City staff revealed a new wayfinding plan and city-wide brand to City Council earlier this week. The goal is to install signs around Lenoir that promote city amenities and call residents and new comers to "Create With Us."
Staff and Council have been discussing wayfinding for a few years, but one frequent concern was, "What will the signs look like?" In 2019, the Lenoir Tourism Development Authority (LTDA) agreed to fund the wayfinding/brand project. The mission of the LTDA is to "promote, solicit, and encourage tourism in the City of Lenoir." The board agreed that a new brand and new signs supported that mission.
Staff contracted with Destination By Design (DbD) to create the vision. Downtown Economic Development Coordinator Kaylynn Horn and Planning Director Jenny Wheelock led the project and worked with DbD to create the new brand and wayfinding plan. The duo presented the brand and plan to City Council during the Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021.
"I love it," Councilman Ben Willis said. "This looks great and it's something we really need."
Horn started working on the new brand back in 2019 after the LTDA approved funding. Horn established a Branding Team and recruited many community members to give input on what they wanted to see in a new brand for the City of Lenoir. The Brand Committee met numerous times and reviewed many drafts from DbD. The team was unified in wanting a brand that evoked a sense of community and commerce; promoted revitalization, redevelopment, and recruitment of new businesses; and encouraged entrepreneurs to make their name here in the City of Lenoir, NC.
The new City of Lenoir brand includes a logo that incorporates arts, industry, and science. The tagline is "Create With Us." The logo contains four elements: the city name, the tagline, the modified gear, and the star. The name is self-explanatory. The modified gear symbolizes the city's industrial heritage (gear), artistic community (brush strokes), and our newer technology companies (the atoms). The star is a nod to the star on the North Carolina State Flag, the City of Lenoir flag, and the famous star on Hibriten Mountain.
The tagline is an invitation to be part of the City of Lenoir and its future. It builds on the Downtown Lenoir tagline of "Together We Create." Staff can also add to the tagline depending on what is being promoted.
"'Create With Us,' is a call to action to our residents, businesses, and visitors," Horn said. "It's a call to create with us ... your community, create with us ... a vibrant economy, and create with us ... new opportunities."
Staff can add flourishes to the logo to emphasize the different strengths of Lenoir.
The linear version of the brand can also have flourishes.
Eventually, the new brand will be incorporated into wayfinding signs around the City. The signs will direct people to local amenities such as City recreation centers, LHS Auditorium, Downtown Lenoir, City parks, the soccer complex, and more. For the past several years, City Council has ranked wayfinding signs and other neighborhood signs as a priority during Council planning retreats. Staff has applied for grants many times, but the applications weren't successful.
"Most of the grant money out there is for actual installation projects, not plans," Wheelock said. "We couldn’t even hope to fund wayfinding signs or even develop a realistic budget until we had developed the plan. Thanks to the LTDA, we're going to have a plan."
During the Committee of the Whole meeting, Wheelock said the goal of wayfinding is about much more than just giving directions. She said the signs are also about beautification, and community pride, and creating a sense of place.
"It’s not really about getting someone to a destination who already has that destination in mind,” Wheelock said. "It’s about piquing interest for residents and visitors to encourage some exploring that you wouldn’t normally have. It’s a chance to present your image and your brand and the common message that this is a place worth caring about and the people do care.”
DbD developed a plan on where to locate the signs in the Lenoir. The plan includes 21 locations on the major highways and most traveled streets in the city. The signs in this phase will be large signs, designed to be visible from a car. The design reflects Lenoir's industrial and artistic roots. The current designs feature a heavy, industrial beam as the main pole with the tagline written down the side and an artistic flourish above and below the main text.
Horn said the idea is to recruit local artists and sculptors to come up with ideas for the embellishments.
"It's our plan that many, if not all of the signs, will be unique with different embellishments," Horn sign. "Each sign will become a piece of art."
DbD identified 21 locations for wayfinding signs in the city. The signs will likely be installed in multiple phases.
Mayor Joe Gibbons said he is really pleased with the new brand, the signs, and the wayfinding plan.
"This is something we've been talking about for a while, and it's something we all want to see happen," Mayor Gibbons said. "The new brand is great, and the signs will really stand out when we get them in the ground. Kaylynn, Jenny, and everyone who helped with the project did a great job."
Once the wayfinding plan is complete, staff can move forward with developing engineering plans to build the signs and getting cost estimates. Then, staff and Council will have to determine the best way to fund the project. Wheelock expects to discuss how to fund the signs during the City budgeting process.
Wheelock said that realistically, the City likely won't have any actual signs in the ground before 2022. City Council still has to approve funding for the project, be it grant money or local dollars, and staff still has to develop final engineering drawings and submit some plans to NCDOT.
"We still have a lot of work to do, but we're making progress," Wheelock said.