The State of Branding: Ohio (from Ohio flags to Ohio brands)

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Amy Johnson

state of branding Ohio image

From the Ohio Flag, to the best places to eat, to Ohio sports teams, see this as your complete guide to branding in this vibrant city.

You might have noticed we’ve been talking about branding across various US states a lot lately on the Canny blog, delving deep into different museums, universities, and what the cities have to offer.

If you’ve not checked out our other ‘state of branding’ posts yet, here are the links below:

Whilst each post follows the same format, it’s well worth reading each of these posts as every state is so vast. You’ll also find out some weird and wonderful facts along the way, so you can be sure you’re in for an enjoyable read!

When it comes to branding, we like to think we know a thing or two.

After all, we’re a global creative agency, and we’ve worked with brands across the world (including the US).

We love analyzing different design choices, whether that’s a color on the Ohio flag or the logo for an Ohio sports team, and evaluating what works against what doesn’t.

The Branding Brief Template resource cover

The Branding Brief Template

From the Ohio Flag, to the best places to eat, to Ohio sports teams, see this as your complete guide to branding in this ...

In this post we’re going to provide you with a complete overview of branding in Ohio, and we’ll drill into 3 of the biggest cities in this state – Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.

In each of these cities, we’ll be looking at their flag and seal, as well as exploring a range of local sports teams and universities.

This gives us the chance to look at the state of branding across a whole variety of areas to see how they shape their own identity.

We hope you have as much fun reading these posts as we did writing them, and you never know, you might even come away with some design inspo of your own!
Ohio city lit up at night

Ohio Branding

Population: 11.7 million
Capital City: Columbus
TimeZone: Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)
Abbreviation: OH

To keep things consistent throughout the blog, we’ll be looking at the flag and seal for the state of Ohio, as well as the 3 key cities.

However, for the state of Ohio, we thought we’d provide some useful information and top facts in case you’re curious to know more.

Maybe you’ve never been to this state before and are tempted to visit?

Well, stick with us, this section is for you.
 Ohio flag on black background

Ohio Flag

From even a first glance, the Ohio flag is striking.

Combining the colors from the US flag (blue, red, and white), it immediately catches your eye and makes you stop. It’s standing loud and proud, and clearly representing its country.

Whilst simplistic in design, all of the individual elements really work together to make an emblem which is bright and eye-catching. There are also various shapes used within the Ohio flag, such as the triangle which enters the design from the left hand side.

There are also two circle shapes – an outer circle and a smaller circle with two contrasting colors. Both of these sit within the triangle and are surrounded by a series of stars which is also symbolic of the US flag. This creates synergy between the US and the state of Ohio, and makes it easily recognisable.

Cleverly, the white O corresponds to the initial letter of the state name, which also creates a connection between the design and Ohio.

Want to know a fun fact?

Ohio is the only state in the US to use a non rectangular flag. You can see by looking at the image above, that the outline is actually jagged which makes the design even more unique.

Its designer, John Eisenmann, may have been inspired by the swallow-tailed shape of a guidon that was carried by the U.S. cavalry. The flag was to be flown from the Ohio building at the Pan-American Exposition of 1901. It’s believed this circumstance may also have contributed to its unusual shape.

In terms of copyright, Eisenmann copyrighted this design in 1901, and it became official on May 9, 1902.
Ohio seal on black background

Ohio Seal

The Ohio Seal couldn’t be more different from the Ohio flag!

For instance, when you look at the flag, it’s very clean, professional, and almost a little corporate-looking. There are no images as such, as it comprises icons, simple colors, and a jagged outline. It’s definitely not playful, but as a flag, I guess it’s not meant to be!

The Ohio seal on the other hand is much more playful, relaxed, and features a warmer color palette of oranges and greens. The images are much softer too, and include a ray of sunshine beaming up from the mountains which are representative of the Ohio landscape.

You’ll find there are exactly thirteen rays of a rising sun which radiate over the mountain, as this symbolizes the 13 original colonies. It’s clear a lot of thought and planning has gone into this design, as there is rationale before every decision.

