Cooler and Warmer? Really?

Rhode Island recently unveiled a new state slogan along with a new logo. “Cooler and Warmer” was created to attract tourists and businesses to our state. A five million dollar marketing budget was allocated for this promotional campaign, part of which was given to Milton Glaser’s design firm to come up with the new logo and slogan. I’m not a native Rhode Islander but I’ve lived here since 1986, so I think that’s enough street cred to say that I’m disappointed in the new campaign for several reasons.

The Logo

The new state tourism logo is not the worst I’ve seen. The orange “P” that Providence has been using to promote itself as the “Creative Capital” is less imaginative than what Milton Glaser came up with for the state.

The centerpiece of the “Cooler and Warmer” logo is a square constructed of three colored shapes that form an abstract sail from the interior negative space. It’s not bad, just predictable. Rhode Island has long been associated with sailing, and not without reason. Newport used to be the world headquarters of the America’s Cup. But recreational and competitive sailing represents a small percentage of people that live or visit the our state. It would make as much sense to use an illustration of a Newport mansion in the logo. 

The typography of the logo is even less imaginative that the sailing graphic. The lockup of “Rhode Island” and “Cooler and Warmer” around the outside of the square in a generic sans serif font seems like a lazy afterthought.

The Slogan

“Cooler and Warmer.” If you have to explain it, as the governor has been doing in the media, you’ve missed the target. The explanation is that RI is “cool and hip” and the weather is “warm” in the summer. Also the people are “warm.” In a clip from a local news station, Governor Raimondo sounded as if she barely understood the slogan, even as she was reciting it for reporters. Most RI natives who were asked their opinion about the new slogan had no idea what it meant. So how is anyone outside of RI supposed to know what it means?

“Cooler and Warmer” replaces the old slogan: “Discover Beautiful Rhode Island.” At least the old slogan contained a universally understood descriptive and imperative. “Cooler and Warmer” sounds like a weather report, or a nod to McDonald’s failed McDLT sandwich promotion from the 1980′s. 

I think a better alternative would be: “The Biggest Little State,” which is based on the the state's long-time nickname. RI natives are proud of their designation as the smallest state in the union but more than willing to get in the face of anyone who would diminish our significance. We’re like the Joe Pesci of states. Also, there’s a lot of geographic diversity here. People come to RI for more than just sailing. They come to take advantage of the beaches, the bike trails, the hiking trails, the arts, the food, the history, and a lot more. We have so much to offer in such a small package (hence the “big” in “biggest little state”).

What happened to Locally Sourced?

As a fellow graphic designer, I have a lot of respect for Milton Glaser and his work. He’s clearly one of the luminaries of graphic design. But his studio is in Manhattan. Governor Raimondo, in an effort to substantiate going outside the state for talent, bragged that Glaser had designed the famous I (heart) NY graphic. Is she not aware of the sports and cultural rivalry between New England and New York? Even using a Boston-based design firm would be less of a face slap than outsourcing it to New York City.

Rhode Island is home to several design and marketing firms, not to mention a world-class art school. Don’t you think you should have sourced this work locally and patronized local businesses, Governor? Are you going to outsource the rest of the marketing campaign as well, such as TV, radio, and print advertising? 

If the governor is hoping the cool reception this new logo and slogan has received will warm up over time, I believe she’s mistaken.