Banner design sent for tweaking

Some changes have been requested for new banners proposed by the nonprofit group Salem Renaissance Inc. to replace the banners currently gracing the light poles downtown.

The Salem Design Review Board and Mayor John Berlin asked for a change in the color scheme and a larger typeface for the words “Historic Downtown” during a meeting Thursday where members gave their opinions on the design presented.

Berlin asked for the special meeting for board members to review the proposed design and give him a recommendation so he could approve it or require changes.

Salem Renaissance paid for the original banners about 12 years ago and members thought it might be time to replace them since they were looking a little faded. David Schwartz of Salem Renaissance said they secured a grant from the Pearce Foundation for $3,000 for 115 banners and contacted a designer to design them.

He questioned why he had to come to the Design Review Board meeting, saying that previous banners weren’t reviewed by the board, including ones placed by Salem Rotary during a major anniversary or by Salem Regional Medical Center when it was known as Salem Community Hospital and celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.

“I’m a little bemused that I’m here tonight,” he said. “Why am I?”

Board chair Ginger Grilli explained that these banners are for the city of Salem, not some organization, and represent Salem’s identity. Since it’s the city being represented, she said the city wanted opinions from people and entities who have a vested interest in the city and contribute to the city’s image. She noted the mayor had asked for their opinion. She also said she showed the design to others she knew in other organizations such as the Salem Historical Society and the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce to find out what they thought.

Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Audrey Null noted that when the chamber did banners for the city’s bicentennial in 2006, they went to the city first, but she couldn’t recall if they had to go before the Design Review Board.

Much of the discussion during the review of the proposed banner design centered on the colors and the words “Historic Downtown Salem.” The proposed design included three background colors, with red at the top, then white, then green. The word Salem was written in script across the middle, with part of it in the red and part in white, with the outline of a dove holding a branch of leaves underneath.

The design also included the round sun above Salem and trees below. At the top were the words “Historic Downtown Since 1806” and on the bottom were the words “The City of Peace.” Below that were individual words for three separate designs: Pride, Culture and Progress. A fourth banner was to say Historic with the words Downtown Salem below.

Board member Meta Cramer questioned whether there was too much going on and expressed concern over legibility, suggesting the sun and trees be removed and the dove centered. Schwartz and Grilli then bantered back and forth over the inclusion of “Historic Downtown Salem,” with Schwartz saying the original design just said “Since 1806.” Grilli said what she had asked him to do was put Historic Downtown above the script Salem.

“Historic Downtown Salem, that is the brand. Not 1806,” she said, adding people she talked to thought those words should be larger.

She said if those words “don’t pop out,” then it won’t help them to brand the downtown. Schwartz said the banners were for the city, not just the downtown.

“We all care about the downtown, but that isn’t the thrust of this banner. This is a Salem banner,” he said.

Null questioned the colors, saying “this looks like an Italian festival banner.”

She also said the banner resembled the ones in Lisbon and it would look like the city was copying them.

“It does not fit Salem. That’s just my opinion, take it or leave it,” Null said.

Grilli also said, “I think it’s very suggestive of the Italian flag,” saying the design with the dove was different, but the rest was like the Lisbon banner.

Schwartz said they need to think of the designer here, too, since this was her work. Most of those present, including Grilli, liked the main design with the script Salem, the dove, the trees and the sun. After more discussion about color, including using blue instead of red or using all green or just eliminating the white background color, the general consensus was to keep the green section green and make the white and red sections all red, which the mayor liked.

At the top, they suggested putting the words “Since 1806” then “Historic” and “Downtown” in larger type, all stacked over script Salem. The bottom wording would remain the same, but they didn’t feel the need for the fourth banner with the word “Historic” at the bottom.

Schwartz will take the changes back to his committee and then he’ll take it back to Berlin. If Berlin likes what he sees, there won’t be a need to return to the board, which meets again on May 8 for a regular meeting.

In other business, Grilli gave a brief update on the Certified Local Government grant and some of the changes in the scope of the project, noting more information will be available next month. She also said 63 people attended the Building Doctor clinic last week, with 10 site visits done last Friday at old buildings and more followup expected.