From the Illinois flag to the many successful Illinois-based brands, welcome to the next stop on our great state of branding tour!
For those not in the know, on this tour, we get a good look at various different branding examples that make each state, and the cities that make up that state, so unique.
Universities, tourist attractions, sports teams, city flags, and local cafes, we highlight them all alongside any relevant opinions to emphasize what we like or dislike about the examples shown.
Know that there’s plenty to catch up on if you’re only just joining the tour now. We’ve put together a list for you to go through in your own time:
- The State of Branding: Texas (from Texas Flags to Texas Brands)
- The State of Branding: Florida (from Florida Flags to Florida brands)
- The State of Branding: Colorado (from Colorado flags to Colorado brands)
- The State of Branding: New York (from New York flags to New York brands)
- The State of Branding: Ohio (from Ohio flags to Ohio brands)
- The State of Branding: Pennsylvania (from Pennsylvania Flags to Pennsylvania Brands)
- The State of Branding: Washington (From Washington D.C Flags to Brands)
- The State of Branding: Massachusetts: (from Massachusetts Flags to Brands)
Illinois will be a fine addition to the list and is a state I’ve been looking forward to covering for quite some time. You see, the Windy City of Chicago, like New York, is one of the most popular US cities.
And that popularity stems from how that city is branded (mostly).
Chicago is one of three cities we’ll be looking at in depth. We’ll also be taking a trip to Aurora and Joliet.
Should we get going?
Credit to Chicago Mag
Population: 12.7 Million
Capital City: Springfield
TimeZone: Central Time Zone (CST)
Illinois has a lot to offer as a whole from a branding standpoint.
And how could it not, when you have cities like Chicago, Aurora, and Joliet flying the flag of this great state.
Before we isolate each of these cities, we should first take a moment to stop and look and look at the state itself, by pinpointing some specific facts, and other notable tidbits; information that should expand your knowledge of IL, generally.
To keep things consistent throughout this post, we’ll start each section by looking at the flag and seal of each area, starting with the Illinois flag and seal.
Credit to Dreamstime
The Illinois flag is one of the more, let’s say, patriotic examples we’ve covered when compared to some of the state flags mentioned in other blogs.
That said, there are still similarities.
For example, the state’s flag is 90% seal, just with a different coloured background and a few minor design tweaks.
This is a common occurrence with most state flags, although there are some notable exceptions (Washington’s flag and seal come to mind).
The design itself is what I imagine most people would think of when they think about an American flag/seal.
It shows an eagle standing on a rock biting into a ribbon that has the words “State, Sovereignty, National Union” written on it. Leaning on the rock is a shield with the stars and stripes printed on it.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that the rock has two dates on it:
Both dates have meaning. The former represents the year Illinois officially became a state, and the latter is the year in which the Illinois flag/seal was redesigned by Sharon Tyndale, the Secretary of State during that time.
There’s not a lot to add other than what I’ve already mentioned. The Illinois seal is very similar to the Illinois flag, which, unfortunately, doesn’t give us a lot of room to expand on it.
The only real difference is the golden trim given to the seal, and the accompanying text that runs around it, which reads:
“Seal Of The State Of Illinois.”
Underneath is the date mentioned above (August 26th 1818) – the date that Illinois earned its stripes as an official state of the US.
One more thing before we move on to look at some of the key cities found in Illinois:
What’s interesting about the Illinois seal – and the Illinois flag by extension – is the choice of putting the word “Sovereignty” upside down and putting it towards the bottom of the flag.
To some, it might read:
“Union National, Sovereignty State.”
That’s if you’re reading it from the top down, which most would (I certainly did when I first came across the seal of Illinois).
Did you do the same? Or was it just me? Either way, be sure to let us know via social media when we get to the end.
Key Cities in Illinois
Illinois is a state in the midwest of the US bordering Indiana in the east and the Mississippi River in the west.
It’s a state nicknamed “the Prairie State,” given the amount of farmland, forests, rolling hills, and wetlands the state occupies.
Illinois has a highly diverse economy, with the global city of Chicago in the northeast, major industrial, agricultural hubs in the north and center, and a direct line to such natural resources as coal, timber, and petroleum in the south.
