I want to build the city you want
Everyone, I’ve thought long and hard about this. As of midnight, I’ll be giving up part of my private life in favour of a public one, as I announce my candidacy for mayor of Wellington.
It’s not a decision I take lightly. I toyed with this idea three years ago, when the current mayor, Kerry Prendergast, suggested she might step down. However, she decided to run one more time, and there is little point to go against a popular incumbent. And besides, I thought, it would be advantageous to sit the term through, ﬁguring out what Wellingtonians want, and charting a vision for our city.
Anyone who knows me knows I am concerned, as I have been writing about here, in Beyond Branding (and at its site) and at Your Wellington, about socially responsible business. I am concerned about the development and growth of business globally, but particularly in a city I love and which I have called home for over 30 years.
I stand by my record as someone who has been ahead of the curve constantly, with virtual businesses, digital media, and the environment. In 2003, when I ﬁrst negotiated Lucire’s partnership with the UNEP, I remember people questioning me on why I would want something as “out-there” as carbon neutrality. I’ve learned a heck of a lot about people and trust this century, and how sometimes, we need a bit of a nudge in the right direction by the right person.
I have also been concerned at the Wellington brand’s direction, and how the creative and technological sectors have been hijacked by politicians who simply do not understand their needs.
But I am also delighted at the way both Mark Blumsky and Kerry Prendergast have positioned Wellington as a cultural hub for New Zealand. We aren’t just the home of diplomats, but we genuinely embrace multiculturalism and art. In fact, I’ve chatted with Mark about my potential candidacy, and during the course of our conversation it emerged I’ll only be one year younger than he was when he took ofﬁce, should I be elected.
This is not going to be a cruisy gig. We have a heck of a lot of work to do.
Some of the most pressing issues include free wireless internet, or wiﬁ, in Wellington, something that we still do not have. It’s ridiculous in a city that has the infrastructure, and which once proclaimed it wanted to be the most wired capital in the world. We’re missing out on a huge part of the information society, especially in our libraries where we’re charging for the ’net. Someone needs to push this agendum and ﬁgure out how it can be delivered.
And why we are not sister cities with San Francisco, with that city’s vibrant creative, environmental and tech sectors, is a mystery to me. It’s a topic I discussed last year with Jim and Yvonne Belich. It’s why I’ve referred to my friendship with the Mayoress and contacted the Mayor there, Gavin Newsom, to begin enquiring about the possibilities. There’s no secret that Wellington businesses have the most innovative thinking around—and that’s going to beneﬁt our friends in San Francisco. These ideas are good for Wellington business, too.
Even more disturbing is why things that I consider to be no-brainers have not been talked about by anyone who is running for mayor.
It’s not all fun and games. I have approached one senior member on the council to serve as my deputy, if elected, and I am pleased to say that he has said yes. So we’re going to get the stability many of you will want, along with what I hope will be a vision that Wellingtonians will share.
There are more ideas over at Your Wellington. It’s the tip of the iceberg, because I’ve plenty more up my sleeve when it comes to e-government, building business and transparency. I’ll share these with you as I have shared many of my other ideas through my many years online. We’ll have a good year’s run-up to the October 9, 2010 election.
Business-wise, nothing here will change. You’ll be pleased to know that I have a great team around me, one which I can trust fully, and I’ll still be involved in the day-to-day running of this company. Obviously I’ll revise where I stand as we head into August 2010—but considering I already do a 10 a.m.–3 a.m. day dealing with 3,000 emails a week, I know I can master the time management needed—and work hard for Wellington.
I’ll leave my old posts up—warts and all. You might not like everything I have said—and some of you have made your feelings known in the past (!)—but I’m prepared to be open about it.
I want you to tell me your thoughts because I see a mayor as a servant of the people. I remember full well when my family ﬁrst arrived in this city, and Sir Francis Kitts went out of his way to help us. This is my way of giving back, in tune with the needs of the 2010s.
