Design options for Brookhaven’s official city seal were narrowed from 13 to five by the City Council on Oct. 13 in a discussion that sparked laughter as council members briefly played art critics.
“You can’t tell if it’s bacon or flames or streams,” Councilman Bates Mattison said of one design. More seriously, he requested another $2,500 to polish the design finalists so the public and the council can fairly make a choice.
The seal is a symbol used to stamp official documents. The design also probably would hang in city buildings and appear on a city flag. Unlike the city logo, the seal is supposed to be a “timeless” image, according to Mattison, who is in charge of Sky Design’s work on coming up with the seal.
The city already paid Sky $2,000 to draft 13 possible seal designs. Last month, Mattison posted the designs for a public online vote at SurveyMonkey.com. That did not go well. Mattison used the free version of SurveyMonkey, which capped votes at 100. Linley Jones was the only council member to cast her votes—and Mattison accidentally erased them, he said.
Given those blunders, the council decided to narrow the list of seal candidates on the spot, relying on their aesthetic opinions and the artistic eyes of some staff members.
One finalist is described by Mattison as the “big ‘B’ on fire,” while Councilman John Park opined that the ‘B’ appears to be sitting atop a piece of bacon.
Jones praised one sunrise-type design for displaying the city’s trademark brooks and trees along with “optimistic sunlight.” Park, however, said that design “reminds me too much of Japan.” Likewise, a design featuring a large flower “looks a little too much like Korean money,” Park said, adding, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
Mayor Rebecca Chase Williams was more pro-flower, while still skeptical of nature-based designs. “I’m just cognizant of not making this too busy. I think we have to acknowledge we’re an urban community,” she said. “And of course I like any of them with blossoms.”
“It’s going to have limited visibility, frankly,” City Manager Marie Garrett said of the future seal. “I think it needs to be simplistic.”
Councilman Joe Gebbia requested an opinion from City Clerk Susan Hiott, the person who will use the seal the most as she stamps documents with it.
“I don’t like it to be real busy,” Hiott replied. However, she acknowledged that even though the sunrise design qualifies as “busy,” she still likes it.
The finalists include two designs similar to the current brook-and-buildings city logo; the sunrise; the giant “B”; and an illustration of a brook or waterfall. The designs can still be seen on Mattison’s SurveyMonkey page, surveymonkey.com/r/YXXTZN5, where they are Numbers 1, 2, 5, 6 and 8.
Most of the designs are just pencil sketches on lined notebook paper. Mattison will have Sky create more polished versions and have the public weigh in via another online survey, possibly in around a month. Jones questioned “on principle, making city decisions on the basis of SurveyMonkey votes,” but Mattison noted that the council will have the final say.
More controversial was the price tag. “Do we really want to spend another $2,500 on this?” asked Gebbia.
“A seal is not something to go back and change. It’s timeless,” said Mattison. “That 2,500 bucks is a good deal to get the right seal.”
Garrett said she will try to negotiate with Sky for a lower price.