The State of Branding: California (from California Flags, to California Brands)


state of branding california


37 min read

The next stop on our US branding tour is the Golden State, where we will be looking into California brands city by city.

Well-known for the Hollywood Scene in LA, the San Diego Zoo, and the Golden Gate Bridge (to name but a few), California is a state on the west-coast of America and to be honest we could write more than one blog on this one!

Before you read on, you may want to take a look at some of the other blogs in our state of branding series. We’ve put the links to these posts below, so be sure to check them out:

If you’ve read one of our state of branding posts before then you know the drill, but usually these posts follow a similar pattern. We dive into the overall state branding looking at the Flag, official seal, and key facts, before we dive into each of the major cities within.

Then we really get down to the nitty gritty and look at branding examples from all over the state, and for this post we have Alcatraz, the Los Angeles Lakers, Balboa park and many more to get stuck into.

If you’re looking for a deep-dive into the state of California then look no further, this post has it all in store.

So with that, let’s get stuck into the state of California branding!

california skyline and palm tress
Credit to Plantware

California Branding

Population: 39 million
Capital City: Sacramento
TimeZone: Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)
Abbreviation: CA

To keep things consistent with all of the other state of branding posts on our blog, we will run through some specifics about California, starting with the flag and seal, and then move onto the major cities of the state.

You may be a huge fan of the west-coast and be a certified expert on the state, but in case you need a little bit more information, we have included some specific facts about the city.

So expert or not, we’ve got you covered.

California Flag
Credit to US Flag Store

California Flag

Let’s start with the flag of California.

The base of the flag is white with a red stripe along the bottom, red star in the top left and a grizzly bear front and centre.

The only words on the flag are “California Republic”, which sit beneath the California grizzly bear, who is the most important feature altogether, despite the species being extinct.

The focus of the bear dates back to the Bear Flag revolt of 1846, that occurred when a group of American settlers declared independence in the then Mexican territory of California.

The bear flag was hoisted there and then, but this was later replaced with the traditional stars and stripes of the American flag.

Despite the original flags being destroyed, the legacy of the flag lives on in the current design of the flag of California.

Seal of california
Credit to Kids Britannica

California Seal

The official state seal has an equally interesting history and the adoption dates back to 1849.

The top edge of the seal is lined with 31 stars that represent the number of states when California entered into the US officially in 1850.

Again there is a nod to the famous Californian grizzly bear, next to imagery of wheat and grapes, to showcase the agricultural richness of the state, in particular the wine industry.

There is a miner in the background of the seal, working alongside the shoreline, and this relates to the greek wording “Eureka” meaning “I’ve found it”, which refers to the discovery of gold within mines in this state.

Finally, overlooking the state scene is the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva, who surprisingly doesn’t reappear in any seals across the other cites in this post!

Key Cities in California

The state of California has over 1,400 cities, a lot of which have larger populations of more than 1,000 residents.

However, there are some key cities that we have decided to dive into in a bit more detail within this post.

The cities are as follows:

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • San Diego
  • Sacramento
  • San Jose

We have chosen these cities due to the large number of tourists and attractions that populate them, meaning there are more branding examples to unpack for us!

For those of you who haven’t read one of our state of branding posts published in recent months, we like to include a mixture of branding examples to really get a feel for the state altogether.

This can range from educational institutions, and sports teams, to tourist attractions, and national parks, and we hope that there will be an example or two in this post that strikes your interest!

As this state is so vast (much like the others we have visited on this tour) we thought it best again to drill down into the top cities that took our interest in terms of overall branding.

But before we get into the specifics for each city, we have collated a list of key facts about the state of California altogether, some of which you may not yet know…

path between the trees in california
Credit to SoFi

Key Facts about California

From natural disasters to the unusual national fruit, the golden state of California is full of facts that will surprise you, so don’t miss this section out!

