With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

iQuilt: Great Plan if You Ignore the Name

Over the past year, a highly strategic development project has been underway in the city of Hartford.  The project focuses on linking the entire downtown business grid and creating a marvelous patchwork of green space, cultural landmarks and pedestrian walkways.  The plan would re-connect the city's many downtown pieces parts that where annexed when I-84 was constructed in the 1960s and make Hartford a more walkable city.

We applaud the ad hoc group that is driving this project that will, "Piece together Hartford’s cultural landscape."  Check out their game plan.

The project is taking a smart urban planning approach to a solving one of the city's many problems.  Furthermore, the consortium, co-lead by The Bushnell and the Greater Hartford Arts Council, has the support of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism and a group of individual and corporate donors.  Bringing together a group like this no easy task.  Remember, our mayor is the guy who is currently on trial for multiple bribery and extortion charges and is barely literate.  The fact that this group has been able to come together, develop a thoughtful plan and clear the necessary hurdles to become part of the city's long-term development plan.

So what's the problem?  They called it "iQuilt."  Yes, you heard us right, iQuilt.  Who are the ad wizards that came up with that?  There are three primary problems with the name.

1. Quilt
A quilt?  Why would they focus the name of this project on a quilt?  The "quilt" name is intended to play off of the "quilt" of irregular city blocks created by Hartford's patchwork street grid.  But "inventive urban planning that creates a highly walkable downtown area" is not the first thing we think of when we hear the word "quilt."  Usually quilts make us think of old ladies sewing or people trying to raise HIV/AIDS awareness.

2. i
What is with society's over use of the "i" prefix?  Uncreative people hoping to steal bit of Steve Jobs' magical pixie dust always like to use the "i" prefix as an easy go-to.  It is intended to conjure up images of innovation and the cutting edge.  But it often does the opposite, marginalizing a concept that is actually innovative and putting it on par with iCarly and the iFan.  Put "i" and "quilt" together and the cognitive dissonance makes our head hurt.

3. The logo
The logo doesn't even look like it says "iQuilt."  It looks like it says "quit."  Seriously, look at it.  How many meetings happened where whoever designed the logo (our top three guesses: an ad agency, in-house graphics department or somebody's teenage daughter with Photoshop) showed the icon off to the project leadership and no one noticed a problem.  When you have a blue "l" directly in front of a blue square and re-purpose the "i" in the prefix and the word "quilt," your logo will like it says "quit."  It is a simple equation.

iQuilt seems like a phenomenal program that will help improve the city of Hartford.  We don't want to pick on the projects organizers.  We just feel that how you present the program is almost as important as the program itself.  A strong identity will rally support and create interest.  A poor identity will be mocked and not taken seriously.  For an example of this, please refer to the New England's Rising Star campaign.

Now if they could only come up with a better name and logo.  The Sad City Hartford team did a bit of brainstorming this morning and developed a suggestion.  Given that the project centers on Bushnell Park and our city's founder was Thomas Hooker, they should use the following:

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