Things that are lame about Oakland

Exhibit A: The City’s new logo. Seriously. I hate it. Look at the old Oakland tree:

And look at the new tree:

Seriously! How weak is that? The old one is unique, easily identifiable, and relatively stylish. It looks like a logo. The new one is like, just a drawing of a tree. It could be any tree. If it didn’t say “City of Oakland” underneath it, you would have absolutely no way of guessing that it had anything to do with Oakland at all. You wouldn’t be all “Oh, I’ve seen that tree before. It looks so familiar. Where did I see it? Oh yeah, it’s the City’s logo!” No. You’d be all “Wow. There’s a drawing of some random tree. It’s kind of ugly and looks like it might be about to fall over.”

At Luka’s right now, the art in the dining room is all about the Oakland tree. There are pictures with the old tree and pictures with the new tree. I bet nobody buys any of the art with the new tree. You know why? Cause the new tree is lame. Nobody wants to look at it.

Anyway, that’s just something that’s been bothering me lately. I know you guys are probably much more interested in the budget than the tree, and don’t worry, I will get to that this afternoon.

48 thoughts on “Things that are lame about Oakland

  1. Jennifer

    Who had the idea to change the logo? I love the old tree (I’m wearing a t-shirt right now with the tree on it!). The new tree has no personality.

    Is this new logo what Dellums has been working on the past year?

  2. bj

    here here! the new logo is totally lame and does not really fit the easily identifiable, distinctive intent of a logo. i am saddened.

  3. Andrew

    The tree itself looks ratty; has it got Sudden Oak Death? On the plus side, the fatter font is more “Oaklandy,” and the off-balance design has a dance-y feel to it. The naturalistic silhouette is probably meant to evoke the “green city” vision.

    The old logo could be taken as a visual simile of Oakland’s diversity. This is just a lousy tree. It reminds me a little bit of the “Walnut City of Creek” logo–a suburban logo.

    On the other hand, no one ever likes a logo change.

  4. Aaron Priven

    I much prefer the naturalistic look of the new logo to the abstraction of the old one. I want real trees, not bland pop art looking trees. It looks like somebody’s idea of a tree who’s never seen one.

  5. Genie

    Maybe Ron Dellums’ wife drew the new tree?

    I like the old one, too. Significantly more. I’m not a huge fan of the old font with the old tree, but I really don’t like the new font.

  6. dto510

    When did the logo change? I think it was more than a year ago. Did I miss an opportunity for public comment?!
    While it’s true that people don’t always like logo changes, retreating from an artsy, abstract and memorable tree to a naturalistic and bland tree is definitely a branding mistake. Also, the new tree’s trunk is too long, it doesn’t look like the oak tree outside City Hall that’s it’s probably supposed to represent.
    The new font is better but it’s not that much of an improvement. Oakland should look for a distinctive font, like Berkeley has. We also could just steal Berkeley’s, we’re bigger. Personally, I think Oakland has a gritty feel that would go with a trendy maximalist font, but I suppose a City logo is not the same as a club flyer.

  7. Alex G

    DTO raises a good point. When was this logo switch approved? The new logo looks like it was lifted from an Ozarks golf course.

  8. Max Allstadt

    lame lame lame. Nobody asked anybody about it either, eh?

    You know what else is lame? Northgate is apparently about to be renamed “Koreatown” on all the lampposts. Northgate isn’t even plurality Korean. It’s an obnoxious power play by a few local businessmen and realtors who seem to think they own the neighborhood. They’re wrong.

  9. MIke Spencer

    Bad logo ideas: Silhouette of a gunman with diners diving on the floor; Ron Dellums on a hammock; empty beers cans in the estuary. On a less cynical note, they should open of the logo for a design competition……Or V A Better Oakland should sponsor such a competition.

  10. Art

    I think it changed when Dellums came into office as one of his early initiatives (yay, tax dollars at work). So maybe when we get a new mayor we can get a new logo too? (I bet they could even get one almost for free if they ran a contest for people to design logo art, and gave a nice cash prize but got the rights to the entries….I know several people who’d love tackling that.)

  11. Aaron Priven

    I thought the new logo was reminiscent of the 2002 sesquicentennial logo. It is somewhat similar, but not exactly the same.