  • California has a larger population than Canada
  • Almonds are one of California’s top exports
  • California is the 3rd largest state
  • It is the first state to reach $1 trillion GDP
  • The state tree is the redwood
  • California experiences over 100,000 earthquakes per year
  • This state is home to the most national parks in the US
  • California is home to the most film locations in the US
  • The Avocado is the official state fruit
  • Blue jeans were invented in California
  • California has hosted both summer and winter olympics
  • The state flower is the California Poppy
  • California officially became a state in 1850

Aswell as this (as you can probably imagine) we have a list as long as the office of how many celebrities were born in this state, we are talking the likes of Dwayne “the rock” Johnson, Tom Hanks, Bruce Lee, Drew Barrymore, Dr Dre, and Cher and that’s only the start of the list.

However, that’s enough about the state on the whole, it’s time to get into specifics, starting with LA.

Hollywood boulevard LA
Credit to National Geographic

Los Angeles Branding

Population: 3.9 million
TimeZone: Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)
Abbreviation: LA

LA is best known for its Hollywood status due to the mass of movies and TV shows filmed and produced there.

When thinking of LA, the word glamorous comes to mind as its the neighbourhood synonymous with the movie industry overall.

However, the strong economic base of the city comes mainly from the farming, oil and real estate industries, as well as the money both movies and tourists bring in.

The city is best known for being one of the entertainment capitals of the world, full to the brim with attractions such as Venice Beach, world-famous theme parks, breweries, nightlife and landmark museums.

There’s so much to be said about LA as a brand in general so let’s get into it.

Los Angeles Flag
Credit to Laist

Los Angeles Flag

The Los Angeles Flag is a completely different style to the state flag, as it incorporates far more colour and the city seal.

This flag is split into 3 vertical sections, going from green to yellow to red from left to right, and they are separated with zig zag lines.

In the centre of the flag is the city seal (which we will come onto in more detail in the next section) but let’s get into the individual meanings behind each colour stripe.

The colours used together represent the mixture of different heritages and cultures that are tied to the city, the main two being Mexican and Spanish.

The colours link nicely as the yellow and red represent Spain, and the green and red together represent Mexico.

But now, onto the seal.

Los Angeles seal
Credit to Wikipedia

Los Angeles Seal

This seal has a lot of different elements so stay with us here, we will start from the outside and work our way in.

The seal itself is encased in a beaded circle, which is in the style of a rosary beads, representing the part played by the Mission Padres in the founding of the city.

Inside the exterior circle are various olive branches and grape vines scattered throughout, that represent both the city as a garden, and the fruitful agricultural industry that is certainly a running theme for the seals in this post!

Then we have the main attraction, the shield in the centre that is split into four sections:

  • Top left is the American Flag
  • Bottom left is an eagle holding a snake
  • Top right is a smaller version of the California flag
  • Bottom right is the Lion of Leon and the Spanish Coat of Arms

Each section of the shield represents the heritage of the city being a mix of cultures, including over 300 years of Spanish control and a period of Mexican sovereignty.

But that’s the LA history lesson over with for now, let’s move onto the branding examples!

Los Angeles Branding: Lakers, Santa Monica Pier and The Hollywood Sign

We are starting off with some examples we expect you might already know for LA, from one of the biggest basketball teams of all time, to arguably the most famous sign in the world.

So, let’s get going!

LA lakers logo
Credit to Ticketmaster

Los Angeles Lakers

We couldn’t dive into the branding of Los Angeles without first looking at the Lakers basketball team, as they are known as one of the largest California brands when it comes sports teams.

The team’s emblem has had several different designs however the focus on the word “Lakers” has remained over the years. This is to recognise that in the state of California alone there are over 10,000 lakes.

Another element to the branding that has remained the same for decades is the colour palette, and the blend of purple and yellow is famous worldwide.

Compared to other American sports teams the Lakers colouring certainly stands out, that may be because of the success of the team, or it may be due to the bold colouring choice.

One thing we can’t help but notice is the lack of a team mascot, and it has come to the surface that this team is one of the only teams to have never had a mascot of their own.

But this doesn’t affect the success of the team, and the Lakers are worth a whopping $5.5 billion.