The name “Illinois” is derived from the early name given to the Illinois Native Americans, a name that was spelled in many different ways.
Some will think of Chi-town as soon as Illinois is mentioned. It’s one of the most populated cities in the US, and one of the most popular cities there is, period.
Chicago is not the capital of Illinois, despite its popularity; that title belongs to the city of Springfield, which happens to be another booming city found in the state.
Key cities in Illinois, including the two we’ve just mentioned, include:
Here’s an interesting fact about Illinois that you might not know:
Three US presidents were elected while living in Illinois, which includes Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Barack Obama, and Ronald Reagan, who was born and raised in the state.
Our next section is full of more Illinois-based facts for those interested!
Key Facts About Illinois
The best way to understand a state is to look at some key facts! Feel free to go through the below list at your own leisure, or skip to dive into the first major city stop on this state of branding tour.
- The Sears Tower in Chicago is the tallest building in America.
- Illinois is the fifth most populous state in the country, following Florida, New York, California, and Texas
- The Nabisco factory in Chicago is the world’s largest bakery in the world at 1,800,000 square feet!
- Twinkies were first invented in River Forest, IL back in 1930.
- The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago is one of only three major free zoos in the county and is the nation’s oldest public zoo.
- Almost 80% of the state of Illinois is farmland, which again links back to its nickname as “the Prairie State.”
- Illinois is also known as “the Land of Lincoln” given the connection with Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s most iconic/influential presidents.
- Illinois is a very flat state. In fact, its highest point is a mere 1,235 feet above sea level.
- Aurora is known as the City of Lights because it was the first U.S. city to use electric street lighting throughout the entire city.
- The first all-color TV station debuted in Chicago (Channel 5).
- The Chicago River’s direction of flow was reversed by man-made canals from 1892-1922. It was and still is, considered an engineering marvel.
- The Chicago Post Office at 433 West Van Buren is the only postal facility in the world you can drive a car through.
- Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins in the country.
- Illinois’s state bird is the Cardinal and its state flower is the purple violet.
- Illinois’s top industries include coal mining, oil production, agriculture and manufacturing.
- The world’s tallest man was born in Alton, IL. Robert Pershing Wadlow was 8’11,” weighed 491 lbs, and wore a size 37 shoe.
- The term “jazz” was coined in Chicago in 1914 by Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa.
- The word Illinois originates from the word “Illini,” which was once a confederation of several Indian tribes.
- Illinois produces more nuclear energy than any other state in the country.
- The first ever McDonald’s was built in Des Plaines, IL.
- Chicago’s nickname “The Windy City” actually came from an article describing long-winded politicians during an 1893 exhibition.
- Illinois is home to the world’s largest bottle of catsup.
- The Ice Cream Sundae originated in Evanston, IL.
- Illinois was the first state in the U.S. to ratify the Constitution’s 13th amendment which abolished slavery.
- Illinois had two other state capitals before Springfield, Kaskaskia and Vandalia.
Population: 2.7 Million
Timezone: Central Daylight Time (CDT)
The most populous city in the US and one of the largest in the US, Chicago is famed for its bold architecture, its world-renowned sports teams, and the many tourist attractions lining every corner.
Chi-town was incorporated as a city all the way back in 1837 and grew rapidly. For context, by 1860 Chicago had a population exceeding 100,000 inhabitants; not even a fire in 1871 that destroyed several square miles of land could stop its growth.
In 1880 the population grew to 503,000 and then doubled to more than a million within the decade. The construction boom accelerated population growth even further, and by 1900, the Windy City became the fifth-largest city in the entire world!
Today, Chicago is an international hub for finance, culture, commerce, industry, education, technology, telecommunications, and transportation.
The O’Hare International Airport is often ranked amongst the world’s top six busiest airports, and the area has one of the highest gross domestic products (GDP) in the world.
Needless to say, the city is a haven for business, which is also confirmed by the number of Fortune 500 companies that operate in the city; the list includes:
- Abbott Laboratories
- Conagra Brands
- Kraft Heinz
- US Foods
The flag of Chicago is one of the most recognizable flags in the US and with good reason. Its simple yet effective design makes it very easy to remember, especially when the design is referenced in other media.
