Branding aficionado on LA’s new logo: Sunny, optimistic, easily sketchable

Hosted by

The new Los Angeles logo debuted in June. While some say its neon hues conjure an 80s or vapor wave vibe, branding expert Sasha Strauss says it contains dynamic energy that references coastal sunsets and a feeling of optimism. Image by Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.

The distilled essence of LA is impossible to capture, but the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board is hoping to come close. The organization that markets the city around the world recently updated the town’s official logo for the first time in almost a decade.

The revamped logo comes as the pandemic recedes and the city is pitching itself as the perfect place to, as they put it, “start your comeback.” 

For a professional opinion on the new logo, which some are saying has a distinctly 1980s vibe, KCRW speaks to branding aficionado and managing director at marketing consulting firm Innovation Protocol, Sasha Strauss.

KCRW: What’s your initial reaction to the new Los Angeles logo?

“My personal reaction as a marketer is that it’s not for me, even though I’m an Angeleno and love being so. It’s for everyone coming here.”

Who should this be reaching out to?

“As a resident, I have lots of Los Angeles logos to fight for, and so I have my unique expressions of self. What’s important is that Los Angeles is a tourism destination, so getting families to want to be here and spend time on our beaches or our parks is really, really good for our city. We want to appeal to those people.”

Break down this logo —  what are we looking at?

“This logo …  takes a very simple script — something that a teen, dreaming about their trip to Los Angeles, could easily sketch in their notebook. Okay, that’s checked. 

But then the sunshine, the light of day, that spirit, that optimism, that is a part of what we all seek as humans. So bringing that to bear, acknowledging that we do get bathed in sunshine. 

What’s important about the colors is that they are not really one color. There’s combinations of aquamarines and pinks and purples and yellows and oranges. Therefore, they’re not staking like, ‘No, no, the color of Los Angeles is blue or the color of Los Angeles is red.’ Which it definitely is neither. This gives a lot of space to partnerships, being next to other Los Angeles brands. For these characteristics, it makes quite a bit of sense why they built it the way that they did.”

This new logo was a collaboration between Shepard Fairey’s Studio Number One in LA and design firm House Industries in Delaware. Can you give us some background on them?

“Two firms were competing for the opportunity, and instead of fighting with each other, they chose to collaborate, which is so LA. … What they ultimately did was decide what would appeal to those coming here. They had to create something big enough, broad enough, and engaging enough to invite everyone to come join us.”

Does the logo strike you as emblematic of Shepard Fairey’s work or House Industries?

“Somewhat, in the sense that it has sort of a graffiti-like, marker-drawn style to it. But what it does look like is that it’s ‘Los Angeles casual.’ Open, creative, in-motion. And that dynamicism was a key ingredient in their design plan.”

Does LA need a logo? We’re pretty well known around the world.

“Only for the sake of synchronization. Yes, of course, we will express through our ports, we will express through our academic organizations, but they each have their own identities. Even though they’re net good for Los Angeles, we do need to do something together.”

Do you think the new logo will last?

“It doesn’t have to last forever. It absolutely has to serve for the post-pandemic tourism boom, appealing to those people who are trying to come and experience our sunshine and optimism. Therefore it really does serve the need of the time. Will it be our identity two, three, four years down the line? No, there may be another expression. We know we’re coming close to the [2028] Olympics, and all those things will add up to define how we express ourselves to the world.”



Matt Guilhem