Santa Monica Pier
Credit to Experience First

Santa Monica Pier

Moving to the coast now, and onto the Santa Monica Pier which is one of the most photographed locations in the world.

The area is bustling and known as the “place to be” with dozens of restaurants, bars, shops, arcades, along with rides and attractions some of which date back to the early 1900’s.

Entrance to the pier is free as is access to the beach, however if you want to get the full experience of the pier you will need some cash to spend on your visit.

This is because the pier is branded as a place with multiple attractions in one, with something for everyone.

As the pier moves from day to night, the area itself looks entirely different, as the rides, and Ferris Wheel in particular, light up the beach with lights of every colour.

Whereas during the day, the rollercoasters and attractions on offer are much easier to see and get a feel for, and still stand out as they are painted in bright colours too.

The Santa Monica Pier is almost like the ultimate seaside destination and is just one of many theme parks in the western state of California.

Hollywood sign
Credit to Hollywood Wax Museum

Hollywood Sign

Onto something a bit more unusual, and our next branding example is the Hollywood Sign, located in the hills of LA.

This historical landmark is more than just a simple sign, but it represents a symbol tied to Los Angeles in particular.

It is a symbol of glamour, fame, wealth, ambition, and success and depicts the city as a dream-like location, desired by everyone.

Although, it’s not possible to get up close and touch the sign as it is policed and guarded around the clock, it is possible to reach the hillside above for a spectacular view.

Unfortunately, if you were looking to take a visit this is as close as you’ll get, but viewing the sign from elsewhere is more than possible and will often give you a better view.

There are multiple hiking trails on Mt. Hollywood, however the best spot to see the sign is from the Griffith Park or via the Griffith Observatory hike that takes you to the most advantageous spot for a good view.

San Francisco street
Credit to The Telegraph

San Francisco Branding

Population: 890,000
TimeZone: Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)
Abbreviation: SF

Some may know this city for the Golden Gate bridge, others as the location for the films Mrs Doubtfire and Basic Instinct, and there is no doubt there will be other things that spring to mind when you think of San Francisco.

With close to 1 million residents, the city is big and certainly full of culture and known for iconic sights such as Alcatraz Island and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Travelling around San Francisco is an attraction in itself, as there are cable cars available to tour the city, and were invented nearly 150 years ago.

The city offers a rich backdrop of winding streets, diverse neighbourhoods, and incredible views hence why it is the location for many movies and such a popular tourist destination.

One of these neighbourhoods is a mile-long Chinatown that is the second largest outside of the Asian continent, and the oldest North American Chinatown to exist.

With a rich and diverse culture, along with amazing sights from the 50+ hills in the city, San Francisco was a must for us to include in this post.

So, let’s get into the specifics.

San Francisco flag
Credit to Wired

San Francisco Flag

The flag of San Francisco has a white base with a yellow-gold border.

This surrounds a Phoenix rising from the flames, which sits upon a crown shaped podium, referring to the city’s recovery after fires and earthquakes in the early 1900’s.

This flag is the first on our list in this blog to have a motto, this time written in spanish the words “Oro en paz. Fierro en guerra” which translates to gold in peace and iron in war.

Finally, the words San Francisco are displayed at the bottom of the flag in a shade of navy blue.

San Francisco Seal
Credit to Pots and Pans by CCG

San Francisco Seal

The seal of the city is based around the phoenix rising from the flames, and this is incorporated in the centre of the seal itself.

Below the Phoenix is a shield depicting a scene at sea, and again we see the samespniash motto in a ribbon below ”Gold in peace and iron in war”.

At either side of the shield are two figures, one miner and one sailor, representing the two largest industries of the city.

Finally, the seal is encased in a circle that reads “The Seal of the City and County of San Francisco”.

San Francisco Branding: Giants, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz

We have a varied range of branding examples for San Francisco, bringing together criminal history, a baseball team who are bigger than huge, and arguably one of the most famous bridges in the world.

San Francisco Giants
Credit to Mental FLoss

San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants are a professional baseball team who compete in the major league as a member club of the National League West Division.

