The pro­posed logos for Hillsdale’s depart­ments.
Arnett Muldrow and Asso­ciates | Courtesy

After more than two months working with res­i­dents and city offi­cials, design firm Arnett Muldrow and Asso­ciates rolled out new logos, color schemes, and typeface for the city of Hillsdale as part of rebranding efforts at Monday’s city council meeting.

Paid for by the state of Michigan for cities in Gov­ernor Rick Snyder’s Rising Tide ini­tiative, the designs are intended to help Hillsdale’s devel­opment by uni­fying the city around a con­sistent ‘brand.’

After the initial pre­sen­tation at Monday’s meeting, the city council and offi­cials will review the designs to determine what of the port­folio meets the city’s needs for future mar­keting efforts.

Mary Wolfram, Hillsdale’s director of eco­nomic devel­opment, spear­headed the design efforts for the city and worked with Arnett Muldrow throughout the process. She said the designs will function as a mar­keting tool to help sell Hillsdale to the outside world, adorning brochures, for example, to educate and inform those inter­ested in Hillsdale but unfa­miliar with the city.

“It is an effort to answer the question ‘What is Hillsdale?’,” Wolfram said. “The idea is that we are our own little entity; we’re not a part of some­thing else and we’re not a suburb.”

Ben Muldrow, partner at Arnett Muldrow and manager of the Hillsdale design project, answered that question after five public focus group ses­sions with res­i­dents and a public meeting at city hall during his three-day visit the week of December 12, 2016. He told The Col­legian that he found most cit­izens wanted Hillsdale to pre­serve its small-town values as its economy expands, all the while demon­strating its acces­si­bility and vis­itability.

“As we started to narrow down the infor­mation from people in the city, some things became obvious,” Muldrow said. “Small town values were cer­tainly some­thing people cher­ished and Hillsdale’s close prox­imity to other cities.”

Instead of casting Hillsdale as one location in the vast rural land­scape between other points of interest, Muldrow decided to reframe the nar­rative and show Hillsdale as a des­ti­nation worthy of vis­iting in its own right.

“There are a lot of things bringing people to this com­munity — the college being a huge one — and we have to do every­thing we can to get them to come here,” Muldrow said.

City Manager David Mackie explained the slogan emerged from this sense of closeness expressed by a con­sensus of par­tic­i­pants in the meetings con­ducted by Muldrow.

“People living in Hillsdale can find shopping and other such ser­vices within a dri­vable dis­tance — in Jackson, Ann Arbor, or Indiana, for example — so the concept for the slogan is just that,” Mackie said. “We’ve main­tained our core values while still being just, probably, hours or less away from larger locale.”

Some have crit­i­cized the slogan and designs, saying they do not rep­resent the people.

At Monday’s meeting, Hillsdale res­ident Penny Swan said she found no sup­porters of the designs or slogan on a Facebook page she manages ded­i­cated to dis­cussing the con­tro­versy sur­rounding the ‘It’s the People’ signage.

“One person said… it didn’t seem like a whole lot of imag­i­nation. One… thought it was pretty awful and didn’t under­stand it,” Swan said. “I hope you give the people of Hillsdale an oppor­tunity to speak when it comes to a new city slogan.”

Wolfram told The Col­legian that although res­i­dents are cer­tainly allowed to express crit­i­cisms of city deci­sions, people must remember that the designers met with res­i­dents to attempt to capture the spirit of the city.

“There are always com­plaints about the public not being included in the decision-making, but it is not true that nobody was invited to comment during the devel­opment stage,” Wolfram said. “Lots of people had voices in this.”

According to Wolfram, the city uti­lized radio adver­tise­ments, posters on the city website and Facebook page, and inde­pendent depart­ments within city admin­is­tration to spread the word about the public meetings to as many people as pos­sible to brain­storm ideas for the new designs.

“There is no demand for con­formity here. I love these logos, but nobody will force them on anybody,” Wolfram said. “This can be a uni­fying effort among the com­munity, and we need everyone working together.”

Michelle Loren, director of Hillsdale’s Parks and Recre­ation department, one of the seven receiving unique logos in Arnett-Muldrow’s port­folio, said she thinks the new designs are refreshing and speak directly to their rel­evant depart­ments. She does not yet know if her department will adopt the logo, however, having only seen it briefly during a pre­sen­tation.

“From what I saw, they bring us up to date and into the future, yet allow us to hold on to our small-town appeal,” Loren said.

In terms of timeline, Mackie said he antic­i­pates a con­crete plan as to when the city will offi­cially roll out the design will come by the first of July, after monthly meetings with the department heads and input from the city council. His intention for the design, like Wolfram’s, focuses on the idea of cre­ating a uniform brand of Hillsdale, which does not require each department to adopt their spe­cific logo.

“It’s all about cre­ating a con­sistent brand,” Mackie says. “That does not nec­es­sarily mean the same logos, but a brand con­sistent with typeface, color, and theme, to kind of pull things together with the city and its depart­ments.”

Mackie stressed that the city will retain the official seal on doc­u­ments, but will try to incor­porate the brand across its various forms of com­mu­ni­cation. Having designed brands for nearly 450 com­mu­nities, Muldrow, who per­sonally took charge of the Hillsdale project, said he always rein­forces the role of branding as a com­mu­ni­cation tool.

“The biggest initial byproducts when a com­munity rolls out a new brand is an increase in the effec­tiveness of com­mu­ni­cation, the bol­stering of com­munity pride, and the re-engagement of cit­izens within their com­munity,” Muldrow said. “I don’t give too much credit to the branding itself for a town’s success after its imple­men­tation — branding is simply the invi­tation to an event the com­munity planned.”


