Friday, July 03, 2009

Community Image Is:

  • More about curb appeal than mansions,
  • More about the intangible than the tangible,
  • More about water cooler myths than logic,
  • More about stigmas than rationale,
  • More about defiance and information than big, slick ad campaigns.

Bricks and mortar have a place in community image, but before and after surveys reveal the impact is fleeting but for the immediate areas or creates silo impact around that particular location. This is because community image is about stigmas more than reality. A new coat of paint is powerless to change stigmas.

Defiance and good 'ole information work best to root out stigmas, especially in the case of Durham where they are limited to surrounding communities. But defiance is not for the faint of heart and information for many is just too intangible and should we say "inexpensive?”

So let’s face it, there seem to be many more people who can get their heads around something tangible than there are people willing to get at the deeper roots of a stigma and rehabilitating community image requires both.

But tangible doesn't have to be bricks and mortar, nor does is it limited to expensive developments. There are two very tangible and relatively simple and inexpensive things Durham or any community can do to have a significant and lasting impact on community image.

  • A Community-wide, coherent, simplified road and pedestrian signage plan, better known as wayfinding. Notice I didn’t say fragmented and piecemeal.
  • Curb appeal. Image has always been more about curb appeal than mansions and cathedrals. Notice I didn’t say slick or generic.

If you want to see the impact of community-wide wayfinding, soon the first one in North Carolina will be visible in and around Asheville and all of Buncombe County.

It is a shorter trip to see the impact of curb appeal. Just pay attention to the drive up between I-40 and RDU International Airport the next time you take a trip or pick up or drop someone off.

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