It’s time Wellington joined the twenty-ﬁrst century. I welcome your thoughts via my Twitter account, via my Facebook page, or as feedback on this site or at Your Wellington, because while I have some ideas, many of them will be yours, as we build the city you want. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:00
yes JACK ...you would be the best man for the job...wellington has been ripped to shreds with the current one ...forcing its citizens into things that are not necessary ie the FLYOVER FOR THE BASIN RESERVE ...get a life you lot ...just because you cant pull it down....said in the papers....leave the city alone and get a real mayor i say...and start paying for real things in the city ...the homeless, forced unemployment, shelters,food banks(the current mayor DOES NOT SUPPORT THEM as they dont exist, sub standard and over priced council housing and sending all the riff raff to newtown isnt solving anything kerry....or arressting them cause they look messy on the street....thats not dealing with the situation....yes jack go for it WELLINGTON needs a real mayor....not just for the white middle class that pays kerrys pay packet....mr FREAK David Roil
I will vote for you!
# posted by Stefan Engeseth: 9/25/2009 06:43:00 PM
If you did get in as mayor, what font would you use to rebrand the city?
# posted by Kellie Meyers: 9/29/2009 03:11:00 AM
Just so people know, David and I carried on this dialogue a bit more on my Facebook. But yes, the days of any élitism would be over if I were in the mairie.
Tack så mycket, Stefan!
Kellie, I was asked today what typefaces I would use for the campaign! It’s crazy how much the city spent on licensing Fago, the American typeface currently used on a lot of documents and publications. I know how much these things should cost and the ﬁgure that was rumoured is well in excess of that. At the moment, I see some potential for Vista Sans, but better yet, it would be nice to do a new typeface altogether that the city owns and can share with Wellingtonians. I’d happily design it for free if elected.
Shouldn't someone like designworks be hired for that type of thing? You can't go around designing Wellington's brand all willy-nilly you know.
# posted by C. Verminga: 9/30/2009 01:07:00 AM
C. Verminga: if you look into my background, I am well versed in branding, and arguably better equipped than Designworks to understand the ins and outs of this topic. I wrote about destination branding as a practice long before most of my colleagues in this country did, and any expert would agree that Wellington’s brand is confusing at best.
We have the city trying to push itself as a creative centre while the tourism ads imply it’s place for a dirty weekend. These two messages débuted at the same time.
If this is what Wellington’s contracted experts came up with, then it suggests a total lack of top-management commitment to the city’s brand.
It seems to me that so far, Wellington’s brand has been handled in a willy-nilly fashion, probably by type of people you are thinking of.
What Kellie and I are discussing, however, is the typeface that best represents this city, and of course any discussion at this point is moot without setting a vision and proper research.
Nevertheless, we can make some initial observations. An American typeface (Fago) fails to capture this city’s essence and the amount (rumoured to be) paid was well in excess of what I believe it was worth.
As the person who kicked off the digital type industry in this country, again, I think I speak from some authority on this topic.
I can almost state now that there will be a rebrand, at least to unify the messages that the city is sending out to all its audiences. As to the cost: given that this is my patch, I doubt it will add to the what we spend in the marketing of the city.
Hi Mr Yan,
Thank you for your reply. While I agree with you about the relative paucity of using FF Fago for our city branding, you should really check your facts about it being 'American', it really isn't. Ole Schäfer is German and FontFont is an international foundry. Don't worry, it's an easy mistake to make!
I see you've been discussing other possibilities, like Vista. It's a great family of fonts, but I'm not convinced that a font designed by a Frenchman (Dupré) and distributed by an American foundry (Emigre) is suitable for Wellington's 'destination branding', sorry.
You've also kindly offered to take it upon yourself to 'happily design it for free' if elected. There are a few problems as I see it. You may be underestimating the amount of time that being Mayor takes up. It might also be seen as nepotism to give the work to yourself, especially the rebranding. Wouldn't it look better to give the work to another firm or at least put it out to tender? This would encourage goodwill & fair competition.
You say that you 'kicked off the digital type industry in this country', but I'm afraid I can't see any compelling evidence of your work. Am I missing something?
I don't mean to beleaguer such a small point, but as a graphic artist these things are important to me!
# posted by Kellie Meyers: 9/30/2009 07:25:00 PM
So, you want to be mayor so you can design a typeface for it? Isn't that putting the cart before the horse? A couple of corrections: Fago is not an American typeface, but a German one, designed by Ole Schäfer. And as far as your expertise... The person who has granted Jack Yan expert status is Jack Yan. Perhaps you are delusional, I can't say, but you certainly seem to be a huge fan of yourself and your many skills and abilities.
# posted by Erik S: 9/30/2009 09:56:00 PM
Hey Jack mate!
I'm late to the party here, sorry. Just heard you're going for mayor—that's a pretty big decision. I hope you find enough hours in the day to fit it all in, crikey. When can we look forward to seeing you beat the pavement with campaign graphics etc? Will you have a dedicated campaign site like Obama did?
Best of luck with your upcoming challenges.
# posted by Kris Sowersby: 9/30/2009 10:20:00 PM
Erik: I would never consider myself one of the greats, and I stand corrected on Fago. Bad memory on my part; but nevertheless, it is ill suited to the city’s character. Designing a typeface certainly would not be the reason for running, but thanks for putting words into my mouth. Whatever the case, let’s say it is rumoured that FontShop got only a fraction of what was charged, and I neither like seeing foundries or my city get a raw deal.
I may be completely wrong, since this is only a rumour, so take it with a grain of salt.
My expert status in type has been granted thanks largely to those who have asked me to write for them, and from the feedback I have received from 13 years’ writing for an Australian magazine. Even if my designs aren’t as good as the big names (and I am adult enough to know they are not), I am a particularly good judge of them.
My expert status in branding has been decided upon by my peers who are now my fellow directors at the Medinge Group, and by other colleagues.
So you have a difﬁculty with someone expressing conﬁdence in himself? Someone had better be conﬁdent, for the city’s sake. And the various industries I have been in are exactly the ones that I believe Wellington needs to take it to the next level.
Kellie, as said to Erik above, Fago’s origin is my mistake. I seemed to have read (obviously my recollection was wrong) that an American-based designer created it but it was released via FontShop (which I have always known is Berlin-based, and I was a customer of its Canadian branch since 1991).
The current mayor and I have talked about her schedule and it is lighter than my own. But as a piece of work, I would not charge: I’m worried about the cost of commission.
However, I see no problem if the city wanted a typeface that suited it and it was done as an open, collaborative work. But I think it should be done here by someone who gets it, and if not me, then by someone like Sowersby (I like his Vic Uni types) or Geard.
I currently put in 17-hour days, six days a week; with fewer hours on a Saturday.
I just don’t see the Wellington brand in general as suiting the city, particularly, as I told C. Verminga above, the mixed messages we are sending out.
I erred in pointing out the nationality of the typeface, which at the end of the day, has nothing to do with its suitability. However, Fago doesn’t say ‘Wellington’ to me and the brief should at least be reviewed.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not dissing Fago as a work. I really like it. But when you have two briefs being done for the city and for Tourism, things got a bit confused.
As to my claim of kicking off the local digital type industry, the timeline is: in 1988, Joe Churchward shut up shop. (I know because I walked up to his ofﬁce and there was a note on the door to this effect.) No one else was exporting or licensing type with the known distributors in the early 1990s, and I had to overcome a lot of barriers for New Zealand to be even recognized as a country that designed type (there was a Publish piece to this effect in 1995). Many of the names you have heard of from this country have sat in my living room asking for advice on how to get their typefaces out there, or on collaborations.
I see little point in talking about private meetings, but I happily take credit for leading the ﬁght. Perhaps those people would like to conﬁrm the above, because it is up to them whether they want those meetings revealed. However, as you say, it is not a major point, when the bigger issue is where we want the city to head, and whether we’re going to get a mayor who is connected enough to listen to Wellingtonians rather than élites.