  • Sandy Daze


    Closer than you imagine” restated,
    “In the middle of nowhere, but not too far from every­where.”

    “Closer than you imagine”  — that motto is sup­posed to speak to and for Hillsdale res­i­dents? Seri­ously ? Or speak to vis­itors? Just what is the purpose of a motto?

    If the purpose is to unify the Hillsdale res­i­dents, it seemed that the Hillsdale res­i­dents were reflected and rather pleased with thee motto: “It’s the People.
    The color choices are not good either. Split-pea soup green con­trasted with a lighter yellow-green that is rem­i­niscent of some sort of gerber baby food. Yuck.


    Hey, City of HIllsdale. Why not sponsor a com­pe­tition of alter­na­tives? Why not let Hillsdale College mar­keting stu­dents take the project on? Offer an incentive reward if one of several alter­native designs is chosen.

    Offer the same chal­lenge to Jackson College, and perhaps Spring Arbor too .

    Cer­tainly the youth, energy, and excitement to actually craft a poten­tially real-world branding; one for the City of Hillsdale, will inspire mar­keting stu­dents to do their very best.

    They cer­tainly won’t do any worse than Arnett Muldrow !

    SAD !

    • disqus_odKVC5cL1k

      The purpose was stated, to attract out­siders, the res­i­dents already live here, and while it’s the people may make them feel good for putting it on a sign, I can say with cer­tainty that out­siders view it as a joke.

      Leave it to the res­i­dents, and some­thing closer to “Middle of nowhere, and it better stay that way” is what you’ll get. Not seeing any sub­stantial new oper­a­tions being opened by res­i­dents already in town, so mar­keting to someone not already in Hillsdale is what is needed.

      Grow or decline, those are the choices, nothing stays static. One motto attempts to cast the city in a pos­itive light, although agree the green isn’t a good choice, the other is already the punchline of jokes.

      • Sandy Daze

        Leave it to the res­i­dents, and some­thing closer to “Middle of nowhere, and it better stay that way” is what you’ll get.

        Those darned pesky res­i­dents. If we could elim­inate them, we could then make Hillsdale into some­thing we really like – and we wouldn’t have to bother with this re-edu­cation effort.

        But noooo, as long as those res­i­dents are here, we will still be bat­tling their provincial atti­tudes, which are so, so, so cen­tered on having a town that they like.

        Can’t have that.

        • Ellsworth_Toohey

          disqus_odKVC5cL1k is a regular here. Anti town and trolls most of these threads. I think he actually lives here… not sure why he stays.

          • disqus_odKVC5cL1k

            So, I’m anti town to have any other view than the self appointed thought police express? Could it be I’ve lived some­where else, and seen other towns, so there is more than one data point to pull from?

            Stay for the same reason I moved, care for an aging rel­ative. Good to see the true colors of the people. That would make a great mar­keting slogan, “the people hope your rel­ative dies soon so you can get out of their town” Oh don’t worry, I’m ready to leave.

            Yes, do let the people put their own slogans on the city signs, perhaps they will scare off the next batch of people so they won’t invade and have any ideas about improving things, or bring in any more tax base, I hear the buggy whip industry is booming.

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            No, you’re “Anti town” based on the numerous com­ments you’ve made over the last year on the forums here.

            This is the first I heard of you moving here to care for a aging rel­ative. So no idea why you’d think I’d suggest that for a mar­keting slogan. In fact just the opposite, I hope your rel­ative improves.

            Instead of com­plaining about how back­wards everyone is, what are some ideas you have for improving things? And have you done any­thing about it?

      • Ellsworth_Toohey

        How can you say with cer­tainty outsiders’s view it as a joke?

        By def­i­n­ition a “out­sider” is just that. They wouldn’t view it as any­thing other than a phrase. In fact if you actually had had a grasp of business man­agement you’d realize the phrase “It’s the people” is a branding phrase related to the 4P’s.

      • Penny Swan

        Closer then then you imagine, makes me feel creepy, I have had many college stu­dents came up and tell me the very same thing. Right out of the Ami­tyville horror, I have actually had one to two college stu­dents tell me this also VERY VERY CREEPY. These are well edu­cated people, that are not locals.

    • Penny Swan

      I agree 100%. These are just awful. I have had over 100 people tell me this. It is very very sad the city isn’t at least giving the city res­i­dence a voice, and yes I see what Mary Wolfram said, she is wrong. Res­i­dents had zero idea what the rising tide was so why would they go to the meeting that was posted. Clearly the “It’s the People” is gone and the powers that be have won this one.
      Time to move on and get people in office that will listen to their con­stituents.

      • Stephen French

        I’m not exactly sure what you are referring to here, Penny. It was very clearly stated by City Manager Mackie and Council Member Zeiser that the handouts were ideas offered by the con­sultant and no decision had been made on the imple­men­tation of those ideas; Council Member Zeiser stressed that addi­tional public input would be solicited prior to any changes being made to the city logo, color scheme, or the deter­mi­nation of a city slogan.

        • Penny Swan

          If this is true Stephen, then I am good. That was also the dis­cussion on the city entrance signs back when they were first talked about. One council member(Emily Stack Davis) specif­i­cally said, are just voting to say we are looking at these and leaving it open for a option,and then BOOM we have new city signs a few years latter.
          I did hear that con­ver­sation at the city council meeting.
          And I pray that the city does include the city res­i­dents, as Jonesvillie is cur­rently doing.

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            I wonder if Stephen was at the Dec 19th debrief?

            Regardless, history is the best pre­dictor of the future.

          • Penny Swan

            My guess is he was indeed there, taking notes for the city.

  • Ellsworth_Toohey