Rocky Start? Colorado Adopts A New State Logo, With A Few Bumps

A beloved state identity gets an official upgrade—but the popularity of the redesign has anything but peaked.

Of all the U.S. state flags, Colorado’s is easily among the most abstract. Designed more than a century ago, the flag’s graphics fly fairly high-metaphoric. Where other states err representational—proud or cutesy animals, gun-toting pioneers—the Colorado flag consists of only an off-center red C that nestles a small golden disk.

That sole red letter has become the de facto Colorado logo. But because it’s in the state’s public domain, anyone can use it, for any purpose, in any way. The graphic, then, can be employed for ends incompatible with, say, law, while appearing to be an official sanction.

To clear up such identity issues, Governor John Hickenlooper launched his "Making Colorado" campaign, amassing a team of 12 Colorado-based designers and writers to produce three new logos. The winner, by illustrator and graphic designer Evan Hecox, was chosen at the end of August for immediate state branding use. The new logo is proving to be a tough sell among Coloradans at the moment, but, as is often the case when someone changes a beloved identity, Hecox thinks the naysayers will come around after the initial adjustment period.

"What Colorado actually needed was a specific logo that could be controlled," Hecox tells Co.Design. "The new brand is a registered trademark that cannot be used without express permission from the State of Colorado."

Hecox’s design, which he arrived at with the aid of his collaborators, took inspiration from another Colorado icon—the state's alpine-themed license plates, in graphic white and green. The triangular shape of the new logo brings to mind a road sign, if the centers of road signs were occupied by snowy mountain peaks. The silhouetted mountain image is foregrounded by the state abbreviation "CO," in a typeface that matches that of the original celebrated-but-pirated C.

The re-creation of the C takes a back seat to Colorado’s well-established mountain imagery—which was a design decision driven by some serious Rocky Mountain research. In polls, the team found that residents felt their state more widely represented in the license plates than in the C. "The red C and the flag are not as widely recognized as most people would like to think," Hecox explains, adding that the team discovered some poll respondents "believe that the Colorado flag is actually a symbol of Chicago or elsewhere."

Even so, he's careful not to downplay the history and impact of that C. "We are fortunate in Colorado to have such a simple, modern, and graphically strong flag," Hecox says, noting that his project was designed "to work in cooperation with the flag and the state seal, and not to replace either one."

Instead, the new logo will be used toward branding Colorado as a place for creative talent and jobs, without losing its outdoorsy heritage. Its "upward trajectory" (i.e. pointed geometry), says Hecox, is indicative of the "positive nature" of Coloradans. And the tree-green palette doesn’t hurt either, expressing the state’s sustainability ethos and eco-friendly industries.

Hecox, of course, hopes that such statewide friendliness will eventually welcome his redesign. "My personal feeling is that a logo needs time, context, and real-world application to test its validity and effectiveness," he says. "I'm confident that our mark will stand up to scrutiny and serve its purpose over time." If not, there's always Plan C.

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  • Todd Maggio

    That was my first thought. Here's an image of the triangular warning label for CO: Kinda ironic that their slogan is nature inspired when their logo is reminiscent of exhaust fumes.

  • Jeff Gonring

    Absolutely ridiculous. The underlying reason for this logo/brand change is clearly spelled out in this article. The "C" logo which stems from the flag has become immensely popular among Colorado residents and anyone who loves this state.  Unfortunately that "C" is not a licensed, branded logo and countless retailers have put their own twist on the "C" logo and sold it illustrated on countless accessories for massive profit.  Unfortunately, the state can't do anything about that (or make any $$$$ off it) because it's not a licensed logo.  Now, they can claim a percentage of sales toward clothing and anything else that has this logo.  Plus if someone uses this new logo without paying the state or getting consent, the state can then sue them for millions of dollars.  Good job to the State of Colorado on creating a licensed trademark logo so they can now reap the benefits of the millions of dollars in sales for Colorado branded accessories. Jerks.

  • radisafi

    Does any state recognise its flag? And even if they do, surely branding is about other than those associated with a place. In any case, its a great brand. Now all they need is a great web design and shouldn't be afraid from reaching over the Atlantic!

  • Mr_Marsden

    I think this is total crap. The only reason "Coloradan's" don't recognize the Colorado Flag is because 90% of them aren't from Colorado (and the state has not done well in promoting its usage). As someone whose family dates back to the 1800's in the state, I can tell you that true natives know exactly what that flag/logo means and absolutely want nothing to do with some license plate/recycling/hazard sign iconography which is neither timeless nor interesting. To think that the original  design was created over a hundred years ago is astonishing when you see the clear and destinguishable design intent.

    Colorado is named for "colorful" based on the obvious physical traits the state poses and the sky/sun motif is perfect for a place with 300 days of sunshine. Just because this design doesn't smash you in the head with obvious symbolism as other states employ does not make it a lesser design.

    I would argue that it shows the distinct nature of colorado and its people who neither wish to gloat nor be easily defined by something like the mountains. Yes, they are an important aspect of the state, but guess what, they only exist on half of it and skiing (which also only occurs for half the year) should not be the state's definitive image.

  • Nosybear_Demon_at_Large

    Can we just keep our rather distinctive flag?  The new "symbol" looks like some kind of bizarre caution sign.  We hates it, precious.....

  • Art Fewell

    Its Colorado ... shouldnt there be a bong incorporated into the design somewhere? ;)

  • Nosybear_Demon_at_Large

    How about an open jail door and dollar signs?  We're collecting tax money off green stuff now!

    Humor appreciated, though!