You can also see the Scioto river which flows between the fields and Mount Logan shown in the background. A sheaf of wheat stands in the foreground which symbolizes agriculture and farming.

In terms of how long the Seal has existed, Ohio has had an official seal for more than two hundred years, with the last modification in 1996.

Personally, I’m a fan of the design as it feels quite homely. The combination of the sun rays, mountains, and wheat builds up a picture of what life is like in this region. It represents agriculture and the people who work in farming, and something about the design seems to feel very homely and familiar.

In terms of practicality, the Ohio seal would stand out on official documentation due to the thick, blue border around the outside of the emblem. Whilst the images and color scheme are soft, the sturdy border adds a contrasting stamp of authority and looks very strong.

Key Cities in Ohio

Ohio has a whopping 1,263 cities in total which is A LOT of cities to talk about! And I think we might lose your interest if we were to delve into each and every one.

Some cities are larger than others, and the ones we have chosen to explore in this blog post are what we would define as the ‘main cities’.

By this we mean the cities that tourists to the area would most likely know.

You’ll probably have an idea as to what cities we’re referring to after seeing the title of this blog post, but here’s a quick rundown:

  • Columbus
  • Cleveland
  • Cincinnati

Later in the post, we will look at branding related to each of these cities — like we have each of our state of branding posts (links to all of these are in the intro) — so stay with us!

Outside of having large populations, all of these cities are known for a myriad of different things, be it art, sports, business, culture or a mix of everything.

To help break up our state of branding run through, we’re going to look at various branding examples from a range of sectors to give you a better flavor of what Ohio has to offer.

After all, this state is so vast that we want to keep things interesting for you.

But first things first.

Let’s take a look at some key facts about Ohio.

Maybe you already know some of these, whilst others might surprise you!
birds eye view of bridge in Ohio

Key Facts About Ohio

Whilst all of the facts below aren’t directly related to branding (the whole point of this post) they are interesting to know.

And if you’ve never been to this state before and are curious to know more about it, then what better place to start?

Here are 30 fun facts for you to cast your eyes on ….

  1. 2,367,313 people in Ohio live in rural areas. That’s about 20 percent of the state’s total population.
  2. Ohio gets its name from the Iroquois word ohi-yo, meaning “great river.”
  3. Ohio didn’t officially become a state until 1953. It was declared a state in 1803, but didn’t get the presidential stamp of approval until President Dwight Eisenhower signed off. He back-dated the declaration to the original date.
  4. Ohio is known as the Buckeye State because of the buckeye trees commonly found throughout the Ohio River Valley. The plants produce small brown nuts that look like the eye of a deer; it is said that carrying one in your pocket is good luck.
  5. Ohio native James Ritty invented the cash register in 1878. As a saloon owner, Ritty had a problem with his employees stealing his money. He got the idea of a machine that kept track of the money transactions while looking at machinery on a steamboat to Europe.
  6. The inventor, Thomas Edison, was born in Milan, Ohio.
  7. Before the Boston Red Sox, there were the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Founded in 1869, they were the first professional baseball team.
  8. ’The Shawshank Redemption’ was shot at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield. It was later used for Air Force One and you can take tours of the facility.
  9. Before going into television, Jerry Springer was the 56th mayor of Cincinnati (one of the cities we cover further in the post). He considered running for Senate, but was concerned that his show’s negative reputation would affect his chances.
  10. Ohio is home to the “One and Only Presidential Museum.” The museum honors John Hanson, who was technically the first president of the United States; he and eight others were elected and served one year terms before the Constitution was written.
  11. The state houses the world’s largest cuckoo clock. The giant, fully functional structure is appropriately located in Sugarcreek, the “Little Switzerland of Ohio.”
  12. The Cuyahoga River has caught on fire at least 13 times; it’s aptly nicknamed “The River That Caught Fire.” The river was one of the most polluted rivers in the country and would catch fire after sparks from the train would fall into the water
  13. Ohio’s state rock song is “Hang on, Sloopy” by the McCoys. It was originally the unofficial Ohio State marching band anthem, so the choice made sense.
  14. Seven presidents were born in Ohio, making the state known as the “Mother of Modern Presidents.” The presidents are Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William H. Taft, and Warren G. Harding.
  15. Agriculture is Ohio’s largest industry: it contributes over $93 billion to the economy annually. The state ranks number one in Swiss cheese production.
  16. Despite arguments with North Carolina, Ohio is officially the birthplace of aviation. The state is home to the airplane’s inventors Wilbur and Orville Wright, as well as 24 astronauts, and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was from Wapakoneta, Ohio.
  17. The first ambulance service was established in Cincinnati in 1865.

