Embracing Change Through Rebranding: Preservation Utah

By Special Contributor posted 01-25-2017 12:04


By Kirk Huffaker

For the past 50 years, Utah Heritage Foundation has worked to unite all Utahns to ensure that historic places thrive in a rapidly changing world. Utah’s historic architecture is as rich in diversity, style, form, and function as the topography that has influenced it. We’ve implemented protection tools, advocated for financial incentives, restored iconic historic structures, and educated the next generation of preservation stewards. Transcending the aesthetic value of historic structures, we tell the stories of what makes Utah’s historic places significant and relevant today and into the future. We’re thrilled to have been recognized at PastForward 2016 in Houston this past November, receiving the Trustees’ Award for Organizational Excellence.


The new logo and typeface for the organization: the distinct color reflects the desert landscape and the built-up layers give the logo a depth that is revealed over time. | Credit: Preservation Utah

The Origin of Utah Heritage Foundation

As the nation galvanized behind the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966—the milestone legislation that sought to legally, consciously, and collectively preserve our historic places—a group of Utahns was doing the same locally. First Lady of Utah, Lucybeth Rampton, was actively helping to found a grassroots, nonprofit organization “to stop the endless hand-wringing” when historic buildings were threatened with demolition. This would become Utah Heritage Foundation, and her passion, fight, and vision remain at the core of our organization.

Today we protect our historic places and landscapes through placemaking, which includes the stewardship of the cultural assets that make our communities special and contribute to our health, happiness, and overall well-being. Our current mission statement, adopted in 2015, reflects the changes that the field of historic preservation has undergone since our found­ing in 1966. None of us can predict what the next 50 years will hold, but our work today is preparing us for what may come.

We continue to challenge ourselves in building our strategy by asking:

  • How do we preserve Utah’s irreplaceable cultural resources in the face of constant change?
  • How do we make a case for the long-term benefits of preservation over immediate conveniences, preferences, or short-term profits?
  • How do we influence decision-making to better balance our past with our future, thereby enhancing the strength and richness of our communities and all of Utah?

Given our need to stay relevant, the story of Utah Heritage Foun­dation also had to change. That’s why, on December 1, 2016, we announced that, going forward, Utah Heri­tage Foundation will be known as Preservation Utah.

Preservation Utah: People Preserving Places

Utah Heritage Foundation’s 2015 strategic plan cited the need to refresh our image and build on the momentum of the 50th anniversary year. This was a repeating message we also heard from many of our members, volunteers, and community leaders during the strategic planning focus groups. Our brand, as well as our name, was leaving a less-than-positive impression, not helping us reach new audiences or build member­ship and support.  For more than two decades, we had been frequently mistaken for a conservative think tank, philanthropic grant-making orga­nization, or an agency of the state or the Mormon church.

For the first time, the organization has adopted a tagline. Placing an emphasis on people was important to the board of trustees. | Credit: Preservation Utah

One of the most difficult parts of the year-long rebranding process was giving ourselves permission to change what had been our or­ganization’s heritage—our name. But we believe that that change will build on the values of the organization and bring about a positive new culture, both internally and externally.

In a new name and brand, our goals were simple:

  • Reduce confusion between our organization and others—both heritage/history organizations and those that use similar words;
  • Clearly present who we are and what we do through recog­nizable words and a new logo; and
  • Use rebranding to position the organization to build on the past with an identity appropriate for the 21st century.

We wanted a logo that was recognizable and thus set us apart as an organization. Equally important was having a scalable mark that could be used in many different types of spaces and materials. In the renaming process, we benefitted from field testing the name with the public, literally standing on street corners and asking random people to compare name ideas and word groupings that included our preferred alternative alongside other options. The results showed us that Preservation Utah were the right words for Utahns.

Swag for the launch event on December 1, 2016, included branded water bottles, pins, and cookies. | Credit: Preservation Utah

Throughout a six-month approval process with the Board of Trustees, we benefitted from the consulting assistance of Dinng in Salt Lake City. The fresh approach of Dinng’s creative team was effective for conveying our new name and emphasizing our statewide impact and role as a guardian. Our new logo and mark include:

  • A base logo in the iconic shape of Utah’s state lines, over­laid by a stylized letter P;
  • Inclusion of a “cornerstone” in the upper left corner of the mark;
  • Use of a warm color palette that, like historic architecture, brings layers and depth to something that might appear so simple at first;
  • A sans serif font that is no-nonsense and economical, without being obtrusive—so much like the people involved with Preservation Utah; and
  • For the first time, the use of a tagline: “People Preserving Places.”

We greatly thank the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation for its belief in us and sup­port for our rebranding. Its challenge gift, along with the many match­ing gifts from supporters at all levels, made this possible.

The executive committee and consultants from Dinng working through the renaming process. | Credit: Preservation Utah

Our renaming and rebranding is a strategic repositioning of the organization, allowing us to better communicate our true role as advocates. We’ll be rolling out the new brand throughout the coming year through all of our collateral and media, including a new website in early 2017. More than just a new brand, this is an improved strategy. Our past name and logos are now visual poetry of the past. Preserva­tion Utah, the name and brand, are the launching pad for the next 50 years.

Kirk Huffaker was hired by Utah Heritage Foundation in 1998 and has served as the executive director since 2008.

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