2016-03-31 / Opinion


A Cooler and Warmer Rhode Island?

Sometimes it seems as though Rhode Island can barely take two complete strides without tripping, falling or otherwise stumbling along the same path that other states manage to negotiate without incident.

The latest example of that: the hullabaloo over the state’s new $500,000 slogan, “Rhode Island: Cooler & Warmer.”

The early feedback around these words that are accompanied by a four-colored graphic that is supposed to remind one of a boat sail has been less than enthusiastic. The words themselves have been described by some as a confusing weather report. Meanwhile, the official explanation of the new logo is that it’s meant to remind people of the ocean, artistry, uniqueness and the “hip youthfulness” of Providence and the warmth of local cities and towns.

It’s not as though the state hired a seventh grader with a fistful of crayons to craft all this. Rather, Rhode Island is paying half a million dollars to New Yorker Milton Glaser, creator of the iconic “I Love New York” campaign during the 1970s.

We do not object to the strategy. We understand that in a world filled with symbols and slogans, a well-crafted logo serves as an inspiration and as a gateway to the brand. But we also understand that in this realm, first impressions – or misunderstandings – are lasting.

If you have to explain to people what their first impressions of a slogan are supposed to be, then you’ve already lost because the marketplace ultimately decides a slogan’s worth.

Of course, Newporters are no strangers to these kinds of flareups. In 2013, Maya Lin, who created the popular Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., designed the current look and feel of Queen Anne Square. The project, with its historic quotations chiseled into native and recycled stone, drew some criticism from the community.

But when the new square was finally dedicated, only one objector showed up to protest.

Right now, Newport has another such historic effort in the works: the transformation of the Citgo service station land behind the Colony House on Spring Street into an open space celebrating the site of the city’s first fresh water supply. The committee guiding this project has scheduled a second community meeting for March 31. We applaud them for soliciting public input.

We also commend the state for setting aside $5 million to promote tourism. In 1996, Rhode Island’s tourism budget was $3.5 million. By 2015, that had dwindled to about $480,000. “The most important thing is that the state has gotten back into the game of tourism promotion,” said Evan Smith, president and CEO of Discover Newport, the nonprofit organization that promotes Newport and eight other East Bay communities.

We wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Smith.

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