image of the city of Columbus

Columbus Branding

Population: 889, 079
TimeZone: Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)
Abbreviation: Colo

Columbus is the state capital and the most populous city in Ohio.

With a population of 905,748, it is the 14th-most populous city in the U.S., the second-most populous city in the Midwest (after Chicago), and the third-most populous state capital.

Columbus originated as numerous Native American settlements on the banks of the Scioto River. Franklinton, which is now a city neighborhood, was the first European settlement, laid out in the late 1700s.

The city was founded in the early 1800s, at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers, and laid out to become the state capital. And if you’re wondering where the name comes from, the city was named after famous Italian explorer Christopher Columbus – someone I’m sure you’ve all heard of.

The city of Columbus was named after 15th-century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus at the city’s founding in 1812. It is the largest city in the world named for the explorer, who sailed to and settled parts of the Americas on behalf of Isabella I of Castile and Spain.

At the start of the 1950s, Columbus began to experience significant growth as it became the largest city in Ohio. The 1990s and 2000s saw redevelopment in numerous city neighborhoods, including downtown, and the population continued to grow.

The city now has a diverse economy based on education, government, insurance, banking, defense, aviation, food, clothes, logistics, steel, energy, medical research, health care, hospitality, retail, and technology.

The metropolitan area is also home to the Battelle Memorial Institute – the world’s largest private research and development foundation; Chemical Abstracts Service – the world’s largest clearinghouse of chemical information; and the Ohio State University – one of the largest universities in the US.

We will be delving deeper into the branding of the Ohio State University later in the blog, so stay with us!

The Greater Columbus area is also now home to the headquarters of six US corporations in the Fortune 500 which are Cardinal Health, American Electric Power, L Brands, Nationwide, Alliance Data, and Huntington Bancshares.

As you can see, there’s a lot happening in this bustling city which is why we’re excited to dive in. So, let’s get started!
The flag of Columbus city
Credit to Wikimedia

Columbus Flag

Now here’s a jazzy flag for you!

The Columbus flag is bursting with color, sporting a color scheme of yellow, red, and white, with a blue circular emblem in the center.

Whilst the flag was officially adopted in 1929, although it is unknown if the flag was ever flown when it was first adopted.

A redesign of the flag began in 2020. During the George Floyd protests, city mayor Andrew Ginther requested changes to the flag due to its use of imagery related to Italian explorer Christopher Columbus (who the city is named after).

When it comes to the design of the emblem, there is a lot of symbolism behind it.

For instance, the yellow, white, and scarlet red triband (officially a 1:2:1 proportion) is a reference to Spain, who funded Christopher Columbus’ expeditions to the Americas. Columbus is also referenced near the center of the seal, where a ship of his fleet is shown.

Surrounding the ship is a shield, which contains the colors of the US flag, with 13 red and white stripes, and 12 white stars on a dark blue background. This draws a clear connection between the city of Columbus and the US which is both strong and powerful.

However, the flag’s design has been criticized for its celebration of Christopher Columbus, who was also known for his violent tendencies towards natives and colonizers..

In fact, the city has been working hard to remove any references to the explorer, and has announced that they are looking into changing the city seal and flag to remove any references.
Columbus seal on black background

Columbus Seal

Unlike some of the other states in the US, the Columbus Seal is taken directly from the Columbus flag.

It is the blue circular section in the middle of the flag which contains the iconic Columbus ship and yellow stars.

If we delve even further into the design, the shield and eagle are traditional American symbols which again, draws a connection between this state capital and the US.

Furthermore, the capitol building shows that Columbus is Ohio’s capital city which is a clever design choice. The 17 golden stars commemorate Ohio as the 17th state to join the Union in 1803, so there has clearly been a great deal of thought and planning behind each visual asset.