    I don’t think the old logo is memorable, just weird. Like an aluminum Christmas tree.

  12. Chris Peterson

    The old logo was kinda ugly, but it was *our* ugly logo. It was distinctive and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Does anyone know when Oakland adopted the old logo?

    The new “logo” is not even ugly; it’s just lame. How much did the city pay someone to design this new logo? How much is the city going to pay to replace everything (from stationery to signs) bearing the old logo? I wasn’t aware that Oakland had a budget surplus to spend on things like this.

  13. David Oertel

    The new logo is better. The old one looks like the freeway system from hell. Nobody outdesigns nature.

    The logo had to be changed because many people forgot that it stood for the City of Oakland and thought that it meant: “stiff fine area” or “wear your seatbelt” or “vehicle impoundment area” or “no ethnic culture”. So it was important to ditch the baggage of the old logo.

  14. Whitney

    Okay, didn’t have time to read all the comments, but consider it lucky that they didn’t make the trunk into the L in Oakland or something. That would be worse.

  15. dto510

    Here’s the new logo I would have made if there were a contest. Also, since Oakland has no motto (to my knowledge), I modified Portland’s.

  16. Patrick

    Old Logo: I agree with David Oertel: the old logo looks like the MacArthur Maze, viewed from above, in a SchoolHouse Rock-70′s pop sort of way. It’s one of those images we’ll fondly remember, many years from now.

    New Logo: Absolutely dreadful. Boring. Really, did someone blow the $1.50 clipart budget on a double shot latte upgrade? Certainly the graphic powers that be could have come up with an image, ANY image, that is more memorable and representative of our beautiful and vastly underappreciated city. How about a stylized lake, oak tree, skyline and hills? Hell, I’d even take a stylized version of the new bridge tower. Maybe I’m just reaching, but as heinous as the old logo was (to me), truthfully, it is preferable to this non-marketable Cancer Treatment Center of America rip-off.

  17. Patrick

    On further reflection, the new logo is clearly an image of a broccoli stalk decimated by insect infestation and drought.

  18. floribunda

    How much of our surplus (ha ha ha) did we spend to have the new logo designed and how much will it cost to implement the change? Like we couldn’t use the money for something else?

  19. Mathew

    I think the old logo SUCKS. So I’m really happy to see anything else. At least the new one looks like a tree. Although it could look more like the tree of Oakland.

  20. Oh Pleeze

    I love it! Not the logo: The recursive debate.

    When I moved to Oakland, our logo was the “older old logo”–a silhouetted mature *OAK* tree. The “older old logo” was discarded a few years ago when the oak silhouette was denounced as “representational and dated”. Oakland replaced it with:

    The “old logo”–a stylized line graphic, that was (at that time, as now) blasted for looking like broccoli that had been devoured by varmints. The broccoli makeover was justified as ‘symbolic,’ and it’s been adopted in various knockoffs as uniquely Oakland (take a look at the Oaklandish logo…)

    Now, we have a ‘new’ logo: A silhouetted tree (that doesn’t particularly look oak-like–more like a camphor or liquidamber), replaces our lineart broccoli version, and is promptly panned as …representational.

    Fashion goes in cycles and it’s *such* fun! (I’m rooting through old suitcases, hunting for bellbottom hiphuggers for my niece, at the same time as Oakland staff are probably submitting requisitions for new uniforms, polo shirts, tie/lapel pins, ballcaps…)

    It’s comforting, isn’t it, that despite a horrifying deficit, FBI scrutiny of City Hall and a crime problem that’s over the top, Oakland can still keep its head and its image up by embracing a retro fashion trend? It is comforting… Isn’t it?

  21. Navigator

    You know what’s really lame about Oakland? It’s the fact that the city can’t even deliver basic services to its residents.

    The City of Oakland can’t even keep its downtown clean and graffiti free. When a city allows its most crowded and visible intersections to remain littered and blighted, then we know there is no pride and no hope. The bus stops along Broadway in the heart of downtown are filthy with litter. Broadway is a disgrace. The bus stops at 14th & Broadway & 12th & Broadway are always littered. The new transit hub at Broadway & Berkley Way has slummed up the street and is threatening the new improvements in Uptown . There is litter, graffiti, gum, etc.. I “feel sorry for SEARS now that the lowlifes have decided to trash the the only department store in downtown Oakland.