The logo is true to the sport and incorporates a cartoon baseball with the word “Giants” layered over top.

This logo concept hasn’t changed over the years, but there have been minor tweaks to update it and keep the image modern.

The colouring is something that has equally remained consistent, as the baseball itself is cream and the team name is in black, all elements incorporate hints of orange which can equally be seen on the team kits and team vector.

What is nice about this emblem is the team name being larger than the baseball, reflecting the size of the team in terms of fame and stature, and equally the meaning of the word giant itself.

golden gate bridge
Credit to Wikipedia

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate is not only a world famous landmark, it is a suspension bridge that connects San Francisco to Marin City.

Its red hue stands out for miles, as does the size as it stretches for over 1.7 miles where the San Francisco bay meets the Pacific Ocean.

A nice aspect of this bridge is you can’t get a bad angle of it, whether you are walking along the bay below, or driving along the bridge itself you get a new view of the monument and a new insight into its construction.

Speaking of construction, the bridge itself was built in 1937 and was considered an engineering marvel and back then cost visitors $0.50 to cross.

Equally, the shade of reddish orange was never originally intended, and it was going to be black and yellow to help ships visibility into the bay.

Luckily this was scrapped and instead San Francisco now has a bridge that isn’t so golden, but is visible, memorable, and fits in perfectly with the surrounding landscape.

Alcatraz Island
Credit to Conde Nast Traveler

Alcatraz Island

If we go back in time Alcatraz prison was the ultimate maximum security prison in the world.

It’s no wonder as it is located on a remote island and can only be accessed by ferry.

The branding of the prison on the whole is complete and total fear and loneliness, and is known worldwide as a remote place for the most dangerous criminals.

Equally, the prison and island has received interest for decades due to the famous inmates incarcerated there such as Al Capone and George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly.

The rock (no, not Dwayne Johnson) although remote, isn’t far from shore as it is in fact possible to swim across the waters and home to San Francisco Bay.

However, it was requested by some inmates to be transferred there, as the Island became more of a landmark linked to Hollywood than a prison to be avoided, due to the somewhat “star-studded” group of offenders who remained upon the island.

Yet this wasn’t necessarily always the case, in fact inmates wished to go to Alcatraz due to the one-person-per-cell policy, meaning the tough-as-nails reputation on the outside of the prison didn’t necessarily mirror the behaviour inside the prison.

Inmates at Alcatraz preferred the solitude and longed to be away from other dangerous inmates for fear of their own safety.

Not so tough when you really think about it!

San Diego
Credit to Times of San Diego

San Diego Branding

Population: 1.4 million
TimeZone: Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)
Abbreviation: SD

Moving onto San Diego now, a city located right on the southern coast of the state with 70 miles of coastline and a hot climate that draws tourists and visitors in.

Aside from being an ideal beach location for your next summer trip, San Diego is rooted in years of history with museums and Old Town San Diego showcasing how the state became what it is today.

Of course there are plenty of attractions situated within this coastal city, however there are two major attractions that make up 2/3 of our branding examples: The San Diego Zoo, and Balboa Park.

The city is best known for these two attractions in particular so we will let the following sections do the talking, but first on to the Flag and Seal as promised!

San Diego flag
Credit to Wikipedia

San Diego Flag

The flag of San Diego is based upon 3 major colours, red, white, and gold that are presented in vertical bars.

The use of these vertical bars is reminiscent of the Spanish flag which flew over the ship of Rodriguez Cabrillo who originally entered San Diego bay and claimed it for Spain.

The only other element of the San Diego flag is the seal which we will come onto in the next section, however underneath is the date “1542”

This date links back to Cabrillo and the date he claimed the city and entrei area for that matter in the name of Spain.

Seal of San Diego
Credit to Wikimedia Commons

San Diego Seal

Now let’s get onto the seal in a bit more detail.

The San Diego seal is again a circular shape as with many over in the US, and the words “The City of San Diego State of California” surrounds the imagery within.