I’m a big wrestling fan and I can’t help but think of CM Punk when I look at the Chicago flag, mostly due to the design on his trunks/tights.
The flag itself consists of two light blue horizontal bars, or stripes, on a plain field of white. In the center of the bars are four red stars with six sharp points each.
It was adopted back in 1917 and designed by Wallace Rice who won a City Council-sponsored competition to design the flag. Initially, there were only two stars on the flag, until 1933 when an additional star was added, and then another in 1939 to give us what we see today.
The popularity of the Chicago flag is well documented, with many hailing it as the best flag in the US.
I would 100% agree, but what do you think?
Most tend to bring up the Washington, D.C flag as a direct competitor but I lean more towards Chicago. But yeah, is the Chicago flag the best-looking flag in the United States, or is there one better?
Unlike some of the other states we’ve looked at, the Chicago flag does not copy some of the same elements as the Chicago seal; the two are very different in terms of visuals.
The Chicago seal has a lot more going on in comparison and is what most will think of when they think of what a seal is supposed to look like, generally. It’s round, it has a series of images within, and it has an incorporated date running around the outside of it, all of which are hallmarks of most state seals.
“The official seal of the City of Chicago is a potent emblem. It represents the authority of City government, and often convey to persons who see it that they are seeing an official communication, bearing the City’s imprimatur.”
– Chicago Ethics Board
On the Chicago seal, you’ll find many different elements, you have:
- A shield with a sheaf of wheat in the center
- A ship in full sail on the left
- A sleeping infant on the top
- An Indian with bow and arrow on the right
- And the moto ‘Urbs in Horto’ on the bottom
The motto stands for “City in a Garden.”
The shield represents the national spirit of the city, and the ship is emblematic of the approach of civilization and commerce, the Indian represents the discoverer of the site of Chicago, and the motto stands for “City in a Garden.”
The infant in the shell is the ancient and classical symbolism of the pearl, and Chicago, situated at the neck of the lake signifies that it shall be “the gem of the lakes.”
Chicago Brands: Bulls, Mindy’s, and Central Loop
Chicago is the city of opportunity, home to businesses in manufacturing, printing, publishing, insurance, transportation, financial trading/services, and food processing.
Again, it’s also home to some of the most recognizable brands on the planet, such as the Chicago Bulls.
Credit to Chicago Bulls
You can’t talk about Chicago branding and not mention The Bulls, arguably the most-known team in the NBA.
They’re the team that brought us dazzling displays from the likes of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Jerry Sloan, and Derrick Rose. They’re also an example of a sports team that’s brand feels larger than life.
There’s a lot to pinpoint as far as what we like about the Chicago Bulls branding, but what I want to direct your attention to is the logo – a logo that has gone decades without a single change.
The current logo has been in place since 1967, if you can believe that, making it one of the longest-running logos in sports history.
Sure, The Bulls’ typeface has gone through some slight tweaks over the years, but that red bull logomark is unchanged and still looks just as imposing on jerseys, caps, and sweaters; it’s stood the test of time and continues to do so, essentially.
In short, it’s an iconic logo that could easily go a hundred years without a major change, it’s that good.
Credit to Mindy’s Bakery
Many of you will know of this bakery because of a certain wrestler I mentioned earlier when talking about the Chicago flag…
It’s certainly how I found out about them, but this is a blog on Chicago branding, so I’ll leave all the drama to Reddit and Twitter. Besides, there’s a lot to love about what Mindy’s Bakery is doing from a branding standpoint.
Just look at its brand messaging for the perfect example of what we mean.
This copy can be found on the website – copy that does an excellent job of selling the brand as a holistic purveyor of baked goods and hot beverages:
“A BAKERY fills the neighborhood with scents of yeast, sugar, flour, and coffee. Eastern European, French, Italian, Middle Eastern influences; a melting pot, a place to fill your soul with nourishment, joy, and comfort.”
