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By Erin Glanville

With $24K On The Line, Council Should Take A Second Look

Uploaded: Jan 23, 2014

At last week's City Council meeting, council was asked to select which slight modification to the current logo would be used for the creation of a style guide. According to the contract with the selected graphic design vendor, the development of the style guide (which will help ensure consistency in city publications) will cost another $24K. That brings the total cost for the logo "update" to $49K. Following media scrutiny and public frustration over the spending, the City Council had some careful questions for City staff during the meeting. Unfortunately, not all of the relevant information was made available. With $24K on the line, I would urge the City Council to reagendize this issue for a closer look.

During the meeting, multiple council members referenced their concern with cost and asked what the City's contractual obligations to complete the contract were. The contract was not included in the Staff Report for review ahead of time. More surprisingly, staff did not have a copy of the contract on hand during the meeting to reference. In answer to council questions about where they stood with the contract and how much flexibility the City had, staff responded: "The contract obligates us to do the second phase". A standard and clear termination agreement in the contract disputes that point.

Staff should have contracts on hand to answer questions on issues that council is being asked to vote on. In this case, had council been given the correct information about what was in the contract (a termination agreement), the City Council may have wanted to terminate the contract due to cost. The vendor that was selected by the City had a bid that was much, much more expensive than the bids from the other two competing vendors. Based on my math, it was 178% higher than the bid from the second vendor, and 341% more than the third. (The reason given for the selection of the bid was "Best quality proposal and highest level of experience for this project".) The selected vendor may be first rate in terms of quality. If the City were embarking upon a massive rebranding effort, maybe that premium for outstanding creative would make sense (although I confess to finding those percentages mind-boggling). Once, however, the council directed staff to scale back from a brand new logo rebranding effort and to simply shore up consistency and quality by tweaking our current logo and by creating a style guide, this doesn't make sense.

The City Council may also want to take a closer look at the Statement of Work (SOW) (something else that should have been made available to them prior to or at the meeting) to make sure they are comfortable with the deliverables the City would be receiving for $24K. For example, a council member asked specifically if the City would be receiving new PowerPoint templates for council meetings. The SOW does not specifically mention templates of any kind. Revisiting the issue with all of the documentation in front of them would give council an opportunity to clarify what deliverables the City will be getting for this substantial sum.

I understand why the City would want to develop a style guide to help make sure that City publications and documentation maintain a consistent quality. Given the information that is now out there and the more limited scope of what the City is now trying to accomplish, that deliverable can be done for much less money. Based on the questions and concerns the Menlo Park City Council raised on this issue, they should take a beat and reagendize the issue?this time with contracts and SOWs in hand. After all, this is a lot of money and logos have been redesigned for much less.

1.24.14 Postscript: I did some additional research into the cost of the Lake Oswego logo, including obtaining copies of their 2013 contracts and SOWs. While the cost to deliver a revised high quality logo image in various formats (TIF, JPEG, monotone, stacked text, etc.) was $4,290, the cost for stationary design and various templates was another $2,730. The development of a graphics standards/ logo style guide was $1,490. The contract total was $8,510. The City later contracted for 18-21 more templates to be developed for an additional $1755 bringing the total spent for logo development, all templates and a design guide to $10,265. This is, of course, only one example of a City?s logo rebranding effort.