The yellow and red colors of the flag hint towards the colors of Spain – Columbus’s patron on his voyage to the New World.

All-in-all, the Columbus seal is very effective and utilizes a good mix of colors. The blue background was added to the seal in 1976, and really makes the individual elements within the circle stand out.

Columbus Branding: Columbus Condors, Columbus State University, and Center of Science and Industry

From one end of the scale to the other; let’s shift our attention to some Columbus brands that help shape the state of branding in this wonderful city.

Let’s start with a professional basketball team in the city: The Columbus Condors…
Columbus condors logo
Credit to Columbus Condors

Columbus Condors

The Columbus Condors are an American professional basketball team based in Columbus, Ohio, and a member of The Basketball League (TBL).

Starting in 2016, the Columbus Condors are a fairly new team in Ohio, but even so, they have enjoyed great success since their debut.

The team was founded by Darrell Miller and have previously competed in the Central Basketball Association and the Premier Basketball League (PBL). On August 29, 2019, it was announced that the team would be joining TBL for the 2020 season – just before the pandemic struck.

Basketball is hugely popular in the state of Ohio, arguably due to the fact that the best basketball player in the world is from Akron, Ohio, LeBron James.

If we look into the branding of this team, it’s definitely stirring. Featuring an eagle which looks like it’s about to take flight, it represents the speed and agility required by the basketball players.

You can almost imagine the eagle soaring through the air, which is exactly what the players do when they’re trying to shoot hoops. The eagle is also clutching onto a ball, and is determined not to let this slip from its grasp.

It’s a great piece of symbolism and really makes you excited to know more about the Columbus Condors before you’ve even seen a game.

The color palette is also highly effective combining a dark navy and red. The two colors compliment one another perfectly and work well across a range of merchandise.

The balance of the lettering ‘Columbus Condors’ is also a great design choice, with ‘Condors’ taking center stage on the bottom line. Having this word in the color white also makes it super easy to read, and contrasts perfectly with the darker background.
Columbus State University logo on black background

Columbus State University

Columbus State University is located 100 miles southwest of Atlanta and is part of the University System of Georgia.

Each year, the university enrolls over 7,000 students from the Southeast, across the nation, and from around the world, creating a vibrant and diverse atmosphere.

The university is also well-known for sport and its range of athletic programmes. For instance, ​​in NCAA Division II competition, university teams often achieve national ranking and their baseball team has participated in the College World Series.

If we move things over to the branding of this educational institution (which is of course what this post is all about), the color scheme is representative of the US flag. This seems to be a common thread throughout the state of branding posts – which you might have already noticed!

Featuring a blue background, a red road, and a church tower block in white, it depicts the same three colors of the US flag which creates a recognisable connection. As a logo, it’s quite simplistic, but at the same time, it looks quite authoritative.

Considering this represents an educational institution, the overall aesthetic is very fitting.

The typography is also very rigid and corporate, and there are no soft, fluid shapes or curly edges here. It basically does what it says on the tin – represents a university where upholding strong values and professionalism is key.
COSI logo on navy background
Credit to Center of Science and Industry

Center of Science and Industry

The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) is a nationally esteemed science center that has inspired an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics for the last 58 years.

Through hands-on learning experiences, it is an educational resource for families, schools, and community partners, alike.

COSI prides itself on being for everybody – all ages, backgrounds and abilities. The facility spans 320,000 square feet, and there are over 300 interactive experiences, nine galleries featuring world class traveling and permanent exhibitions, explosive live shows, and a Planetarium.

As part of their ethos is to make science fun, it makes sense that their branding represents this visually. Let’s start by delving into their logo.

Using orange is a good choice and steers away from the stereotypical colors associated with science such as blues and greens. From the outset, this injects a little bit of personality and playfulness into the brand, as quite often, science can be seen as a stuffy subject.

However, orange has connotations of vibrancy and energy which supports the fun learning experience they want all visitors to have.