“It’s the tradition in all of these cultures and ethnicities that we strive to recreate in a respectful way, by carrying on the techniques laid out to us by bakers, grandmothers, and friends before us.”
In this short copy, they tell you that they care about customer satisfaction, serving quality products, and have a unique way with words; everything you need to know without having to visit the bakery yourself.
Do keep in mind that this is but one example of the messaging used by Mindy’s Bakery.
There are plenty of fantastic examples on social if you’d like to read more.
Credit to Central Loop Hotel
Central Loop Hotel
Other than having very unique architecture when compared to other hotels in the Windy City, Central Loop Hotel boasts some pretty impressive branding.
The house style of the brand has an aura of sophistication about it, and the messaging is another great example to take note of if you’re currently in the process of mapping out your own messaging framework.
All that said, the highlight for me is the main website for the Central Loop Hotel.
And I know that a website isn’t included in branding, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t play a pivotal role in selling your brand to others, so I’m including it.
The Central Loop Hotel website is a masterclass in web design, grabbing the attention of its visitors from the moment you land on the homepage.
What I love about this website is that it’s taken the unique shape/branding of the hotel and adapted that to use for the site. In other words, this doesn’t feel like your stereotypical hotel website; it feels exclusive to this particular hotel.
Also, I can’t say I’ve ever seen two image carousels back to back in such a way before, and yet, there it is.
The best way to experience this site (and the hotel) is by giving it a visit for yourself. Only then will you know what I mean.
Credit to Aurora Illinois
Timezone: Central Daylight Time (CDT)
Aurora is a city in the Chicago metropolitan area and is the second most populous city in Illinois, after Chicago, and the 144th most populous city in the US. Once a mid-sized manufacturing city, Aurora currently stands as one of the fastest-growing areas in Illinois, with a population that grows by the year.
While the city has changed drastically throughout the years, its manufacturing routes still run true. Prominent manufacturers, both past and present include:
- Lyon Workspace Products
- The Aurora Silver Plate Manufacturing Company
- Barber-Greene Company
- The Chicago Corset Company
- The Aurora Brewing Company
- Caterpillar Inc.
- National Metalwares
In 1908, Aurora adopted the nickname “City of Lights,” which can be seen across many banners, memorabilia, and the city logo (yes, the city has its own logo).
The nickname pays homage to the fact that Aurora was one of the first cities in the US to implement an all-electric street lighting system. Some believe it also refers to an aurora borealis.
Like Chicago, Aurora is home to some impressive architecture, including structures by Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Miles van der Rohe, and Bruce Goff. Notable buildings in Aurora include the Paramount Theater, the Aurora Public Library, and The Galena Hotel.
Bonnie Nigales, a 14-year-old freshman at Madonna High School won a competition back in 1967 to etch her name in Aurora history. There were over 200 entries submitted to this competition, but it was Bonnie’s design that came out on top.
The design depicts the silhouette of the city skyline in black against the blaze of a yellow aurora. Beneath the skyline is a green valley on which is the inscription “Incorporated 1857” in black.
This is all encircled by two sprigs of leaves joined at the bottom. Around the sprigs is a blue ring and beneath is a yellow ribbon with the following inscription written on it in black:
The Aurora flag sits on a plain white background and is sometimes accompanied by a gold trim.
According to Bonnie, the blue represents the peacefulness of the Fox River Valley, the green for the fertile lands circling the city, and the yellow for the aurora borealis, after which the city is named.
In my research, I couldn’t find a lot of information on the Aurora seal. The only image that kept coming up was the one you see above, but the history of it is relatively unknown.
Still, there are definitely similarities between the Aurora flag and this seal.
Look at the colors, for example, and the emphasis on blue and gold. The sunbeam is kinda similar to the aurora, too, and pays homage to the ‘City of Lights’ nickname mentioned earlier. The two rings are also very similar to the Aurora flag, only these rings are a lot more stylised in comparison.
It looks quite modern when compared to some of the other seals out there. I can’t help but liken it to a soccer badge (some of the newer soccer badges i.e. Man City).
Can you see the similarities between the two, or is it just me?
