Citizen Centered Gainesville

Uncommon mindset meets uncommon approach






Print Design


Web Design


The City of Gainesville is on a mission to simplify and humanize every interaction between citizens and city employees. A 2015 report made it clear that the city needed to become more effective in meeting the needs of residents and business owners. A paradigm shift was in order – from this is how we do things to let’s empower our community. The new vision is for Gainesville to become the most citizen-centered local government in the US, and that vision has begun to crystallize as a philosophy and strategic framework.

In 2017 this new directive faced a few challenges. How might the city show people that this change is not simply window dressing but a deep shift in thinking? The existing brand did not reflect the strategic change that had occurred, but the city was not in a place where a full rebranding exercise could be considered. And yet, they had immediate needs for new points of entry that would describe and illustrate the citizen-centered concept and what it means for people in Gainesville. What to do?


Thinking long-term, we question whether a city even needs a traditional logo or not. While that remains to be confirmed for our particular city, what we can confidently say is that the essence of Gainesville’s brand is its people, not any symbol or seal. Their stories are the city’s stories. Their values are the city’s values. Since the citizen-centered philosophy is built around questions like how can we empower you? or how might this city be made even better?, we realized the most sustainable solution was to take an unbranding approach.

Say What?

Unbranding, in this particular case, means no logo. It means minimizing the city’s existing brand position and maximizing the citizen-centered concept. It means creating a library of photography that shows real residents and city employees in our beautiful city. It means writing clear, engaging copy that flows from a service mindset.

Gainesville intends to become a new American city that solves critical issues through collaboration and thoughtful design. In our design workshop with the client, the term “new American gothic” came up and we immediately embraced it. Those three words would define the look and feel of everything we made. In this particular case we took gothic to mean something that is rooted in the vernacular and the landscape; an identity that feels like Gainesville, Florida, and America – in that order. But American Gothic without newness is as dusty and tired as the dour old farmers in Grant Wood’s famous painting. To embrace the new and reflect the culture of innovation that is growing in our city, we drew deep and broad influence from design-led communities outside of the US. These considerations drove all decisions from voice and tone to color and typography.

At the heart of this system is what we call a tagmark or typographic representation of the core tagline – “Citizen Centered. People Empowered.”

Our city is looking to streamline every process under their purview, and in that spirit we omitted anything that felt unnecessary – even down to punctuation in the tagline’s typographic design. Taglines have always had more in common with poetry than prose when it comes to punctuation and syntax, at any rate. The way lines break is what matters most. Line breaks can allow a poet to keep or omit punctuation; to be emphatic or open as the tone demands. In prose, we write the tagline with punctuation in order to avoid confusion.

The city had already developed language that describes how the citizen-centered approach will benefit individuals, neighborhoods, businesses, and the local economy. We distilled these themes into compact statements that flowed from the core tagline.

We captured vibrant images of real citizens talking, playing, and reflecting in and around Depot Park, an area just south of downtown that embodies Gainesville’s particular blend of urban scenery and nature. And we deployed them on a microsite and pocket guide that illustrate the citizen-centered concept. The plan is that these photos will be merely the beginning of a new photographic library to be used throughout City communications.

To cap off the work and ensure consistency and coherence across all city departments, we created a style guide that provides guidance for using the citizen centered look in print collateral, on the web, and in presentations.

The result? A sustainable and flexible set of communication tools that can grow as Gainesville evolves.

“Our product is our total organizational commitment toward enabling our citizens to achieve their dreams and in doing so, become the most citizen centered local government in the United States of America.”
–Robert Woods, Communications Manager at City of Gainesville





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