The balance of the lettering is also unique as the 4 letters ‘c’ ‘o’ ‘s’ and ‘i’ don’t’ sit together on the same level. Instead, they follow a more fluid motion which again, adds to the sense of playfulness.

Moreover, the letter ‘o’ has a thicker, block color whereas the other only has a thin, orange outline. It’s a clever design choice, and really engages you to find out more about what the center has to offer.
lit up bridge in Cleveland
Credit to CN Traveler

Cleveland Branding

Population: 383, 331
TimeZone: Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)
Abbreviation: CLE

Now onto our next city in Ohio: Cleveland.

As the second largest city in Ohio, Cleveland has a population of over 383,000. In terms of location, it sits northeast of Ohio and is located on the southern shore of Lake Erie.

Historically, it was the site of French and Indian trading posts, taking its name from Moses Cleaveland, who surveyed the area in 1796.

Following the opening of the Erie Canal and the arrival of the railroad in 1851, the city expanded and grew in population.

The American Civil War kickstarter the iron and steel processing and oil refining, and even today, heavy industry remains integral to its economy.

The city boasts more than 400 medical and industrial research centers and numerous educational institutions are in the area – some of which we will be exploring below!

There are lots of reasons to live in Cleveland, and it is a thriving city. From a trendy food and drinks scene, to beautiful circles of greenery such as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, to Cleveland’s infamous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum, there is so much to see and do.

And from a branding perspective, so much for us to sink our teeth into!

So, let’s get started shall we?

We’ll start by taking a look at the Cleveland flag and seal before rolling into some other branding examples from across the city.
Cleveland flag
Credit to CRW Flags

Cleveland Flag

The Cleveland flag was originally designed by Susan Hepburn, a Cleveland High School student in 1895.

However, despite this, the city’s motto of “Progress and Prosperity” (which can be seen on the white section of the flag) was not added until the 1960s.

In terms of color scheme, the flag consists of three vertical stripes, of equal width, in red, white and blue. If we look at the middle white stripe, we can see the American shield with the word “Cleveland” across its center, and the year 1796 in red surrounded by a laurel wreath.

The lower half of the shield is outlined in red and of the upper half in blue which beautifully ties the color scheme together. In the upper left-hand corner of the shield are an anvil, hammer and wheel, and in the upper right-hand corner we can see an anchor, windlass and oars.

As previously noted, the city’s motto, “Progress and Prosperity” sits below the shield in black, capital letters.

In terms of what the visual elements symbolize, there is a lot of depth and reasoning behind the Cleveland flag.

For starters, the color scheme and the inclusion of the American shield represent patriotism – something that many felt would unite the city. The year 1796 is when Cleveland was first founded by Gen. Moses Cleaveland, so it’s important to have this immediately visible.

Moving over to the anvil, hammer and wheel, this represents the city’s heavy industry which still exists today. The anchor, windlass and oars also represent maritime interests, as Cleveland is a major port on the Great Lakes.

All-in-all this Cleveland flag is highly effective, and strongly unites those that live in the city.
Cleveland seal on black background

Cleveland Seal

The Cleveland seal is very simple, and again contains the 3 colors of the US flag (blue, red, and white incase anyone has forgotten!)

Displaying ‘The City of Cleveland Ohio’ lettering around the outline, adds a real stamp of authority to the seal and visually represents the city.

Inside the emblem, there are 5 white stars which are perfectly balanced and sit above a red and white flag. Whilst all of the shapes and icons used are very simple, they create impact and draw an immediate connection between the seal and the US.

The seal is also not overly cluttered, and there is plenty of empty space which helps balance out the different visual elements.

As this is something that will be used across official documentation and important files, there is no need for the design to be complicated or busy.

Essentially, it fulfills its purpose and clearly represents the city it stands for.

Cleveland Branding: Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Institute of Art, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Now that we’ve covered the history of the Cleveland flag and Cleveland seal, let’s look at some other branding examples in this city.

From a professional football team to an art institution, it’s all about variety on the Canny blog!
Cleveland Browns logo on black background

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns are a professional American football team based in the city of Cleveland.

Their name came after their original coach and co-founder, Paul Brown, so it seemed pretty fitting.

