Showing your colors has always been a matter of pride and cities have got in on the act too desiging eye-catching banners and flags that become an important part of the streetscape. Big cities like New York and San Diego have done some really terrific banners that give you that tangible sense that you’ve arrived someplace important enough to warrant a banner and thanks to the lower printing costs today even smaller cities have caught the wave and it’s not unusual to find main streets decorated in the fashion of the season. I’ve noticed that college towns have really embraced the whole banner thing and indeed you can see that happening around the Kent State campus. But given our high arty-quotient could we do more? I think we can and we should.
We do a great job honoring the American Flag downtown and I don’t ever want to see that change but I’m thinking we have a unique opportunity to put a punctuation mark on our downtown with a combination of public art that doubles as advertising and way-finding in a thoughtful, interesting, and (dare I say) edgy banner program. I say edgy because museums have great banners too. In our case we want to capture the eclectic slightly off-centered spirit of Kent that is the heart and soul of our brand, that says something about who we are, what we value and where we going. I realize that sounds like a lot all wrapped up in some shroud but really banners are all about making a statement — the question is just what you want that statement to say.
I bet if you asked people what the boundaries of downtown Kent are you’d get a lot of different answers. There’s nothing wrong with different answers but it says to me that if we seriously believe that our downtown is one of our greatest assets that we have to sell to our residents, businesses and visitors than surely we ought to be able to do a better job defining it. Banners can do that in a very visual way that begins to give the downtown a sense of being more tightly knit both within itself and with the campus.
Charlottesville Virginia, a premier city by any standard and home to the University of Virginia, has some great banners and they’ve even taken it one step further by painting the UVA cavalier symbol on city streets so that as soon as you exit Interstate 64 you can follow the cavalier symbol all the way into the campus and downtown. I don’t know how ODOT would feel about the golden flash painted down SR 43, 261 and 59 into downtown Kent but I think you get the idea of what’s possible.
I admit I’m not a marketing professional but as a person that works every day to promote Kent and get more people to spend time (and money) downtown the value of an attractive banner program seems pretty obvious to me. If nothing else banners are easy to follow guideposts pointing the way to the downtown — which when I hear graduating seniors from Kent State say that they never knew we even had a downtown — I see great value in.
Just to be clear, I’m not talking some musuem plaid banner. I’d like to see something that celebrates Kent’s eccentricities, it’s heritage, and it’s personality because those are what make Kent such a cool place to be. But I’ll get off my soapbox just long enough to say that this is an idea that pre-dates my arrival in Kent and for whatever reason the concept never really got off the ground.
With all the downtown revitalization work we’ve got started and the celebration of Kent State’s 100 years coming up I couldn’t help but think we’ve a window of opportunity to launch something new and I’ve been digging through the old files to see what they had started. I found some interesting stuff that should help us get thinking about how to give banners their day in the sun.
Interesting, with all the dialogue for the need for more city/university collaboration, I am pleased to report that 2 different marketing classes from Kent State worked with city staff to come up with a number of designs for the city to consider for the banner program. I think they’ve given us a great start to build on.
Here’s some of their ideas to get us all thinking:
They even thought about where to put them: