Providence's New 'Brand' Not Needed

Providence, Rhode Island, is rebranding itself as the "Creative Capital." This op-ed argues the city doesn't need a brand, rather it needs to return to the aesthetic values that made it beautiful and successful in the '90s.

"Last week, Mayor Cicilline branded (or rebranded) his city with a P. The logo comes with a new slogan that replaces "The Renaissance City" with "The Creative Capital." A city brands itself to try to sell its preferred image of itself to outsiders. Providence has branded itself as creative for decades. The "Renaissance City" motto, adopted in the flush of sister cityhood with Florence, the advent of gondolas on its new, Venetian-style "canals," WaterFire, AS220, etc., was such an attempt. Arguably, it worked."

"So branding a city is not necessarily ridiculous. A brand should play off of existing impressions of a place. That invites the question of the chicken or the egg, of course. But in branding itself, a city should above all avoid shooting itself in the foot."

"In the 1990s, Providence was transformed into the Venice of New England. New traditional buildings strengthened the city's grand architectural heritage - its powerful brand, three centuries old. This put Providence on a path to creating a new district, Capital Center, unique in the annals of American urban planning. But then, in the early 2000s, the city did a U-turn. Ugly modernist buildings rose to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This false creativity led to an entirely predictable hodgepodge of the old and the new, indistinguishable from that of most U.S. cities. In short, Providence has spent much of the decade shooting its excellent brand in the foot."

Full Story: David Brussat: Rebranding Fort Providence

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