State Rep. Martin Daniel, citing personal business experience in developing “hundreds” of advertising designs over many years, is calling for a refund of all but $10,000 of the $46,000 paid for development of a new Tennessee state logo.
The Knoxville Republican made the request in a letter sent last week to executives of GS&F, the Nashville advertising firm that developed the logo, with copies to Gov. Bill Haslam and state General Services Commissioner Bob Oglesby, whose department oversaw the firm’s contract with the state.
As the owner and operator of outdoor advertising businesses for 23 years, Daniel wrote, he has “developed hundreds of outdoor advertising designs and numerous logos for my firm and others.” Further, Daniel said that in his successful political effort last year to defeat former Rep. Steve Hall, Daniel said, he also “worked with graphic designers to develop at least two logos for my campaign and several other advertising designs, with dozens of design concepts considered along the way.”
After examining all the documents involved in the contract and conferring with General Services department officials, Daniel said it appears the firm was obliged to produce five “initial concepts” for state review, but actually only produced the one that was finally approved — the letters TN in white over a red background in a square with blue and white lines beneath.
Daniel told Jeff Lipscomb, CEO of GS&F, and Roland Gibbons, executive vice president, that his review indicates the company was “substantially over-compensated for its work on the project.”
“This conclusion is based on the nature of the final logo product, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s recent rejection of the state’s application for trademark registration and the widespread public discontent with your work,” he wrote.
“In view of the above, I would generously estimate the value of your work to be no more than $10,000. I realize that GS&F has a binding contract with the state and have already received payment for its services, but I respectfully request that you acknowledge the significant problematic issues surrounding the logo and refund $36,000 to the state,” Daniel said in the letter dated July 1.
In an interview, Daniel said he reviewed documents and made the request that the company “do the right thing” in response to concerns expressed by “a lot” of constituents, though acknowledging a refund may be unlikely at this point. He said the refund would be “a good way to eliminate the controversy” and the company has otherwise benefited “a lot of exposure” and an official embrace by the state of Tennessee, which should help the firm’s future marketing efforts.
The GS&F executives could not be reached for comment and Haslam spokespeople did not respond to an emailed inquiry sent over the holiday weekend. Daniel said Sunday he had received no response from his letter from either the company officials or state officials.
Greg Boling, managing director of GS&F, earlier told The Tennessean that the company devoted nine months to developing the logo, including “all stages of information gathering, stakeholder meetings, collaborative sessions and creative development for the actual visual identity system.” He said the project was a “collaborative effort” with the governor’s office and 23 state government departments with “hundreds of ideas” considered.
The newspaper also noted that $10,500 of the $46,000 contract was specifically intended for a “roll out plan and initial brand expressions and messaging” initiative, according to the purchasing order. As things turned out, that did not go as expected with the new logo revealed in the media — initially by the Tennessee Watchdog website — before any state “roll out plan” was launched.
GS&F submitted the lowest of three bids for development of the new logo. Knoxville-based Designsensory submitted a $47,500 bid while Sullivan Branding, which has offices in Memphis and Nashville, suggested costs of up to $50,000, including creating and analyzing an online survey.