Oak Park Township has an identity problem, survey says.
“A lot of folks in the community don’t know what the township does or what services we do, what we stand for, and what our mission is,” said Township Manager Gavin Morgan. “We’re trying to change that.”
Part of that change is creating a new logo, which means retiring the current, longstanding white oak leaves, adorned with a singular acorn.
What do oak leaves and acorns really say anyway?
But it was only a decade ago that District 97 Oak Park elementary schools adopted a new logo. You guessed it — oak leaves and acorns.
The school district, embracing modernity, needed to replace its longtime logo — a stick-drawn version of a little red schoolhouse. Since Oak Park never had a little red schoolhouse, it offered neither historical relevance nor a compelling message about the district’s progressive methods.
A few years back Oak Park and River Forest High School realized they were swimming in variations of Huskies and school crests and pencil drawings of the handsome exterior of the Scoville Avenue landmark. An effort was made, a $24,676 budget adopted, and a consultant hired with the goal of condensing all that imagery into something more unified. Until the school’s alums spoke up, worrying that the school crest was about to be mothballed. That was never actually the plan, but the project was basically shelved.
The Park District of Oak Park had a windmill-like logo going back decades. It was recently “refreshed” and simplified.
Meanwhile, Oak Park’s most recognizable and purposeful logo is a representation of stick people forming stick trees going back largely unchanged to the 1970s when the village of Oak Park remade and rebranded itself in the era of integration. A new and entirely modern village hall was built at Madison Street and Lombard Avenue, the police cars were suddenly orange and white and the new logo was slapped on everything from vehicle stickers to fire trucks.
Currently, Oak Park Township is collecting proposals for a new logo as part of its wider rebranding project.
The township is looking for a partner to guide it through the process, part of which includes developing a new logo more indicative of what the township provides to the community.
“The goal is to change the fact that people aren’t real familiar with the township and make sure they understand the services we provide and the value we add to the community,” said Morgan.
Those services include meal assistance for seniors, adult protective services, benefit access, caregiver support, youth intervention programming, substance abuse prevention resources, and more. They do not include forestry or autumn leaf pickup. But most residents don’t glean that information from the current woodsy logo, as indicated by the results of recent community surveys conducted by the township.
“One of the survey questions was, ‘What does this logo bring to mind?’ or something to that effect,” said Morgan. “One of the responses was oak leaves. And that’s not exactly what we’re going for.”
The township has used the white oak leaves and acorn for decades, but Morgan doesn’t know exactly when the logo made its debut.
“Somebody just recently came across a document from 1971 that had the same logo,” he said.
OPRF planned its logo unification in 2019, in a contract worth $24,676 with Sikich Marketing and Design.
When asked if the township expects their rebranding contract to carry a similar cost, Morgan responded with a resounding, “That’s not what I had in mind.” They plan to keep project spending at a “reasonable level.”
“We didn’t lay out a specific amount just because we wanted to see what people had to offer and then we’ll talk about cost,” he said. “But we will present any contract to the [township] board for their approval.”
OPRF didn’t end up spending the full contracted amount — just 25 percent, or $6,169.
The project was halted because of alumni concerns that the OPRF crest would be jettisoned, which the school never intended to do, according to OPRF spokeswoman Karin Sullivan.
“Tradition is really big in this community and for alumni of this high school in particular, and we wanted to respect that,” Sullivan told Wednesday Journal.
However, the school had already paid 25 percent of the amount to Sikich.
“We settled on them providing help and consultation to our students and trying to create some consistent branding,” said Sullivan.
That need for consistent branding still exists, according to Sullivan. Sikich agreed to assist the students, meeting with members of the graphic design club and providing input to those tasked with making changes.
“I don’t want to make anyone nervous that we are changing the crest; it’s updated with the school colors,” said Sullivan.
OPRF hasn’t quite made the leap from the more colorful logo quite yet, but it has had something of a soft rollout, according to Sullivan, who said many administrators are using it as their Zoom backgrounds during school board meetings.
“It’s been great working with the students,” she said. “It’s been a longer process for sure, but it’s been really rewarding to work with them and to see the work they’ve produced.”
When D97 redesigned its logo in 2010, the operation was executed entirely in-house by the district’s webmaster, Stephanie Grammens.
“There was no additional cost, given that the design work was handled internally,” said D97 spokesperson Amanda Siegfried. Superintendent Al Roberts charged Grammens with the task of creating a logo that would serve as an anchor across the websites under the district’s umbrella. The decision was based on Roberts’ image, as well as feedback from parents and guardians, according to Siegfried.