Aurora Brands: MOKA, AU, and the Fire Museum
There’s plenty to see in Aurora, Illinois from a branding point of view!
Credit to MOKA Coffee
MOKA Coffee is a specialist purveyor of drinks, both hot and cold. They’ve branded themselves as “The Premium Choice” and it’s easy to see why when you take one look at the menu and read the feedback they receive on social media.
What I find unique about MOKA is its brand colors and how well these colors transition across every touchpoint. That muted blue color, in particular, works incredibly well and contrasts nicely with the burgundy-like red.
The blue looks great on the side of the actual MOKA drive-thru and might look even better on the side of the cups (I’m undecided).
Coffee shop branding tends to always stick with a basic black-and-white scheme, so it’s refreshing to see an Illinois-based brand do something different!
A Quick Update: In writing this MOKA has seen fit to update its color scheme.
There’s a lot more cream with the update, not to mention, a variety of earthy colors that tell me there are vegan options without knowing there are vegan options.
As much as I like the original scheme, I think I love the update more! Head on over to the MOKA Instagram page to see the changes for yourself.
Credit to Aurora University
Aurora University is a fine institution, one with a very rich history, and home to thousands of students. Recruiting new students at AU mustn’t be that difficult when you look at how well they’ve branded themselves.
The university’s tagline is the best example of this:
“Your Future. Our Promise.”
Short and sweet statements like this go a long way in establishing a level of trust and understanding amongst prospects, not to mention, established students who live by this motto having enrolled at AU.
Visually, AU does an outstanding job of choosing the right imagery to share on its website and on social media. Every photo is a high-quality photo and sells the idea that this is an established institution with a rich history.
There’s one image, in particular, that could easily be a hot item in the campus gift shop. It’s a drone shot of the campus as the sun is rising.
Props to whoever took it and whoever’s decision it was to make it such a focal point on the homepage.
Credit to Aurora Fire Museum
Aurora Fire Museum
Located in Aurora’s original Central Station, the Aurora Regional Fire Museum provides a place for public history, learning, and community gathering for all ages and occasions.
On top of that, it has one of the most modern-looking logos I think I’ve seen from a museum. The illustrative style of it isn’t what many would expect to see from this type of attraction, and yet, it works.
Some designers might disagree, but I like how symmetrical the logo is.
Both sides get the same amount of space to play with and reference the shape of the building in a flattering way. Also, making both ends of the word ‘museum’ makes no sense grammatically, but in this context, I get it.
If we were being critical, we’d maybe suggest making the pillars closer together to make it look more like the actual building. Still, we like this logo just the same.
Timezone: Central Daylight Time (CDT)
Joliet is a city in Will and Kendall counties in the state of Illinois. It is 35 miles southwest of Chicago and has the third-highest population in the state, behind Aurora and the Windy City itself.
The city was established back in 1833, after James B. Campbell, treasurer of the canal commissioners, laid out the village of “Juliet.” A decade or so later, the residents would change the name to ‘Joliet’ to reflect the original name.
The city itself is picturesque and known for its parks and recreation, which includes golf courses, bike trails, and various forms of outside entertainment.
Among local landmarks are the Rialto Square Theatre, the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Visitors Center, not to mention the Chicagoland Speedway (NASCAR) and the Route 66 Raceway (NHRA).
It’s a place many call home and it’s the final stop on our state of branding tour for the state of Illinois.
Joliet Flag/Joliet Seal
The Joliet flag is very impressive from a design point of view. It’s also very memorable for a city that maybe doesn’t get the attention it deserves when compared to the juggernaut that is Chicago.
On the flag, you’ll find the city seal against a plain white background. Look at the seal and you’ll find a white star with the state shape located in the middle of it. Dotted around it are a harp, a lit torch, a river, and a city skyline with a white windmill it looks like.
Circling these elements are the words:
“City of Joliet, Illinois. Crossroads of Mid-America.”
Breaking the text up are different road signs for highways 55 and 80, which actually align with the points of the star found inside.
There’s a lot going on here but every element is given enough space to exist without feeling squashed in. It’s also quite rare to see a flag/seal featuring road signs and a tagline. Usually, the date it became a settlement is featured in its place.
