members questioned the design as well as the focus on storytelling, bringing the creation of any such logo back to square one.
On June 13, the newly formed committee took the first steps in what could be a lengthy process to come up with a new logo that both attracts tourists and pleases local residents.
“I think it’d be very difficult to come up with a logo of any size that contains elements of storytelling, history, Music on the Square, theater,” said Steve Cook, local business owner and organizer of the weekly music concerts in downtown. “We’re just not going to be able to do that.”
Cook instead proposed using the word “Jonesborough” as the anchor of a logo with a phrase like “where the story began” in a banner below the word Jonesborough.
“It encompasses so many things,” Cook said. “The story of so many things began here in Jonesborough.”
In addition to emphasizing the importance of storytelling to the town, Cook said the phrase also incorporates the fact that Jonesborough is where the State of Tennessee began.
Lee Dunbar, of Foster Signs, took Cook’s idea one step further, suggesting a set of icons be created to interchange behind the word Jonesborough.
“You’ve got the same basic platform,” Dunbar explained. “Then if you feel the need to add a profile or something into it, then that’s fine.”
Town Administrator Bob Browning strongly urged his fellow committee members to move forward with branding the town as the “storytelling capital of the world.”
“I do think it needs to reflect that brand,” Browning said of the logo. “Ninety-five percent of the attention Jonesborough has received has been because of storytelling. When people hear about us, it almost always is in regard to this being the storytelling capital.”
The suggestion had Jeff Gurley, owner of the Lollipop Shop on Main Street, a little concerned.
“We’re highly promoting storytelling when, in fact, about 40 percent of the time, there is no storytelling,” he said.
With the National Storytelling Festival happening only one weekend a year and the International Storytelling Center’s teller-in-residence program only taking place May through October, Gurley worried about the tourist who might choose to visit in a month like April. That visitor, he said, would not be able to experience storytelling.
Browning agreed, but said he looked at the creation of the logo as a separate issue than that of actually being able to “fulfill the promise” the logo gives a to a potential visitor.
“Storytelling, by and large, doesn’t fulfill the promise,” Browning said. “The festival and teller-in-residence (program) is not enough is what it boils down to. We have to work on what we have to do to fulfill the promise.”
Committee member Claudia Moody compared it to “going to Vegas and there being no slot machines.”
Still, Moody spoke in favor of storytelling as the town’s brand.
“You’ve got to build the logo on what you are. Not everybody is interested in the storytelling festival, but that is the hook. It is unique to Jonesborough,” she said. “The town is the story, but you’ve got to get them here first. Once they get here, they’ll say, ‘Oh my God, I’ve died and gone to heaven.’”
Committee members discussed possible focal points for the logo other than storytelling, namely mentioning the history of the town and Main Street in particular.
“Our Main Street is one of the finest 19th century conglomeration of buildings on the planet,” Cook said.
With the construction work currently underway in downtown and the ongoing makeover of landscaping, the street is likely to get even better, Gurley noted.
“From the town standpoint, from the merchant standpoint and from the future standpoint, with all the work on Main Street, that seems like a purpose of focus,” Gurley said. “Let’s capitalize on all this work going on in downtown Jonesborough. It’s going to be beautiful when it’s done.”
Jane Hillhouse, a graphic designer serving as a consultant for the committee, warned members that the logo, no matter what it ends up being, would not have an “instantaneous” Jonesborough connection with tourists.
“The logo can’t tell the whole story on day one,” Hillhouse explained. “But it can become the story. Whatever we come up with can become Joensborough, but it’s not going to be instantaneous.”
Hillhouse referenced the infamous “golden arches” that today are easily associated with McDonald’s restaurants. It took time for that logo to become the universal symbol for McDonald’s, she said.
After more than an hour of discussion, the committee agreed that a potential logo in an April 2009 branding study by Destination Development International wold be a good starting point on the path to developing both a logo and a brand for the town.
“I think this is definitely headed in the right direction,” Hillhouse said of the design. “It’s got a few too many bells and whistles and needs to be simplified.”
A second meeting of the committee has yet to be scheduled.