Since Richmond Hill gained its incorporated status in 1962, there’s been a marked metamorphosis occurring in this sleepy little coastal town. The municipality, originally populated by Creek Indians and settled in 1734, is best known as the winter residence of the automotive pioneer Henry Ford during the 1930s and 1940s.
But the Hill’s no longer a well-kept secret. According to data from the U.S. Census, Georgia’s population increased 22% from 2000 to July 2013. The percentage change in Richmond Hill? A whopping 57%, more than double the state’s average.
With all of that population explosion – and with the arrival of Caesarstone as the first industry in Richmond Hill’s Belfast Commerce Centre – city leaders thought the time was right for a change to the city’s logo, a nondescript emblem featuring a setting sun, a serene live oak, and a body of water. “It was time,” says Jan Bass, Richmond Hill City Council member and marketing director for Goodwill of the Coastal Empire. “Everything needs a refreshed look.”
To start the process, a steering committee was selected from those representing government, community, and business interests. Starting last summer, Jan Bass; Brad Brookshire, vice president at Ameris Bank; City Council Member Russ Carpenter; Mayor Harold Fowler; Paige Glazer, publisher of Richmond Hill Reflections; and Christy Sherman,
executive director of the Richmond Hill Convention and Visitors Bureau, began meeting biweekly to discuss what set Richmond Hill apart from other similar size cities. They researched the area’s history, key attributes, natural features, and demographics. “As a group, we really asked ourselves what makes Richmond Hill unique. Is it the historical ties to Henry Ford? Is it our sense of community? Is it the natural resources of the river?” recalls steering committee member Brad Brookshire, a Richmond Hill native. “Promoting Richmond Hill and setting it apart from other communities is definitely an endeavor worth our time and effort, especially in the context of economic development.”
Described as similar to a focus group in the beginning, meetings were initially an exercise in trial and error, with members discussing what worked and what didn’t. They considered the importance and significance of branding, and how a new logo could impact citizens’ gut feelings and elicit thought and emotion. Along the way, an industrial designer served as the paintbrush for the group’s ideas.
The committee was shown multiple logos – including the current and previous logos for the city and other civic organizations in Bryan County. After each meeting, the designer went back to the drawing board, creating different iterations. Eventually, the group started honing in on what would become the backbone of the brand – the sevenmile bend in the Ogeechee River. “We really wanted to create something timeless, and something no one else had,” explains Christy
Sherman. “The river is the reason many residents have settled here,
and the seven-mile bend is the most distinguishable feature of the river.”
In the new logo, the majestic swoop of the bend is artistically rendered, leaving it up to the viewer to decide whether they are seeing the river or an R. And although the seven-mile bend is technically not in the city but in the unincorporated county, committee members wanted to think outside boundary lines (both literal and figurative) and include all of the local community. “Twenty-five years ago, city limits were rigidly defined, but today
those geographic lines are moving and changing rapidly,” says Brad. “The river unifies our city and this image promotes our quality of life, especially outdoors and boating.”
The new logo isn’t just a pretty face; it’s also practical. From the beginning, committee members wanted to ensure the logo could be used effectively across all media – signage, letterhead, websites, even t-shirts and ball caps. It’s easily replicated and, in keeping with Henry Ford’s style, has an elegant simplicity.
But for committee member Jan Bass, the logo represents something much more than a new brand. It also signifies community members working together to better the community.
“In Richmond Hill and in south Bryan County as a whole, we are trying
to make positive changes for our residents,” she says. “I was proud to be part of a team of representatives from community, business, and government working together to make Richmond Hill a better place to live, work, and play.”