The team competes in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the American Football Conference (AFC) North division.

When it comes to the color scheme, the Browns’ official club colors are brown, orange, and white. They are unique among the 32 member franchises of the NFL as they do not have a logo on their helmets.

However, this has actually made them unique as a team as the logoless helmet serves as the Browns’ official logo.

In fact, the organization has used various promotional logos throughout the years including players’ numbers being painted on the helmets, an unused “CB” logo which was created in the late 1960s, and a “Brownie Elf” mascot or a Brown “B” in a white football.

Whilst the Brownie Elf in the mid-1960s was thought to be too childish, its use has been revived under the current ownership. The popularity of the Dawg Pound section at FirstEnergy Stadium has led to a brown and orange dog being used for various Browns functions too.

However, for the most part, the orange, logo-less helmet continues as the primary trademark of the Cleveland Browns which in itself, is quite significant.

The current logos and wordmarks were introduced in 2015, with the helmet design remaining largely as it is. The only real differences being slight color changes to the shade of orange used on the helmet.
Cleveland Institute of Art logo on black background

Cleveland Institute of Art

The Cleveland Institute of Art is one of the country’s leading, independent colleges of art and design.

Founded in 1882, the college has been an educational cornerstone in Cleveland, Ohio, producing a range of studio artists, designers, photographers, contemporary craftsmen, and educators through their extensive programmes.

With only 600 students in total, the college offers a more personalized experience compared to attending a bigger campus.

Even by looking at the outside of the building, you can tell it has something to do with art and design. It’s not your standard building that’s for sure, with a colorful screen suspended above the entrance and a mix of glass and stone materials.

The windows are also in a mis-matched layout which adds a further sense of intrigue and quirkiness to the exterior of the institute.

Inside, there is naturally lots of art and color filling the walls which inspires students from the moment they walk in. It’s important to inject that sense of creativity from the outset (especially for a college which specializes in art) and that’s exactly what this place does.

There are also various auditoriums and galleries which allows students to immerse themselves in a mix of colors and shapes, which will inevitably support them with various design projects that they will undertake.

The logo for the institute is minimalist but effective, sporting an orange color with a sloping ‘A’ to add a sense of fun.
waterfall in cuyahoga valley park
Credit to Outside Online

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a national park that preserves the rural landscape along the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland in Northeast Ohio.

Nearly 33,000 acres of the park is administered by the National Park Service, but within its boundaries, there are areas which are independently managed as county parks.

Cuyahoga Valley was originally designated as a National Recreation Area in 1974, then redesignated as a national park 26 years later.

Cuyahoga Valley also differs from other national parks in the US as it includes a busy road network, small towns, four reservations of the Cleveland Metroparks, eleven parks of the Summit Metro Parks, and public and private attractions. So, there’s a whole load going on!

There is also a whole lost of wildlife living in the park including raccoons, muskrats, skunks, red foxes, beavers, river otters, bald eagles, opossums, gray foxes, minks, great blue herons, and seven different species of bats.

When it comes to branding for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, there is lots of branded merchandise available including a sticker which can be attached to laptops, bottles, caps, bags, and so much more.

The sticker contains a simple color palette of white and green to represent the dense forest and surrounding areas. Whilst these aren’t the most brave or daring color choices, they are reflective of the national park and clearly communicate what it’s all about.

The sticker is encased in the shape of a shield which makes it more unique, instead of sticking to a regular circle.
bridge going into Cincinatti

Cincinnati Branding

Population: 302, 687
TimeZone: Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)
Abbreviation: CINTI

Cincinnati is located southwestern Ohio and lies along the Ohio River opposite the suburbs of Covington and Newport, Kentucky, 15 miles (24 km) east of the Indiana border and about 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Dayton.

Cincinnati is the third largest city in Ohio, after Columbus and Cleveland (above).

If you haven’t been to Cincinnati, you should, as it’s known for being very picturesque. After all, it is encircled by hills rising 400–600 feet (120–180 meters) above the Ohio river which makes for a beautiful backdrop.

In terms of their economy, the city has a range of manufactures including food products, transportation equipment, soap products, chemicals, industrial machinery, pharmaceuticals, metal products, textiles, furniture, and cosmetics.