We have another motto for this seal and this time it reads “Semper Vigilans” meaning “ALways Vigilant” in Latin.

Much like the previous seal of San Francisco there is a shield in the centre containing a ship on the open waters, that this time links to the story of Rodriguez Cabrillo as well as the city’s position on the sea.

There is also representation of the agriculture of the area through the orange tree symbol and winged wheels representing the historical prosperity of the manufacturing and transportation industry.

Then at either side of the seal we have another nod to Spain using pillars of Hercules to represent the ancient territorial jurisdiction of Spain and are highly similar to the pillars incorporated in the Spanish coat of arms.

San Diego Branding: Padres, San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park

When we say San Diego, you say Zoo. This state is home to the most famous zoo in the world which is funnily enough located in another one of our branding examples the Balboa Park.

But before we get into that, we are exploring a baseball team that has been competing for over 50 years, the San Diego Padres.

San Diego Padres emblem
Credit to Pinterest

San Diego Padres

This is a sports team who have changed their logo and branding more times than we can count, to finally land on a current vector that brings them up to date with others in the industry,

The padres began with a logo that incorporated a friar with a baseball bat and this neatly ties into the Spanish history of the area, as of course the word for father or friar is Padre in Spanish.

This mascot was later discarded but can still be seen today on some versions of the teams uniform, so could be considered half mascot, half a thing of the past.

Since then the logo has evolved and overtime has become more simplified to the current style now that is a vector that interlocks an S and a D to represent San Diego.

However we can’t help but notice that there is now little mention of the word padres but perhaps due to the team being around for over 50 years fans instantly know who the padres are from a simple S and D design.

Again the colouring of this team has changed overtime but firmly landed back on using brown and yellow just as they did back in the late 60’s.

The padres are a professional team and a member club of the National League West division, in fact they currently hold second place at the time we are writing this, so some may say they’re almost the top team in baseball!

San Diego Zoo Entrance
Credit to Wikimedia Commons

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo, now with the added “wildlife alliance” at the end of their name, is one of the most popular and well-known in the world.

In fact before you have even typed San Diego into Google, the zoo comes up as the second result!

The zoo stretches over 99 acres, and is home to over 4,000 animals not only that but it’s known for its lush, naturalistic habitats that are perfect for the animals that live there.

One of the main things the zoo is known for is being one of the first to house a giant panda, and one of the few places in sunny California that features an arctic landscape.

Like many zoos these days, San Diego Zoo is branded as a wildlife alliance, as it is a non-profit conservation organisation.

So from the get go as soon as we take a look at their website, we know they care about the animals they provide habitats for.

As well as protecting the animals in their zoo, San Diego pride themselves in conservation around the world of endangered habitats such as the Savanna, Amazonia, and the Australian Forest.

If that wasn’t enough you can become a member with the zoo and “become an ally” helping with the conservation of animals across the world.

What’s more is that the zoo is located in Balboa Park, which conveniently is our next branding example…

Balboa gardens
Credit to Visit California

Balboa Park

Named San Diegos “ever-changing, always amazing 1,200 acre backyard”, the Balboa Park is home to more than just the San Diego Zoo.

The park is one of Americans most iconic urban park acts more as a cultural oasis for residents and tourists alike, and is home to 17 museums, and strikingly beautiful gardens.

Balboa Park looks to be straight out of a fairytale and is an almost perfect square of heaven close to the San Diego coast.

If stepping into another world was possible, we’d want our to look like Balboa park!

The area has almost everything you could imagine from medical centres and golf courses, to a sports complex and of course one of the most famous zoo’s to currently exist.

This branding example is unique in the sense that we haven’t come across something like this before. Yes of course there is central park but in terms of size and actual attractions, it has nothing on the Balboa!

It is a haven in the middle of a bustling lively city and certainly a push to plan a visit there!

Credit to Musement

Sacramento Branding

Population: 536,000
TimeZone: Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)
Abbreviation: SAC

Finally, we have reached the Capital city of California, Sacramento.

Alongside eateries, breweries, and as some may say “more hip and modern” attractions, Sacramento is known as the home of historical sites such as the State Capitol, Capitol Park and Old Town.

This is key and pretty standard for a Capital City, as it’s important the history of the state is contained here for visitors and residents to learn more about how the overall state came to be.

A fun fact about Sacramento is not only the history of the city, but the nickname “The City of Trees” given to the city due to the dense canopies.

Residents take pride in this nickname as the tress were planted by settlers during the Gold Rush to provide shade for this exact reason, so it seems ancestors were looking out for the city’s future, and protection from the heat!

But now let’s get onto the Flag and Seal before moving onto our branding examples for Sacramento.

Flag of Sacramento
Credit to Wikimedia Commons

Sacramento Flag

The city of Sacramento flag is completely different to all other flags in this post and in fact is one of the more modern design we’ve come across during our state of branding tour overall!

The flag has a basic design and uses 5 colours:

  • Green
  • Gold
  • Navy blue
  • Cobalt blue
  • White

There is a small semi-circle of green in the top left corner to represent the agricultural heritage of the area, and a small semi-circle of gold on the right hand side to represent gold miners which are a pillar of California and Sacramento heritage.

Then there are two shades of blue used to represent the two rivers of the city, the Sacramento River and the American River.

Finally a stripe of white acts as a pathway between the two rivers, representing the virtue, strength and bright future of the city.

Who said modern flag designs lacked historical meaning and cultural value?

Seal of Sacramento
Credit to Wikimedia Commons

Sacramento Seal

The Sacramento seal on the other hand is far more traditional and not included on the flag, which is usually the case for many of the American flags we have come across.

The seal is round (of course) and the yellow edging displays the words “City of Sacramento – Founded in 1849”.

Inside there are 6 separate sections to dive into, and we think it may be one of the more detailed examples of an American city seal we have seen!

Right in the centre of the seal we have the dome of the State capitol symbolising Sacramento county as the seat of the state government.

Surrounding this there are a variation of scenes each of which represents the larger successful industries in Sacramento.

There is a mountainous scene, a pony rider, a ship at sea, a built up city and farmland, all of which link to the building and founding of Sacramento.

Sacramento Branding: Kings, Railroad Museum and The Crocker Art Museum

For the capital city we have a real mix of branding examples, starting off with the world-famous Sacramento Kings, and their success before exploring both the Railroad and Crocker museums.

Sacramento Kings Emblem
Credit to Sirius XM

Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings are an American professional basketball team that play in the Western Conference of the National Basketball Association.

The team won the NBA championship back in 1951 and still compete today, and have had some of the greatest basketball players such as Chris Webber, and Mitch Richmond.

The logo reflects the name perfectly and the overall shape mimics a head wearing a crown.

However on closer inspection, the logo is in fact made up from half a basketball as the bottom section of the logo, and a crown shape makes up the upper half.

Between this we have the name “Sacramento Kings” in a squared off typeface, symbolising the power of the team, and this perhaps provides a nice link to the power of Kings as rulers.

The colouring used for the logo has transformed overtime and the original team colours of purple and white from 1946-1957 were brought back in 1995 with the addition of silver.

Between the 50’s and the 90’s the colouring was altered to a red, blue and white scheme, looking more like a Pepsi can than anything else.

The kings made a positive choice moving back to the original brand colours, as the purple and silver mix is far more distinct.

Despite the success of the team is wasn’t always smooth sailing, as the Kings were under constant threat of having to relocate to other cities due to owner issues. However, the Kings now remain in Sacramento and continue to play in the NBA.

state railroad museum
Credit to Amtrak

California State Railroad Museum

This museum is located in the state park system of California and helps take visitors on the journey of how railways connected California to the rest of the US.

The museum spans over 225,000 square feet and is still one of Sacramento’s largest and most popular tourist destinations, making it one of the largest California brands to this day!

The purpose of this museum is to take visitors on a journey through the history of the state via railroad, with the collection of 21 restored railroad cars and locomotives.

