Was new Belfast logo worth two-year wait and up to £50k of ratepayers’ cash?
Officials at Belfast City Council have been accused of having "more money than sense" over a controversial new logo being rolled out to represent the city. The design was two years in the making and was supported by all 60 councillors.
It features a 'starburst' representation of the geographical outline of the city in red with "Belfast" written in large letters through the centre, and will replace the Belfast 'B' which was launched in 2008. The statement behind the interchangeable coloured logo, which enables it to be used with various iconic images of the city, is "energy unleashed."
The council has refused to confirm how much taxpayers' money it shelled out on the graphic because the contract was still ongoing but insisted it would fall within the budget of £50,000.
Chloe Westley, campaign manager at the Taxpayers' Alliance spending watchdog, said the money could have been better spent elsewhere.
"Belfast City Council clearly has more money than sense," she said.
"We keep hearing that councils' budgets are squeezed, but when it wastes money on things like this, taxpayers find it hard to believe.
"Belfast City Council should focus its resources on front line services, not expensive PR."
However, councillors said the new design was "wonderful" and will be a success.
The new George Best Hotel is one of the first places to use it, which features an image of the footballer in the map.
A spokesperson for Belfast City Council stated that the logo is intended to reinvigorate the city as a destination and "build on the existing momentum by injecting life and colour into all aspects of city life" and to emphasise the growing energy of Belfast.
They added the council hopes it will become a recognisable brand for Belfast as the city competes on a global stage to attract visitors, investment, students, talent and attention.
But a Belfast-based graphic designer suggested it could be interpreted wrongly, given the city's troubled past.
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Paul Malone, owner of Paperjam Design, has worked in the industry for 30 years and has extensive experience in branding throughout the UK and across Europe. "Surely the tag it's under - 'energy unleashed' - refers to an explosion and I'm not sure I would want that to be part of the branding of the city," he said.
"The word 'unleashed' suggests out of control and 'energy' sounds explosive - unless that was deliberate, it seems like a foolish oversight."
Mr Malone did praise the typography as being up to scratch and insisted that, despite his concerns, the new logo is certainly better than the one it is replacing.
"But I would still have hesitations over the negative connotations in the branding," he added.
"It jumped out at me immediately and if a client came to me with that I would be compelled to give my professional opinion and advise against it, it's just not what you want."
Mr Malone stressed, however, that he has not seen the brief and therefore does not know the rationale behind the concept.
"I think it definitely could have been a bit more on point and I'm not sure it sets us up as a capital city of Europe," he added.
The BBC's Stephen Nolan Show revealed the new design yesterday.
UUP councillor Jim Rodgers described it as "wonderful", adding that all 60 councillors were behind it.
He reminded listeners that the old logo was initially disliked but ultimately was a success.
"No matter what the council tries to do to promote the city, there are some that like to knock," he said.