Thursday, March 13, 2008

I want to be the new crony

by: Kay H Khoo
Now that we have a new state government, I am hoping that real change will happen.

As a resident of PJ, we will be getting a new MBPJ. I last read that they are looking for an outdoor advertising man to monitor the billboards. I think designers are looking at a nice rebranding project about to happen.

How can they not do a rebranding? MBPJ (PJ City Council) looks like an old and arrogant establishment. We need new ways to communicate to its target audience. The branding exercise also needs to motivate the demoralised existing staff who aren't sure whether they would still be in the office, if they are those who earn a paltry official RM1200 salary, yet staying in a 2-storey bungalow and driving black perdanas.

I am almost certain of this: for the first time, the job will not automatically fall into the hands of cronies. How about this - DAP-PKR-PAS, if you are listening, I want to be your new crony. I want to give your new foothold a makeover.

This is what I would like to propose to the new MBPJ.

The arrogant authoritarian image of MBPJ has to go. They are to serve the residents, not to rule over them. A dark blue uniform chap wearing a police looking emblem is nothing close to being friendly or approachable.

I usually don't like to recommend disposing off the existing logo, even though it is a very designer thing to equate rebranding with a new logo. For MBPJ, the logo simply has to go. Do a bungaraya, a dove, a smiley face, a heart shape, or just typeset MBPJ in Frutiger. Whatever. It doesn't matter. It's just a logo! The priority is to make it say "MBPJ is here to serve you" and not "MBPJ is here looking for ways to saman you".

Let me start with the normal designer's package deal. Do the logo change. Establish brand identity guidelines. Redesign the uniform - perhaps a smart causal with a tie would do. Repaint the vans - especially those raiders of the DVDs and mamak stalls.

What I would like to recommend is to use the budget wisely. Upgrade your MBPJ contact points. The payment hall's environment is gloomy and dreadful. The PJ civic centre chairs are breaking apart. The library needs new books and magazines. Get a good interior person to work along the brand guidelines and improve these touch points. I won't say this will make paying fines and taxes a joyful experience, but at least, it is not so depressing.

I would also propose that MBPJ invests heavily in the web. The latest news is no news. The sistem semakan kompaun is not working. The current web reflects the owner - irrelevant and obsolete. Don't say the internet penetration rate is low. Young working classes do run errands and help their parents pay bills - the summons and the cukai pintu. If MBPJ gives them a more efficient method to do so and eliminates the agony of queuing up, the city council's revenues should increase. That is ROI-talk, if MBPJ needs a reason to invest in good web design. Coming fresh from the election victories, the new state government should know better about the power of internet. Still not convinced? Ask Jeff Ooi.

MBPJ should reduce unnecessary printed collaterals. It is ironic to scream aloud big words like green sustainability while pumping out pompous leaflets declaring PJ as a smart city. While we are at the subject of printed collaterals, I would like to offer my design services to redesign all the official forms. It's not because I want to show off what I can do with Helvetica. Seriously, the borang-borang just don't make sense to most people. One word of caution though, to keep up with the "we care" positioning, MBPJ may be required to create new job opportunities for the professional form-fillers outside the MBPJ premises.

Most importantly, please don't put up buntings and billboards all over PJ to tell people how great MBPJ is. When one is great, the people will know - there's no need to scream. Don't cut corners on the identity development and then spend a bomb telling the world about the logo change. Bad is bad - didn't we already learn the lesson from Telekom's rebranding?

I wish to go on with the list, but I am reminded about the need to protect our profession. We are dealing with intellectual property here! I can't give anymore free ideas.

There are other areas which MBPJ should look into if they were to take rebranding seriously. An extensive brand audit and research needs to be conducted. A proper proposal needs to be prepared and evaluated. Most crucially, MBPJ should prepare to build a long term relationship with a good design consultancy, making them a partner until 2013 elections. Why does that sentence sound creepily alike rewarding a crony with a lucrative contract?

I know as a designer, it's definitely a nice challenge to rebrand a city council.

For that, I don't mind being a DAP crony!

- by Kay H Khoo / figtree, reflecting on Malaysian design.

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