New North Dakota logo not so legendary, critics insist

Where did North Dakota go to find a logo and slogan to capture its essence? Minnesota.

It hired a woman in Hawley, Minn., to design the logo for $9,500, too small of an expenditure to go through a competitive bidding process, the Fargo Forum says. And that’s rubbing people the wrong way.

Kara Ellefson, who has extensive experience in marketing, came up with the logo to “unify” all the state’s agencies under a single brand.

Other North Dakota marketing experts, however, think the logo stinks, and signed a petition and called it “an uninspiring leap backwards,” the Forum says.

Jordan Loftis, a Bismarck marketing and public relations writer with a background in design, wrote the letter and attended the meetings on behalf of concerned creative professionals who signed the petition.

As far as Loftis is concerned, the problem isn’t what the logo cost, or the fact that the job went to a Minnesota firm, although he was not happy that no local designer “got a shot” at the logo project.

“Honestly, for the amount of money this is, I don’t think it was any nefariousness,” he said. “It was just expediency,” a desire to move quickly.

“If the logo was good and she was from Texas, nobody would care,” he added. Loftis’ objection is that the logo is amateurish and ineffective, although he said the brand strategy behind the logo is sound.

The upshot of the meetings, Loftis said: “We were basically met with, well, we’re rolling this out. We can agree to disagree.”

“A lot of people really felt that our North Dakota artists should have had a chance to do this logo,” said Rep. Marvin Nelson, D-Rolla, who has sponsored a bill for a statewide logo contest. “It seemed to come out of the governor’s office, but I don’t know. All of a sudden it was there. I didn’t like the process. There was no request for proposals.”

The prize money for the winner was slashed from $95,000 in Nelson’s bill to $9,500, the same amount the Minnesota woman was paid.

Related: Minnesota finds its new tourism campaign in ‘True North’ (Pioneer Press)

  • MrE85

    Fix health care, roads, and agriculture markets first, North Dakota. Then you can lose sleep over logos.

    • When I hear marketing people talk about what their branding conveys, it just sounds like the very definition of “snake oil”.

      • MrE85

        The best brands come from good products or services. Provide that, and the brand has value. Anything less is just more lipstick on a pig.

        • tboom

          I never “got” marketing but will always remember these words of wisdom from my marketing instructor: “Nothing will kill a bad product faster than good marketing”

    • Erik Petersen

      Whats wrong with their roads? How should they fix their agriculture markets?

      • kevins

        One word…subsidies.

        • danceswithzombies

          Maybe they should complain to whoever thought a trade war was a good idea. You all could get ag subsidies from the Bakken profits. After all it’s the oil business that keeps damaging farmland.

          • kevins

            Benzene and other aromatic hydrocarbons are dangerous to the good people that live there too…no wheat will grow.

    • Rob

      And fixing voter disenfranchisement

  • Angry Jonny

    North Dakota: it’s a long way to Montana.

  • jon

    I can’t say I find either logo particularly appealing… but I think the old one was a bit better (though less colorful with it’s 1 color and 2 fonts compared to 2 colors and 3 fonts…)

    At least the old one makes it clear which dakota… the new one kind of hides the word “north” with that thin lined font…

    • QuietBlue

      I like the fonts they used on the old one. The new one looks too generic, like it could be used for a chiropractic clinic or something.

      • Joseph

        Yeah, the old one actually has an old-west/cowboy feel to it, which matches well with the mythos of the state. The new one… looks like something done in 5 minutes on Microsoft Word when they realized the assignment was due in 20 mintues 😛

        • Rob

          Yup. As my dear sainted mother used to say, “You get what you pay for.”

    • Angry Jonny
  • A-man

    North Dakota: Because 49 States Just Doesn’t Sound Right

  • Gary F

    Just saw the MNDot guy on the news this morning wearing a new MNDot logo ball cap. I could care less if the state had a new logo. Big waste of money if you ask me. MN or ND.

    • Kassie

      Before the new MN logo, every agency had their own logo. The new logo came with rules that all agencies conform to the new logo. Ultimately, it will be a cost saver for the state as the agencies will no longer be paying graphic designers for individual logos whenever they decide they need a new one.