What I do know is that my rivals wouldn’t spend the time of day in blog comments having a dialogue.
Thank you for addressing the point which I was hoping to make: the mayor of a city shouldn't spend his time painting the lines of the street. Or designing its official typefaces. If you are already working 17 hours a day, this mayor job should be a walk in the park!
# posted by Erik S: 9/30/2009 11:05:00 PM
Erik, even if I don’t design them, I should at least have a say in them—or at least sketch them out gratis and have a foundation for someone to work from. Like many places, we need to look at economizing where we can, and if this is my area, why shouldn’t I ﬁnd a way to save time, regardless of whom gets the job to do?
However, it’s not a big issue at this point since we are talking about an election in 2010, and I have no idea how our budget looks for the city beyond the annual reports that are publicly given.
I see Kris Sowersby commented while I replied to you, so now he knows about the campaign, I hope we will sow the seeds of a potential typeface in his mind in case he wins such an assignment!
Kris, thank you. I ﬁgured that if I get more emails than the mayor and work longer hours than she does, and do it from that room that you’ve seen with no PAs, then this shouldn’t be taxing on me! Plus I have the roots of a campaign team so I can continue running my businesses as before.
At the moment, I believe that less is more. A lot of the campaign collateral speaks to an older audience and I have my doubts on whether people of our generation (18–45) need that much garbage printed in the name of an election. I never read any during the 2008 General Election: they went straight into the recycling bin.
It’s my hope we conduct more of the campaign online, and be eco-friendly when it comes to the marketing. I can’t go nuts with the ﬂiers while saying I believe in the environment or advocate a carless day.
Without going into depth publicly (since I don’t want my rivals pinching ideas!), 2010 would be a safer time to start the promotions, since no one really thinks about the elections till the last quarter.
The campaign site is going to be built on Your Wellington, where some issues have been posted. If you get time and you get inspired, let me know any thoughts for the ‘Your Wellington’ text—I couldn’t ﬁnd one of my typefaces that suited. I’m still trying to ﬁnd one that suits the campaign and have a few draft ads here.
I think I might have told you about my Franklin Gothic Theory of General Elections, so I know it has to be a weighty sans serif.
When Michael Bloomberg ran for Mayor in NYC, he took with him his vision and his plans for NYC and made it great a great city, post 9-11. Most things were already done gratis or were already paid using his own pockets, which is rather deep by the way. Typeface or the nitty gritty details about the rebranding of Wellington is unimportant but how great of a city Wellington that go beyond the shadows of Auckland and its only claim to fame by being the capital of New Zealand.
The key is the message of the campaign is what a great city Wellington is and can be. We all know its social responsbility and other things such as the city we want and the infrastructure changes needed but which bears down on the socio-politico-economic reforms needed. Well maybe not political but others , yes. The people must know that the message speaks to the peoples' of Wellington. Political incumbency is one thing but acceptance to change moving forward is far more greater. Che Guevara once said that a true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love. This is the same love shared by the greats and last but not least joined by its latest member, BO. If the people feel your love then they will follow you.
Gotta love John Lennon- All you need is love.
# posted by theALBERTUS: 10/01/2009 01:07:00 AM
Albertus, well said. I’m not sure how we got so focused on to the subject of type, and you are right in putting the emphasis back on my core message. As much as I love discussing type, thank you.Post a Comment
Social responsibility has been an area close to my heart, too (Beyond Branding is a good example of this) and they do indeed impact on the change we need to bring to Wellington. Even raising the issues sufﬁciently will be an improvement on what this city has now.
I am concerned that the city has grown stagnant over the last few years—a divided council has seen to that—and these divisions can only get worse without someone standing up who has a vision and can share it with others. If my vision is something the majority agrees with, then there will be no need to vote in my opponents ‘to keep Jack honest’. We will, instead, try to ﬁnd ways to move forward as a uniﬁed city.
Maybe my candidacy might encourage others who believe in the same things to run for council positions.
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