    Graffiti is also rampant in parts of Chinatown. Alice Street, between 7th & 10th. is a graffiti marred disgrace. The sheer volume of graffiti on this street makes a mockery of the City of Oakland. These vandals have tagged everything in site. Private homes, fences, garbage containers, light standards, mail boxes, entire sides of huge commercial buildings are completely defaced. It looks like a scene from the movie “Escape from New York.”

    Where are our elected officials? Where are Nancy and Pat ? They allow the kids at Lincoln School in Chinatown to walk through this filth & blight every single day without doing a damn thing about this. Also, directly across Lincoln School on 10th & Alice, sits another totally vandalized building. This is the environment that Oakland’s elected officials allow Oakland’s children to experience. I encourage anyone on this board to drive down Alice Street from 10th to 7th, and see this disgrace for yourselves. When you see this, you’ll realize that the City of Oakland is completely incompetent and has given up. The vandals destroy this city with impunity while Nancy Nadel and Mayor Dellums do nothing.

    I know this thread is mostly about a logo for Oakland. Here is my idea from what I see downtown. How about a litter strewn bus shelter fully covered in graffiti? This is pathetic and it goes to show the level of apathy in Oakland. Residents of this city have been so conditioned to this filth & blight that they don’t even question it any longer.

    How in the world is Oakland going to attract businesses and residents downtown when they allow these vandals to destroy everything in site. I’m hoping the new ‘quality of life crimes’ enforcement includes vandalism, litter, and graffiti. This standard of neglect in downtown Oakland can not continue. Do something!

  22. TonyWKoo

    Do what the singaporean do…public canings. It seems to work for them. (and no, I’m not joking…but then again, no one is going to support such a measure, so it doesn’t really matter what I suggest)

    Do some research on Singapore…6th highest GDP per capita.

  23. TonyWKoo

    Does this include any kind of physical punishments by parents?

    These kids obviously never got the discipline they needed from their parents.

    Oh well, Oaklanders, I guess you guys are just screwed. :)

  24. Gina Heron

    Here is an idea: a tree stump. What better logo than the symbol for Oakland’s own
    ” Bridge to Nowhere” aka Bond Measure DD…

  25. Tony Koo

    They need a good education.

    “Tagging is bad. Stop doing it. If you do, negative consequences will happen. If you do not, positive consequences will occur.”

    It seems simple, but that’s basically what they need.

  26. Patrick

    Another thing that is lame is this Tony Koo person. YES! We should teach Karma in our schools! THAT WILL SOLVE EVERYTHING! And it is completely off topic! Can’t you block him?

  27. Tony Koo

    Patrick…just trying to put things so that all people can understand them…even morons like you.

    Positive and negative consequences. That’s the only way that anybody learns anything. That’s the only reason anybody does anything. Now, as to how you want to administer the positive and negative consequences…that’s still up for debate. What’s the best way to get kids to understand and have it really sink in that tagging and vandalizing is bad? Praise and reward good behavior, put down and punish bad behavior. Parents aren’t doing this. So…who will?

    No consequences=no learning and no positive behavior

  28. V Smoothe Post author

    I can block people from posting comments, but I would hate to have to resort to that. I never delete reader comments, even obnoxious ones, unless they’re obviously spam. Tony’s comments are unproductive, uninformed, and annoying, but I don’t think they’ve yet reached the point where blocking is justified. If the behavior continues, and enough readers feel that the problem is diminishing their ability to enjoy the site, I’ll consider it.

  29. Max Allstadt

    No, there’s only one reason people read this blog: V.

    Flamers come and go. Well researched stories are a constant.

  30. Patrick

    No, Tony, I am not a moron…I just love the city in which I live and I take this blog very seriously. And, I detest people who offer silly statements and non-answers to real-life problems. Especially when the suggestions reference a dictatorship, like Singapore.

    On the subject of negative consequences, have you learned anything yet?