If we were to improve this in some way, we’d probably remove the top and bottom road signs and change one of the ones on the right or left to feature route 55. That way the top and bottom text isn’t broken up in a slightly confusing way.
Joliet Brands: Slammers, Tapas, and the Hollywood Casino
Joliet is home to all sorts of brands, including the Slammers!
Credit to Joliet Slammers
The Joliet Slammers are a professional baseball league that plays in the independent Frontier League. Games are played at Duly Health and Care Field if you’re ever around and looking to catch a game or two.
I’m including the Slammers in our branding tour of Joliet, Illinois for one simple reason:
And that’s merchandising.
The Joliet Slammers have some of the best baseball-based merch out right now. Seriously, put the Slammers’ merch against any other ball team and I can guarantee that they come out on top.
Why I like it so much comes down to what I call:
“The memorability factor.”
Does this branding stick with me long after I’ve come in contact with it, and does it make me want to engage with what it represents despite having no prior knowledge of where it’s from or what it represents.
These questions help determine that memorability factor for me, and the Slammers’ branding ticks both boxes for me.
The designs are very simple in nature, featuring either the mascots or the team logo itself. Any baseball, any cap, and any jersey that features JL Bird is top tier, in my opinion – especially the caps which look great in the green and orange colors.
You don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the quality of the designs here. You don’t have to be an expert in branding either; the results are as clear as day.
Credit to Mousa Tapas Bar
Mousa Tapas Bar
If you’re in the market for some high-quality tapas in Joliet, then look no further than Mousa Tapas Bar on 158 North Chicago Street.
This place has some fantastic reviews, the menu sounds heavenly, and the prices aren’t too steep for this type of food either!
Branding-wise, Mousa has done a great job in creating something regal yet effortless. The logo sums up what I’m talking about perfectly – a logo that fits the elegant motif that this restaurant is going for.
As elegant as it is, there are some inconsistencies here that are limiting its potential. For example, the website uses a completely different type for the logo, making it quite confusing to decipher which is the real one.
I imagine this is one of several inconsistencies in terms of which branding is used and where.
And it’s fine to have alternate logos, but they work better when they sit within a similar style. The two logos seen are very different from each other which can make identifying the brand quite difficult if you’re someone trying to remember them.
In short, consistency is king when it comes to branding and should be highly prioritized.
Credit to Momondo
The last Joliet brand we want to take a look at is must-see if you happen to be in the city looking to hedge your bets across a variety of games.
What’s unique about this casino is the fact that its entire brand is based in an entirely different city, and it’s still hailed as one of the best things to see and do in Joliet, Illinois.
Google “things to do in Joliet” and I guarantee that it will be one of the first results that pop up.
To me, part of what makes the Hollywood Casino so successful is how absurd the concept is, and how the branding doubles down on that concept in order to drive more interest. You need only look at the outside of the casino to see this for yourself.
It goes to show that branding with a sense of familiarity can generate a lot of interest and encourage word-of-mouth marketing to sell the brand for you.
You see, I was told about this casino by a friend of mine, and he heard about it through a friend of his!
State of Branding Illinois (From Illinois Flags to Illinois Brands)
I hope you found this post to be as informative and as engaging as the branding examples themselves!
From the Illinois flag to the Chicago Bulls, to the flag of Joliet, we’ve seen a lot on this midwest version of our state of branding tour.
Hopefully, you leave this post full of branding-based inspiration that you can apply to your own business in some way or another, and ultimately, find success (no matter what success looks like for you).
Inspiration is definitely something we are always open to here at Canny.
As a global creative agency, we are always looking for inspiration, which is partly why these state of branding posts are so interesting to research and then write about – especially Illinois, which again, was a state I’d been looking forward to covering for a while.
I was looking forward to it because I knew that Chi-town and the other cities wouldn’t let me down in terms of how varied the branding examples would be – not to mention, the quality of the branding overall.
I’m not the only one in the office with a love for branding, either. We’re all looking for new ways to innovate and excel, especially when it comes to helping our clients put their best foot forward.
To find out how we can help you take that next step, simply get in touch!