Destination by Design (DbD), the North Carolina-based company chosen by Denison’s Uptown Revitalization Committee, has issued a draft report of its findings and recommendations to the committee.
“Their key recommendation was that Denison reimagine its brand identity in a way that reflects the current demographic makeup of the community and has relevancy for today,” said Sara Woerdehoff, chairperson of the Uptown Revitalization Committee.
She said the company recommended that Denison continue to use the “It’s a Wonderful Life” tagline, but update how it is used.
According to the draft report, “Where the tagline comes short is in its lack of current cultural relevance. Many who live in and visit Denison struggle to understand the connection between the city’s tagline and its history. This is due to the fact that both the film and Donna Reed’s legacy have become primarily historical and have been largely forgotten by new generations.”
According to the report, local enthusiasm exists for keeping the tagline – as does enthusiasm for something new.
“The old context for the tagline no longer works, however there may be opportunity to repurpose the tagline and give new meaning to the term ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ which could resonate with the new and increasingly diverse generation,” the report states.
“It’s outdated, but we can still use ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and make that mean something different and more current to our present demographic,” Woerdehoff said.
DbD will send visuals on how to accomplish the new brand, she said.
The report states that a strong brand for Denison will come from the city “embracing its industrial roots.”
“We feel that the right brand for Denison is one that takes pride in its hardworking, blue collar economy, rather than hiding from it,” the report states.
The brand should be centered around the cultural diversity of Denison, according to DbD.
“The breadth of nationalities and cultural traditions in the community is a truly unique trait, which the brand needs to celebrate. Messaging built around diversity would communicate a commitment to the future of the city and would embrace the tension between where Denison is currently, and where it is going,” the report states.
DbD recommends a brand that is eclectic and offbeat, and utilizes bold colors, custom typography, high-contrast images and messaging that embodies a soulful and hopeful vibe that appeals to a younger, ethnically diverse demographic, and maintains an authentic reflection of Denison and its people.
Woerdehoff said reworking the ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ logo is a longer-term goal and would have to be contracted – and funds for that are not currently in the budget.
She said the more immediate goal would be to complete work on wayfinding/gateway signage recommended by the report.
“Signage will prove to be one of the greatest enhancements available to Denison for capturing the potential guest passing through,” the report states.
DbD recommends Highway 30 signage, and signage elsewhere, to direct visitors to the uptown area, and new gateway signage.
Woerdehoff said the revitalization committee would also like to focus on new murals in the uptown area; the report recommends a series of murals, on blank buildings, to support the new Denison brand.
She said the DbD report is “spot on.”
“We’re on the same page on things that need to be changed,” Woerdehoff said. “It’s reassuring that we’re on the right direction.”
Communication will be key to getting buy-in from the community on the revitalization project and will involve many layers of outreach.
“We need for the whole town to be proud of where they’re from,” she said. “I think when people start to see the changes, it will get them excited.”