Signs of the times

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Seven new welcome signs were recently installed along the town’s border, each featuring an englarged version of the Colchester logo. This sign is on Severance Road. (Photo by Michaela Halnon)

Residents and commuters alike have no doubt noticed the seven wooden signs recently installed along the town’s border, each welcoming drivers into Colchester with an enlarged version of the municipality’s newfangled vibrant yellow, green and blue logo.

Many might be seeing the seal, which features a runner, cyclist and sailboat on the causeway, for the first time, but economic development director Kathi Walker O’Reilly said the town has been using the symbol on both web platforms and pamphlets for years.

The logo redesign was first prompted by the 2012 Heritage Project, which challenged town officials to develop an expansive brand identity and marketing plan for Colchester, O’Reilly said. The following year, they created a 10-step economic development action plan.

By the time O’Reilly took the helm at the department late in 2013, creating a new town emblem was a top priority.

“I was trying to figure out how we can get a new logo [when] I don’t have the kind of money in my budget [to] hire a firm to do a new logo and do new branding,” O’Reilly recalled. “I wanted it to be like the Heritage Project: A community, resident-based effort.”

A town-wide contest, then, seemed an obvious choice. O’Reilly sourced entries ranging from marketing students at the Community College of Vermont to budding young artists in the local school district.

In the end, it was resident Lindsay Colburn’s design that won out, voted in by a panel that included advertising professionals, a selectboard member, a professor and a slew of citizens.

A committee member offered to finalize Colburn’s creation, later presenting potential variations to the selectboard. One iteration featured a powerboat, for example, and swapped the directions the runner and biker were traveling.

“It was a lot of fun, it was a long time, and it was a lot of work,” O’Reilly said of the process. “We came out with that, and we knew that we needed to not just change stationary or business cards, we needed a brand.”

The old welcome signs were erected in the late ’90s and were showing their age, O’Reilly said. Town officials originally considered painting over the fading letters themselves, but decided to opt for a more bold approach.

“If [we’re] asking people to come to Colchester and invest in our community, then we need to have our best foot forward,” O’Reilly said. “This is the gateway to our community. Again, I think it’s all part of our brand.”

O’Reilly has also been an active participant in discussions surrounding the Exit 16 overhaul, making sure the diverging diamond design melds with the look she’s striving to achieve in the town. She was an active proponent for town-funded landscaping at the project site, breaking up what otherwise would have been a sea of concrete, she said.

The signs themselves were funded with budget surplus money, approved earlier this year. At that selectboard meeting, officials debated the merits of including smaller indicators for local organizations like the Rotary and Lions Club. The markers remain unadorned with those features at this time.

For now, the town purchased signs for roadways with high traffic volume, but O’Reilly said smaller markers (think: round logos on a single wooden post) could be forthcoming on secondary streets.

O’Reilly said she’s received positive feedback on the installations, including from one mother who used the signage as an education tool when her son asked when they would arrive in Colchester during a drive down Main Street.

It’s a satisfying response, O’Reilly said, to a project that often takes an intangible form.

“Branding is welcoming people into our community and being proud of ourselves, being proud of what Colchester is,” she said.