Placemaking on a Regional Scale: Does Sacramento Need Another Icon? Part 2

In my previous entry, I wrote about the importance of icons in conveying a positive image for regions and the need for new icons to promote the Sacramento region to potential new residents, visitors, and businesses. Sacramento is a blank slate for many people outside of California and northern Nevada, with the potential exception of the Sacramento Kings and state government, and so icons must simply and forcefully communicate stories about the region that are true to its history, land, culture, and people.

Potential stories and icons include:

  • Arrival. For many pioneers, the Sacramento region was a place of arrival. Sacramento was the terminus for the Pony Express, the first Transcontinental Railroad, and numerous wagon trains. In the same way that the Gateway Arch illustrates St. Louis’ role in America’s westward expansion, Sacramento could have an icon that symbolizes arrival, welcome, and opportunity in California, such as an open door, gate, open arms, or light. Like St. Louis, Sacramento could have a competition to determine the design and location (e.g., a prominent riverfront location). The icon could have a gold color to highlight the region’s connection to the Gold Rush and the state’s nickname.
  • Abundance. Agricultural symbols and slogans are hallmarks of many cities and towns. The key for the Sacramento region is to develop a broad appeal for those potential businesses, residents, and visitors who are seeking good, healthy, natural, locally grown food. The region has a bountiful variety of crops, ranging from rice to grapes to almonds; food industries, including winemaking, olive oil and beef production; and dining choices. An icon that demonstrates the region’s agricultural and gastronomic bounty could take the form of public art, prominent park or garden, or a permanent public market such as San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace.
  • Celebration of California. As the capital city, Sacramento is in a unique position to celebrate the history, natural environment, culture, industry, and people of the entire state of California, as illustrated by the recent move of the Disneyland Resort’s “CALIFORNIA” letters to Cal Expo. Potential icons can be serious and contemplative when necessary, but will probably be most successful when they reflect the state’s unique lifestyle, as exemplified by the playful Visit California advertising campaign. The state can be represented through common symbols like a grizzly bear, redwood tree, sun, movie camera, and surfboard, or through well-known Californians, such as those enshrined at Sacramento’s California Hall of Fame. These potential icons can enhance the region’s connection with the California tourism industry and broader economy.
  • Access to Variety. More than half of California’s Central Valley, the Sierra Nevada Foothills (the location of the Gold Rush), the Sierra Nevada and Coast Mountain Ranges, the Lake Tahoe Basin, Napa and Sonoma Valleys and other wine growing regions, San Francisco and most of the Bay Area, and the Pacific Ocean are within two hours of Sacramento. Yosemite National Park is less than 3.5 hours away. There are an amazing number of environments, attractions, and recreational opportunities in or near to the Sacramento region. A potential icon could highlight the variety of choices in outdoor adventures. A clock could show a different type of recreation at each hour position (for example, bicycling, hiking, water skiing, swimming, kayaking, whitewater rafting, boating, surfing, downhill snow skiing, snow boarding, cross-country snow skiing, and ice skating) and changing text that displays, “Time to [Bicycle, Hike, Water Ski, and so on].”

These stories and icons are just a few ideas of how to develop a fun and exciting identity for the Sacramento region in the minds of people across North America and elsewhere. There will certainly be a number of challenges in taking a concept to fruition, but the benefits will be increased visibility for the region and an opportunity to highlight the area’s amenities that support a strong and diverse economy. And for people like me who are residents, just imagine not having a blank look on people’s faces when you tell them where you live.

Leave a Reply