First impressions … then discussions

DDA to seek public input on city brand imaging

SWARTZ CREEK – Swartz Creek has a story that needs to be conveyed “more intentionally” to the people who live, shop and visit here.

“Every community has a story and a sense of place,” said consultant Randy Melnick. “What is Swartz Creek’s authentic identity? What makes it unique? What is the essence of Swartz Creek?”

Melnick is working with the Downtown Development Authority to create a brand image.

He has visited the city several times in recent months to search for cues that city leaders can bring to the fore as they create a cohesive identity for the community.

At the Thursday, Aug. 10, DDA meeting, Melnick shared some of his impressions.

There is a strong sense of pride in local history, an emphasis on culture and the arts, and a tight bond with the rural/agricultural roots, Melnick said.

Despite the creek being a unique natural feature, it is not utilized as a recreational asset, he added.

The city’s entry points are functional and attractive, but lack a “strong sense of arrival,” he said.

“There is no gateway signage that carries out the message that ‘You’ve arrived in Swartz Creek,’” Melnick explained, noting that existing gateway signs are inconsistent in design.

“Downtown, there’s not a lot that tells the story of Swartz Creek,” he said. “You have some nice lights (the gaslight-style lampposts), and the ‘Welcome’ banners are nice. But I see a lot of different views; there is little consistency among elements.”

The Bicentennial Park at Miller and Morrish roads provides enormous opportunities for expressing the community’s identity, he said.

The theme also could be expressed in the design of the clock tower proposed to anchor the southwest corner of Miller Road and Holland Drive.

“A timber frame clock would give a rural feel,” he said. “There is significant opportunity to express your brand there.”

The DDA now will take the next step: engaging the public.

“We are literally at step two,” said DDA Vice Chairman Todd Beedy. “Now we begin some conversation. Technically, we are working with a blank slate. We have opportunities to express the ‘heart and soul’ of Swartz Creek, opportunities to grow.”

A public survey, which is under development, will be available on the city’s website. In addition, the DDA expects to host community workshops this fall.

Among suburban communities, there is increasing interest in creating stronger identities as part of an overall economic development movement, Melnick said.

“Your brand is your image, and a way of communicating that image,” he said. “It’s a promise to deliver an experience.”

Besides signage, the branding effort could include a new logo, tagline, colors, fonts and landscaping.

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