Furthermore, Cincinnati remains a national transportation hub that includes one of the country’s largest inland coal ports and an international airport located to the southwest in Kentucky.

If culture is your thing, then Cincinnati has a symphony orchestra and ballet and theater ensembles. The Cincinnati Opera, founded in 1920, is the second oldest opera company in the country.

Moving across to things to do and see in the city, there is the Zoo & Botanical Garden which is the second-oldest zoo in the whole of the United States. Aside from this, you can explore The American sign museum which is crammed full of interesting memorabilia and artifacts.

We’ll warn you though, you will need your sunglasses as some of the signs are illuminating!

We’ll be diving more into both of these places below, but let’s start by looking at the Cincinnati flag and seal.
Cincinatti flag on black background

Cincinnati Flag

The design of the Cincinnati flag was selected in an 1896 contest and formally adopted on June 15, 1940. The designer behind the flag was Emil Rothengatter who can take full credit!

The flag is made up of 3 squiggly, wave-like lines with a red circle in the center. But what does all of this symbolize?

Well, let’s start with the color.

The blue waves cleverly represent the Ohio River, upon which the city was founded. The waves also add a great sense of balance to the overall emblem, and draw your attention towards the circle in the middle.

Moving over to the red “C”, this stands for Cincinnati (hence the C), and a red buckeye leaf rests atop the letter to symbolize the State of Ohio.

If we look at the center of the C, it features the seal of Cincinnati (which we’ll explore in more detail below) as it was at the flag’s introduction in 1896.

Cincinnati fact: In a 2004 poll on the North American Vexillological Association website, Cincinnati’s flag was voted the 22nd best design among 150 U.S. city flags and the best city flag in Ohio.

Cincinatti seal on black background

Cincinnati Seal

The seal of Cincinnati is the official emblem of the city and was adopted in 1819. The seal incorporates scales, a sword, and a caduceus to make a simple but powerful visual.

The seal is featured prominently in the flag of Cincinnati and the emblem of city agencies and institutions.

When looking at the design, you can see that 1788 is stated on the seal. This is the year that Mathias Denman, Colonel Robert Patterson, and Israel Ludlow settled present-day Cincinnati.

The year is a relatively recent addition; several emblems based on this seal exclude the year, including the flag of Cincinnati and the seal of the Mayor of Cincinnati, as seen on mayoral proclamations.

You will also notice the words Juncta Juvant which is a Latin phrase that has various translations including “unity assists”, “strength in unity”, “together we assist”,”united they aid each other” or “together they strive”. This is a strong message, and clearly unites those living in the city.

The wording derives from the legal principle, quae non valeant singula, juncta juvant (“What is without value on its own, helps when joined”). Two of the elements in the seal are associated with Lady Justice as the scales represent justice, while the sword represents authority and power.

All-in-all this is a strong seal with real meaning behind every choice.

Cincinnati Branding: Cincinnati Bearcats, The American Sign Museum, and Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Now that we’ve explored the Cincinnati flag and Cincinnati seal, let’s move onto some other branding examples from across the city.

We like to mix it up on the Canny blog, so we’ll be taking a look at a Cincinnati football team, a famous (albeit quirky) museum, and the second-oldest zoo in the US.

So, let’s kick things off with football shall we?
Cincinatti bear cats logo on black background
Credit to Go Bearcats

Cincinnati Bearcats

The Cincinnati Bearcats football program represents the University of Cincinnati in college football.

As a team, they compete at the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level as members of the American Athletic Conference, a so-called “Group of Five” conference.

They are one of the nation’s oldest football programs, having fielded a team as early as 1885!

Before we delve into anything else, we need to commend their logo. Featuring a large white C against a red background, this is striking and eye-catching – even if football isn’t really your thing!

I also love the bear claw prints that sit above the C, as this visually represents the name of the football team and adds a sense of playfulness into the emblem. The C also ends with a sharp point towards the bottom curve of the letter, which could represent speed.

After all, this is an essential skill required to play football, and this would be a clever connection between the visual asset and the sport it’s representing.