      • Rob

        Conformity regarding state agency logoing makes total sense, but the new MN logo/branding is a yuuuuuge yawner.

  • Yeah, that logo is…not very good…

    /Professional graphic designer

  • RBHolb

    Back in the 80s, there was a short-lived movement to change the name of the state to “Dakota.” The reasoning behind it was that “North Dakota” sounds flat, cold, and empty.

    I’m sure many of you are making the same reply I did: “Yes. What’s your point?”

    My counter-suggestion–rename the state “Baja Manitoba”–fared no better with the public.

    • Mike Worcester

      When I lived in that part of the world, the chatter was that instead of North and South, is should have been East and West Dakota. There really is a distinction between that direction rather than the other. Of course, it went nowhere either.

      • Joe

        Well, West Dakota would have a population of about 80,000, which might make it difficult.

        • jon

          Merge it with wyoming to fill out the population…

        • Mike Worcester

          Probably one of the many reasons that concept went nowhere.

      • Jack Ungerleider

        The mention of East Dakota brings up an old Carol Burnett show skit featuring Tim Conway and Harvey Korman. The two comedians play the captain (Conway) and crewman (Korman) on a Japanese submarine. About 2:30 into the clip Conway is at the periscope and calls out ship names and Korman marks them on the map: “USS South Dakota, USS North Dakota, USS East Dakota.”

        The clip would be considered politically incorrect by today’s standards. You’ve been warned, here’s the link:

        • Joseph

          Still is funny slapstick humor. Besides the politically incorrect language charachtiecture. I’m guessing this is from the 50’s or 60’s?

          • Jack Ungerleider

            It’s from the 1970’s. The skit was most likely inspired by the epic WWII movies like Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) or Midway (1976). I would lean to Midway because according to IMDB, Conway was only a regular on the Carol Burnett show from 1975 to 1978.

            Just a note: It’s in color which would make late 60s at the earliest.

          • Joseph

            Color isn’t really a good marker of era anymore now though since they can digitally restore/colorize black-and-white film footage. Like when CBS shows classic “I Love Lucy” episodes around the holidays, or the excellent Peter Jackson WWI documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old”.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            While it’s true that colorization is done to films and stuff produced on film I haven’t heard of colorization of material produced on tape. This scene is an interior (read: studio) production done on tape. You can tell from the image quality.

            The easiest way to understand the different visual of film versus tape is to watch a classic Dr Who episode. The interiors were done on tape and the exteriors on film. Anything after John Pertwee’s first year should be in color.

    • Erik Petersen

      “Baja Manitoba” is clever.

      As a standalone word, Dakota is pretty evocative and powerful. You see a lot of good trade labels out there use “Dakota”. Food… sporting goods… automotive.

  • Rob

    North Dakota: What’s so bad about seven months of winter?

  • Guest

    I thought we branded MN by purchasing a stadium for a billionaire and then paying teams to hold their celebrations in it……can you tell I resent the referendum being by-passed 🙂

    • danceswithzombies


  • The Resistance

    I never got their ‘legendary’ tagline. What’s legendary about it?

    How about 60 times more senate representation than California? That actually says something about the state.

    • danceswithzombies

      Teddy Roosevelt was legendary. Maybe they hoped putting legendary in there would remind people of Teddy Roosevelt .

  • Al

    This is the trend, though, I think, to make state government seem more modern and streamlined, and competitive with for-profit ventures. (Does a logo fix all of that? Of course not. But an outdated logo can suggest in an instant that a state is also outdated.) I mean, look at Minnesota’s. What’s so je-ne-sais-quoi about Minnesota’s logo? (Rien.)

    • Angry Jonny

      It kind of looks like a blue horse taking a green poop.

  • Jeff C.

    I think the new logo sums up the state perfectly. (Boring, flat, cold, uninspiring, and mostly white.)

  • The Resistance

    Time to start a new Minnesota Flag debate. Ours is atrocious. A seal is not a flag.
    Colorado and New Mexico got this figured out. We should as well.
    Kara Ellefson need not apply.

  • danceswithzombies

    THREE different fonts.. very professional indeed. My 7 year old nephew could’ve done better.