The new design “helps further align the values of all of our residents in the county with the symbol and branding we use,” Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti (D) said. “I’m confident that people will like it in the short term, or they’ll grow to like it in the long term.”
Reminiscent of a design used by the county’s economic development arm, the new logo maps out the innermost jurisdictions in the D.C. metro area: Beside a dark-blue Arlington are both the District and the city of Alexandria in a paler shade of blue, set off by a curvy Potomac River made of negative space.
County lawmakers had voted last December to change Arlington’s former logo, which shows a stylized version of Arlington House, the Greek Revival-style mansion where Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee lived before the Civil War. The house, which was built by enslaved people, first appeared with its six columns on a county seal in the mid-1960s.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is pushing in Congress to remove Lee’s name from the official designation Arlington House, which is officially known by the National Park Service as “Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial.”
It’s not the only prominent site in Arlington that has shed Lee’s name or other Confederate symbolism, particularly following the racial justice protests of 2020: Over the summer, county lawmakers voted to rename the roadway formerly known as Lee Highway after John M. Langston, the first Black congressman elected in Virginia.
To select the new logo, a review panel went through nearly 300 design submissions from Arlington residents before selecting finalists for a public vote, said Kelly Rindfusz, the group’s co-chair. In April, they went back to the drawing board after the initial finalists were received with disappointment.
In a subsequent public vote later in the year, a stylized version of a bridge received the most nods from the more than 16,000 residents who weighed in. But the map-like logo, which came in second, was selected by the panel instead.
“It was very simplified and looked easy to understand, and we liked the nod back to history about the proximity to D.C.," said Rindfusz, who is also communications director for Arlington Economic Development.
Many submissions highlighted one of several local monuments or a branch of the military in reference to the Pentagon, but Rindfusz said the panel opted for a design that captured the whole county rather than singling out one specific site.
The new design, however, is not necessarily unconnected from the legacy of slavery: While the map-like design is meant to echo its geographic history — present-day Arlington was at one point part of the District, before it was retroceded to Virginia — that move effectively preserved the institution of slavery in the commonwealth.
For the Arlingtonians packed into outdoor restaurant seating on a warm night in Shirlington over the weekend, reaction to the new logo was mixed.
“That’s what that is? That’s the river between Arlington and D.C.? I’m completely underwhelmed,” said Lisa Peterson, 59, upon first taking a look. “The symbolism is too simple and basic and doesn’t convey anything about Arlington as a community. It’s purely geographic.”
But a few blocks away, Kaleb Tecleab, a 49-year-old security engineer, said he appreciated an “inclusive” design that hinted at a greater sense of regionalism.
The logo, he said, shows that “Arlington is now taking the initiative to embrace those around it. It’s more intuitive.”
Jill Goldenpine, a 43-year-old law professor, said she was happy to see the county rid itself of the vestiges of the Confederacy. But her overall reaction to the new logo? “Meh.”
“It shows Arlington sandwiched between Alexandria and D.C., but we’re so much more than that,” she said in between bites of frozen yogurt. “Only the people who live here are going to get that. Other people are going to think it’s a bunch of blue squares sandwiched into a diamond.”
Indeed, smoothie store manager Malik Copeland, 32, initially thought the new logo was an abstract depiction of a bow and arrow, he said. But when he was told about the map-like context, the Shirlington resident said he thought it made perfect sense to distill the county.
“A lot of the character of Arlington is its proximity to D.C. and Alexandria,” Copeland said. “It’s a city-suburb in between two cities, and I think it’s a good representation of that.”