Not only does this museum bring the rich culture and history of Californian travel to life through previous models, but there is the opportunity to take a trip along the Sacramento river in one of the locomotives.

Preservation of history and culture is a running theme here as the museum is located within the Old Sacramento State Historic Park, which has been designated a national landmark.

Equally if this is the kind of branding example that interests you, it doesn’t stop at this museum, there are in fact a number of reconstructed buildings from the past.

If anything, Sacramento has brought this area back to life in its original state with a hardware store, passenger station, freight depot, coffee and spice mill and various others!

crocker art museum
Credit to Arch Daily

Crocker Art Museum

The Crocker art museum holds one of the premier collections of California art, and is located not far from the river and tower bridge.

For us the name and look of the building match perfectly as the word “crocker” is a synonym for the word “potter”, someone who makes pottery.

The building itself is all white and the juxtaposition of shapes mimic different shapes and pieces of pottery, whether this is intentional or not we don’t know!

But to us it just seems to fit.

The building almost acts as a blank canvas to prepare visitors for what’s inside.

By day the museum is host to all audiences, bringing new exhibitions to life regularly and showcasing a range of Californian art.

However, by night, the museum hosts live performances, DJing, refreshments and art making workshops.

It seems the museum has made the choice to appeal to both art admirers and creatives themselves by providing a mixture of attractions to suit everyone.

San Jose Skyline
Credit to British Airways

San Jose Branding

Population: 1.03 million
TimeZone: Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)
Abbreviation: SJ

San Jose is know best for being the capital of Silicon Valley, a booming high-tech industry home to top tech and financial companies, with more millionaires than many other US cities.

Alongside this San Jose is home to some of the most famous attractions in California, ranging from the Winchester Mystery House (which we will get onto later) to nearly 16,000 acres of parkland, separated into a variety of individual parks.

Not only this but San Jose is well known for its pricy housing market, that is one the most expensive not only state-wide, but world-wide.

The city is therefore wealthy is more ways then one!

San Jose flag
Credit to Wikipedia

San Jose Flag

The San Jose flag is different again, which is nice to see as in some states we see a lot of repetition and flags that don’t vary from city to city.

The colouring for this flag reminds us slightly of the Canary Islands flag (only slightly), due to the use of white, navy blue, and yellow gold.

However, the colours are presented as horizonal strips, with navy blue at the bottom and gold at the top.

The white strip in the centre of the flag holds the city seal which is a similar yellow gold colour with a white centre and reads “City of San Jose- California”.

Finally, below the seal there is a small banner reading “Founded 1777”, and the seal is surrounded by a navy blue beaded border, meaning the 3 colours are tied in neatly with one another throughout and they make up the entire flag without the need for any other colour.

San Jose Seal
Credit to Wikimedia Commons

San Jose Seal

There have been a few different versions of San Jose’s seal, however all with similar meanings linking back to the history of the state.

The centre of the seal is white, which surrounds the main image of a shock of wheat with two bunches of grapes at either side which tie together in a neat bow below.

As with other cities in the state the use of wheat and grapes within the official city seal is a representation of the great agricultural success within the state, however San Jose was seen by many as the main centre of agriculture.

San Jose Branding: Sharks, Winchester Mystery House, and California’s Great America

Starting off with the San Jose sharks a sports team within interesting meaning behind the name, and then moving onto unique attractions and theme parks, we have another mixed bag in the state of San Jose.

It’s the last city on the list so we though we’d leave you with a little bit of mystery for this one.

San Jose Sharks
Credit to LinkedIn

San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks are a professional ice hockey team who compete in the National Ice Hockey League as a member of the Pacific Division in the Western Conference.

The Sharks emblem is a cartooned version of a Great White Shark, and brings us onto the name of the team.

Due to San Jose technically bordering the infamous Red Triangle that spans along past the western coast, the team received their name the “Sharks” as there were so many in this particular section of water.

It is estimated that over 40% of Great White Shark attacks in the US happen here, so it’s fitting that the Ice Hockey team be named after them.

