Historically Inclined Richmond Brands Itself Anew

For a city known for its storied history, but whose burgeoning creative culture has gone less noticed, a recent branding campaign was charged with the challenge of merging both identities.
June 18, 2012, 5am PDT | Emily Williams
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Perhaps one of the most effective means of envisioning the future of a city is to integrate the rich culture of its past. Emily Badger reports on the city of Richmond, Virginia's effort to create a new identity for the historic city. Students at Virginia Commonwealth University's Brandcenter launched an "anti-campaign" re-branding program, giving voice to the multitudes of creative personalities of its residents and allowing them to shape their identity for themselves. Badger writes, "the whole idea was to both change Richmond's perception of itself, and to begin to in the process encourage more of the kind of creative output that would change perceptions of Richmond outside the city."

While other city branding efforts attempt to communicate a common zeitgeist, or spirit, the open source "RVA" program allows a multitude of Richmond's voices to represent their city. For the program, "the Brandcenter created an online generator that allows anyone to upload into the "RVA" logo images from the local music scene, or the river-rafting community, or the downtown streetscape--or a nearby battlefield. Running throughout all of these scenes is the idea that creativity takes many forms and that, in fact, Richmond's history has been defined by examples of it."

This re-branding program presents a process of history in the making, thus creating a new authenticity for future generations. The RVA YouTube video states, "Our past was based on creativity. Now our future depends on it." To forge ahead towards the future, the city poses a challenge to the question "Why?" by asking "Why not?" Through the collaboration of the various creative, social and working classes, the face of the city has come to resemble the people who live there, instead of the days of its past.

The Chamber of Commerce created a new organization around the RVA program called the ie* initiative which will have its first annual public startup competition June 21st to offer opportunities for enterprising entrepreneurs. The city of Richmond is well on its way to showcasing to the rest of the nation and the world its rich and vibrant culture, making this city one to watch.

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Published on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 in Fast Company
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