Arlington House is melting.
Arlington County recently unveiled a controversial new county logo developed as part of a $190,000 redesign of the county's Web site, completed in July. The logo, created by the D.C. office of Gensler Studio 585, is meant to evoke the spirit of Arlington House, the landmark home of Robert E. Lee that adorns the county's seal.
But the logo has elicited strong opinions since its debut and was even given a decisive thumbs-down in a poll conducted by a local weekly newspaper. County Board member Chris Zimmerman (D) dubbed it the "melting portico" at a recent board meeting. Resident Ed Costello of North Arlington e-mailed the county board to say he was "shocked and appalled" to read that the "classic Arlington logo" had been changed.
"The new logo has little artistic merit and reminds me of an exercise done by a fourth-grade art class," Costello sniffed. "My reaction is that if it's not broke, don't fix it."
Diana Sun, director of communications for the county, said the county hired the Gensler firm last year to overhaul the Web site, which badly needed upgrading. The new logo was designed to give "cohesiveness" to Arlington's Web site, marketing efforts and elsewhere. County officials were aiming for a fresh, hip, modern feel that evokes both Arlington House and "life in the Federal city," as Sun puts it.
"I think there are some people that don't like it and are saying, 'Don't change it,' and a lot of people who like it and who want to be a forward-looking, vibrant community," Sun said.
Sun said the design firm spent more than a year on the Web site redesign and held three focus groups on the logo itself with design professionals, the business community and citizens.
The logo controversy gained further prominence when it was debated at the County Board's last public meeting in July.
Zimmerman expressed dismay that the logo -- the "melting portico" -- was used on some of his county correspondence, in lieu of the official seal. Board Chairman Barbara A. Favola (D) and vice chairman Jay Fisette (D) both said they liked the new look. In recent weeks, the Arlington Sun Gazette has also taken up the issue, taking a public poll which the paper said drew more than 1,000 respondents -- 81 percent opposed the new design, 15 percent supported it and 3 percent voted, "It's OK, I guess."
Sun said the county has no intention of changing the new logo and reminds residents that the more traditional county seal will still be used in official correspondence.
Tim Wise, president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, said the county has not been forthcoming about the true cost of the new logo, which he describes as "nonsensical."
The county first said the new logo would be included in the cost of the Web site redesign. Sun said that the cost to create the new logo, hold the focus groups and create a standards manual for use was $39,000.