County seal may not disappear as part of rebranding

Published 12:17 am Monday, July 27, 2015

When Rowan County finalizes a new logo and completes a $500,000 rebranding process, remnants of the county’s current seal may stick around.

Rowan County’s rebranding officially began in February, when commissioners voted in support of the idea. The county’s facelift is funded by the Convention and Visitors Bureau. The visitors bureau is using a loan to fund the rebranding. The loan will be repaid through an occupancy tax on hotels.

Portions of money are allocated for a consulting firm to develop logos, slogans and other imagery, website design and implementation.

In August, a rebranding task force appointed by commissioners will begin interviewing consulting firms. Two of the firms are based in the Nashville area — Chandler Thinks and North Star — and one is based in Charlotte — Addison Whitney.

Prices and tasks described in proposals vary between the three firms, but the main goal described in previous task force meetings is to develop an image that represents Rowan and appeals to outsiders. The only official image of Rowan County is a circular seal developed in the late 1960s.

When asked about the seal, County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds likened Rowan County’s rebranding to the State of North Carolina.

“I don’t think the intent is to replace the original county seal with a new county logo,” Edds said. “The are two different things and could be used in different ways. The seal could be used for official county business and the logo could be used for marketing.”

He noted that North Carolina uses various logos and imagery in tourism advertising campaigns and billboards, but the state’s seal still exists on many documents.

Rowan County’s current seal is the only one it’s ever had. The is seal the product of a competition sponsored by county commissioners in 1969. Opinions about how to best develop an image that best represented Rowan were different at the time. Instead of hiring a professional design firm, the county sponsored a competition between junior and senior high school students, according to Charlie Walters, who was a commissioner at the time. Walters was joined on the board of commissioners by legendary public servant Eugene McCombs, who was chairman in 1969.

The competition’s winner was 13-year-old Carson Fisher, who was in eighth grade at Erwin Junior High School. Fisher received a $50 check for his efforts.

His design is almost exactly what appears on business cards, road signs and stickers slapped on the side of county vehicles.

In the middle of Fisher’s design is a North Carolina flag flapping in the wind. An outline of Rowan County is drawn over top of the flag. The name of former colonial governor Matthew Rowan — for whom the county is named — sits directly below the North Carolina flag. Around the flag are the words “Seal of Rowan County” and the date 1753, when Rowan was formed from a portion of Anson County.

In Rowan’s final logo, an outline of the county was moved above the flag. The full date of the county’s formation — April 12, 1753 — was added. The middle of the seal is colored blue.

“We had never had a logo in our 200 year history, and felt it was appropriate to create an image for Rowan County,” Walters said about the seal. “I think it was a particular interest of mine and a particular interest of Eugene McCombs to establish a county seal, which evolved into a contest for students. We decided it would be better to let our local students compete than hire a professional design firm.”

A purchase order from April 9, 1969 shows the Rowan County Manager paid $73.50 for the logo’s final design. Seth Murdoch, the Rowan County Manager at the time, sent a letter to North Carolina’s secretary of state on June 20, 1969, officially registering the county seal.

Placed nearby in a desk drawer in Rowan County’s administration building is a packet of documents that include Fisher’s original design on a yellowed piece of paper and correspondence relating to the logo’s purchase and design.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.