  31. Tony Koo

    Tsk tsk tsk, Patty, you still don’t understand anything about human nature or about how to turn things around, not just from a macro scale, but on the individual level as well.

    Just ask yourself, why do people do what they do? Why do people commit crimes? How do you get people motivated to actually make change? How do you improve the condition of human suffering, as it pertains to individuals feeling downtrodden, neglected, and hopeless? How can you make people feel more valued and appreciated, instead of feeling worthless and dejected?

    I’ve been through enough in my life to understand the answers to all of these questions. Maybe you should be the one who listens.

    As for a dictatorship…think about what happens in a family. Do parents ever ask for a vote from the kids when he tells them not to steal or assault someone? Does he ask everyone…OK, let’s have a vote to see who wants to go to school and who doesn’t. Let’s have a vote to see if everyone in the family can start drinking alcohol. Let’s vote to see if everyone in the family can carry a gun or not.

    Families are microcasms of society in general. If you can’t teach kids what to do and what not to do, forget about doing in the real world. And again, families are not democracies…parents don’t need the permission of the children to dictate and enforce rules that would benefit not only the family, but the kids individually as well. If you don’t get that at home, then you’re just out of luck.

  32. Patrick


    Like our current Mayor, you seem to be full of a lot of ideological spoutings, which mean nothing as they solve nothing. Either offer solution-oriented ideas, or keep your self-absorbed meanderings to yourself. If you’ve “been around enough… to know the answers to all these questions”, then by all means – share them.

    You’re planning on defending the actions of a dictatorship by comparing it to a family? If you truly believe that such a facile, face-value comparison has any merit, I actually feel sorry for you. Parents have a social and, in fact, legal responsibility to their children. Dictators make law and apply it as they see fit.

    Again, LAME.

  33. Patrick

    Interestingly that a person who self-professes the knowledge of how to “turn things around” on an “individual level” has decided the best way to influence my opinion (and yours) is to call me a “moron” and “Patty”. If I respond with the be-all-end-all of that sort of diaper clad/romper room mentality, which I believe is “Nanny, nanny, poo poo!”, does that end it?

  34. Tony Koo

    I speak of generalities and theories simply because I try to make things as simple as possible so that everyone would understand.

    How would we institute such an education for those who never received one? Well, one place to start is the public school system. Start teaching what proper behavior is. The school system has to be a surrogate parent. Tell kids what the consequences are for certain behaviors and enforce them. How to walk, talk, show respect (for others and for their environment), punish lawlessness, really hammer in that certain things are completely unacceptable, such as murdering, raping, stealing, robbing, etc.. The role of schools has to be expanded to not only teach academic subjects, but also moral and behavioral subjects. If they don’t pass, then they need to be punished for it. If they do pass, maybe they’ll get a reward. It’s better to set them straight when they’re young, than for them to suffer all their lives. Again, all of this should have been done within homes…but given that it’s not the case…something has to be done.

    As for adults, things get a little trickier. Adults also need to know what’s right from wrong. I’d say that adults should also pass some type of course concerning proper behavior…again, with punishments and rewards. We need to create a system where those teachings would actually sink in.

    The specifics of what is to be taught will have to be explored later. I don’t have enough time or information to determine specifically.

    We need to find more effective ways to teach people what is the most productive type of behavior which will give them the best chance of succeeding. If we don’t do this, people will keep on doing what they’re doing, thinking that in the back of their minds that it’s OK.

  35. dana

    I don’t like it.
    I think the tree looks sick. Real Oak trees are more robust.
    I would also like to see more energy and $$$$ go into other things.
    Is this a priority for Oakland people and city hall?
    It’s embarrassing that we are spending time and money on the image of our tree and not the image of our actual city.

  36. Vicky

    The old tree also reminds me of the Macarthur Maze–all those intersecting lines are like lanes of traffic. It references both the city’s natural elements and its urban characteristics. The new tree does look like a logo for a golf course in Danville or somewhere.

  37. J. Given

    I’ve got a t-shirt with the old tree logo that I wear proudly. I love that graphic design for all the reasons listed in this thread. The new design is Disneyesque.

    Off-topic: I also think that the SF MUNI logo is a brilliant design, but that’s neither here nor there.