An LED light bulb appeared on a projection screen to represent the Raleigh community, and the crowd nodded in agreement.
As part of a brainstorming session, residents and city employees told a consultant that Raleigh is known for its innovation and progressive thinking. They used photos to illustrate their point.
The projector then displayed an image to show what residents think of the city government: an antiquated computer.
“This computer is old. It’s really, really, really old,” Eric Bannister, a senior graphic designer for Raleigh, said in a video of the session. City Council members, who watched the footage Tuesday, laughed and cringed as he continued.
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“It gets the job done,” Bannister said. “But it doesn’t process as quickly, respond as quickly or help us do the things we do now.”
Council members last year launched an effort to re-brand the city government so its logo, operating procedures and marketing materials better reflect Raleigh’s reputation. The city currently uses an array of logos, and its communications team says the visual presence is outdated.
Oklahoma-based consultant Cubic recently completed the first phase of the project, which involved talking to residents and city employees about their perception of the city. The information collected now goes to The Assembly, a local design group, to create proposed logos and a marketing theme to present to the City Council on June 20, said Damien Graham, Raleigh’s public affairs director.
The city paid Cubic $83,000 and The Assembly $143,000, Graham said.
Raleigh – home to several museums, universities such as N.C. State and tech companies like Red Hat and Citrix – is known for being “cutting edge, inspiring, daring, experimental, forward-thinking,” said Shawn Kruggel, Cubic’s director of creative strategy.
Kruggel told council members that the city government is known for being smart but slow.
“We think about things so we get them right,” Kruggel said. But sometimes, that “leads to the perception that it’s too slow.”
“In order to be a little bit more respected, you need to be a little more daring,” he said.
The City Council in recent years has been known for taking its time on everything from zoning requests to rule changes. For instance, the city has been working on creating rules for short-term residential rental hosts who use services like Airbnb and VRBO since early 2015.
Council members said they weren’t surprised by the consultants’ feedback. Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said the results are “a call to action.”
“What I see is a sense of consistency that I’m really excited about,” Baldwin said. “You’ve been able to capture it in a way that we haven’t been able to before.”
Councilman Russ Stephenson said the feedback is “a challenge to look at our own shortcomings and evaluate those.”
Councilman Bonner Gaylord used the old computer example to explain what the city needs to do.
“We need to update the hardware, the assets – both human and capital,” Gaylord said. “And the software – that’s the policy. We’ve got to be innovative in what we do at the council table.”