We will return to the team logo now and not much has changed since the team as founded back in the early 1990’s.

The shark biting into a hockey stick has remained consistent over the last 30 or so years, and only minor tweaks to the colouring and fierceness of the shark have changed.

The Sharks use simple colouring of black and a teal blue, with a brighter orange for the hockey stick and eye of the Great White itself.

This is certainly one of the more serious looking sports team logos we have seen during our State of Branding tour, and to us show that the team mean business when it comes to the sport.

Winchester Mystery House
Credit to Love Property

Winchester Mystery House

This beautiful but bizarre estate is now one of the leading attractions in the city of San Jose.

With its 100th anniversary around the corner, this unique tourist attraction has hosted various events for celebrations, tours and daily visits for decades.

The Winchester mystery house has 160 rooms to explore and offers a variety of tours depending on how much time you wish to spend here.

Alongside the house there are Victorian gardens that take you back to the early 1900’s populated with over 10,000 box hedges and hundreds of varieties of trees and plants. The gardens alone are sure to keep you entertained.

If that wasn’t enough, this house holds axe throwing competitions, vintage style arcade games, and has an on-site escape room inspired by the magician Houdini.

As we researched more about this mystery house we can see how it got it’s name as it seems to be such an odd mixture of activities, tours and experiences thrown into one.

However there is more history to it than that.

Home to the late Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Wirt Winchester, the Winchester mystery house was her “work in progress” as she continued to renovate the house until her death, expanding with more rooms, doors, windows and square footage.

This in turn resulted in the creation of a giant mansion that spread out over 24,000 square feet, and resembled a village more than a singular property.

The uniqueness is perhaps why the house is still an attraction to this day, drawing in tourists who wonder why the house was built and whether it is truly haunted.

California's Great America
Credit to San Francisco Travel

California’s Great America

There are in fact 33 theme parks across the state of California, so it wasn’t difficult to find one that stood out to us.

California’s Great America theme park is named “Northern California’s Premier Amusement Park” due to its vastness as it spans over 112 acres in Northern San Jose.

What’s striking bout this theme park is its accessibility, as it is located so closely to San Francisco and very easy to access once you are in San Jose. Normally we associate theme parks with lots of travel to reach a rural area where a park could be situated however Great America is located close to the inner city.

Although the theme park is marketed as an “experience” it is one of the few we have seen that are more focused upon the quality of rollercoasters and rides, and it is clear the park caters to both families and thrill seekers alike.

Often theme parks can be branded immaturely and target families and children rather than visitors who are interested in the rides, which can put tourists off immediately if they aren’t part of a young family.

This is where Great America differs, as the website alone is targeted more broadly focusing on events, group activities and visits, live entertainment, shopping and restaurants as well as rollercoasters and rides.

Although a popular park Great America seems to tone things down in the marketing and branding department compared to other theme parks in the US overall, appealing to a range of visitors.

State of Branding: California (from California Flags, to California Brands)

So that is the end of our deep-dive into California brands. We have visited cities across the state from LA, to San Jose and we are curious, did you have a favourite?

If you do, we’d love to know why, was it a particular sports team logo that caught your eye, or are you a tourist attraction fanatic and loved the insight into the Hollywood sign, or Alcatraz?

Either way, we hope you found this post informative and most importantly an enjoyable read. We are a global creative agency and love exploring branding examples from across the world and taking inspiration from them.

Whether that’s brand colours in California, brand messaging in Switzerland, or even touchpoint examples all the way from Australia. If it’s got anything to do with good branding we want to know about it!

As a side note, if you’re a resident of the state of California or just know your stuff in any of the cities, let us know if we missed any vital brands out and why they should be included!

This is out final stop on our state of branding tour of 2022, and we hope you have enjoyed exploring American brands as much as we have!

As we said, here at Canny we work with businesses around the world to work together to create branding that generates success. We have a variety of case studies on our website of the work we have done in sectors such as healthcare, tech, recruitment, FMCG and much more.

So take a look, and if you think Canny could help you with your next branding project, simply get in touch with our team!