The color palette is very simplistic, only combining the color red, white, and black. However, I think this is the perfect combination as it means the design doesn’t look overly fussy or crowded.
collage of neon signage
Credit to The American Sign Musuem

The American Sign Museum

Ever heard of a sign museum?

Me neither! But you’re in for a treat.

The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, is proud to be the biggest public museum dedicated to signs in the US!

It preserves, archives, and displays a collection of signs which cover more than 100 years of American sign history. The facility spans over 20,000 square feet of indoor space, and is a walk through the ages of technology and design.

Tod Swormstedt began working on the museum in 1999 and it opened to the public in 2005.

Since it began, the American Sign Museum’s collection has continued to grow as new acquisitions arrive often. In October 2016, the roof in the annex of the building was replaced, which allowed for a future doubling of the museum’s size in order to display more collections.

From a brand experience perspective, you couldn’t get any better than this!

The entire purpose of the museum is to hold onto some of America’s heritage, so that it isn’t lost as new brands come and go.

Personally, I think that’s a very powerful concept as older generations especially will be able to see brands they once knew and loved. There is also a big educational aspect, as visitors can learn about the different signs and what they each mean.

From a rotating neon windmill from a Denver donut shop to a Las Vegas showcards, to a fiberglass Frisch’s Big Boy statue with a slingshot in his pocket, there is so much to cast your eyes on!

Essentially, the museum lets people take a walk down memory lane, and there’s not many places which offer that type of experience.
green botanical gardens
Credit to Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The Zoo was founded in 1873 and officially opened its doors to the public two years later in 1875, making the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden the second oldest Zoo in the United States!

When the Zoo first opened it’s collection of animals was understandably small, consisting of just eight monkeys, two grizzly bears, three deer, six raccoons, two elk, a buffalo, a hyena, a tiger, an alligator, a circus elephant, and over four hundred birds, including a talking crow.

Initially, the zoo spanned 65 acres in the middle of the city, but has since then acquired some of the surrounding blocks and several reserves in Cincinnati’s suburbs.

Its aim is to create a sense of adventure for all those who visit, by conveying knowledge, conserving nature, and serving the community.

Aside from the animals, there are also a range of beautiful gardens full of flowers in bloom and gorgeous eating areas. So, if you’re in the area and you’re thinking about visiting, I’d highly recommend it!

Every part of the zoo creates a fantastic, memorable experience (which is a huge part of a strong brand). Instead of focusing purely on the logo, we’re going to explore different elements of the zoo itself and why this would encourage so many visitors.

Around every corner, a botanical avenue awaits. There are also a range of nature reserves and lakes to cast your eyes on, so you’re sure never to be bored!

For anyone who wants to continue the experience at home, you can also purchase a range of merchandise including brand t-shirts, cuddly toys, and bags.

The State of Branding: Ohio (Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati)

From Ohio flags to Ohio seals, to Cleveland football teams, and Cincinnati museums, it’s fair to say we’ve covered a lot in this state of branding post.

Hopefully after reading this blog, you feel as though you know a little more about the great state of Ohio and what it has to offer. After all, we’ve also covered some weird and wonderful facts about the state in case you were thinking of visiting.

We’ve had great fun delving into different branding choices and identifying what makes these brands so unique. It’s important to remember that a brand extends way past its logo, as it concerns each and every part of a business.

From brand messaging, to user experience (think of the American sign museum), a logo is just scratching the surface of ‘what makes a brand’. And if you want to know more about this topic, we’ve got a really useful post on that too so make sure you check it out here.

Stay tuned on the Canny blog for more state of branding posts, as we continue our tour. Next up on the list is Pennsylvania, where we’ll be exploring Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Scranton.

Creating amazing brands is what we do best at Canny – that’s how we know so much about branding! We’ve helped some fantastic clients from across the globe to create brands that put them ahead of their competition. Get in touch, and find out how we can help you.


August, 2022

Hi, I'm Amy, Content Strategist at Canny. In my day-to-day role, I'm responsible for creating content that gets you noticed and makes you stand out from the competition. Naturally, I love writing and creating engaging copy that brings your brand to life.

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