It's a Brand New Day for APWA

Peter B. King
APWA Executive Director

  Peter King

As one element of our strategic plan, APWA strives to be recognized as the brand name for credible information on public works. Together, we have made tremendous progress on this goal over the last several years. But, we can do even more by having a consistent "brand" identity in this vast marketplace we call "public works." On September 12, 2004, at the Opening General Session of the APWA International Public Works Congress and Exposition in Atlanta, we took another giant step forward to achieving that goal by officially kicking off a new day for the APWA "brand" as we introduced our new logo, tag line and color palette.

Our revised logo and "look and feel" is the result of well over two years of detailed research and analysis. The process for developing the brand identity package included working diligently with a brand strategist, a focus group of APWA members and staff, interim reporting to groups of members, and engaging an outside marketing firm specializing in brand identity elements.

Our goal was to develop the new look to match the essence and personality of the APWA Brand, while at the same time maintaining the strong brand equity built up for more than a century. For the past several months, our marketing and design team has worked to finalize this exciting and positive change. In the coming weeks, they will continue to consult with chapters and assist with updates of unique, but consistent chapter logos.

APWA Past President Dwayne Kalynchuk, president when the branding effort unfolded, noted, "The Board of Directors is very excited about our branding initiative. This work will help us strengthen APWA with both internal and external audiences, and help people understand what APWA is all about. The staff has done an excellent job on the project, and it's something all chapters can be involved in."

Why the new face?
A logo is the face of an organization and must keep up with changing times. It is not unusual for a logo to get an occasional facelift or, in some cases, a total reconstruction. In our case, the APWA logo has undergone some nips and tucks over the years. The new logo is the third since APWA's official beginning in 1937, and like its forerunners, it relies on the acronym, APWA, to convey our identity. Each time, the modifications have allowed APWA to reflect current times, but not lose the strong identity of being recognized as the respected resource for public works.

Technology is driving public works to a higher ground and service expectations of citizens continue to surge. We are all forced to move at a faster pace, and time is a hot commodity. The ability to communicate with one another at any time anywhere is a reality, not a dream. Competition in all arenas is greater than ever, and people expect their professional associations to be innovative, forward-thinking and influential. The "bottom line"—life has changed dramatically since our last logo update 14 years ago, and our new look is a breath of fresh air.

We are also preparing for major demographic changes. Many of our current baby boomer members are on the verge of retirement. To fill the void left by high-achieving, loyal retiring boomers, we are building on the solid foundation they have created. We seek to make the APWA "brand" as appealing as possible to those who have grown up in a quite different, rapid-fire, image conscious environment. We are working diligently to be sure that our association is forward-thinking, diverse, innovative, and contemporary in all that we do.

Changing the logo also has a functional purpose. With the advent of Internet technology and desktop publishing, our most recent logo lacked many of the style elements needed for good design. This led to many interpretations and variations of the logo that, in some cases, make it unrecognizable as "APWA."

The new elements

Logo. This is the third logo for the American Public Works Association since being created in 1937. In each iteration, the logo primarily depends on the weight of the acronym to assert its identity. The first logo shadowed the shape and fonts of our predecessor organizations, the American Society of Municipal Engineers and the International Association of Public Works Officials. In 1990, the logo was redesigned to give the feeling of openness and movement, retaining the representative "APWA Blue" used in the original logo but substituting white for the original gold color.

The 2004 logo builds on those sentiments but refines the concept to suggest a forward-thinking, high-energy organization, while exuding the professionalism of our members. The slight lean of the letters continues the forward movement established with the 1990 version, while the slight abstraction of the "A's" make the mark contemporary and innovative.

The Tag Line: Your Comprehensive Public Works Resource. APWA is proud to be the only source of solutions for all aspects of public infrastructure and services for public works professionals. This is what differentiates us from all other associations and organizations. It is our promise to the people we serve.

The tag line is the phrase that represents the essence and promise of APWA and serves as a further descriptor of who we are for those not familiar with APWA.

The Color Palette. In the past, our APWA color scheme has relied on one consistent color: APWA Blue. This color has been combined with many different colors over the years, making it difficult to easily recognize APWA collateral materials.

By defining a specific color palette to be used for all APWA collateral, over time we will become more recognizable by our members, potential members, other organizations, elected officials and customers. These are colors that you will immediately associate with APWA as the program unfolds.

What does this mean to you?
The responsibility to produce and maintain a consistent, recognizable brand rests with every person who uses it. Chapters, members and constituents are all encouraged to use these elements and follow the simple guidelines we have developed. A special website has been set up at and contains all of the details of how to use these elements to best represent our association.

The APWA brand is as strong as it has ever been, but one of our obligations to those who have preceded us is to not only maintain but strengthen that image. APWA's future is bright and this important undertaking sets in motion a visual depiction of why 27,000 individuals are so proud to call themselves members of the APWA family.

Peter King can be reached at (202) 408-9541 or at