By Bob Uphues
Every once in a while, someone takes a look at Brookfield's village seal, squints and asks, "What the heck is going on here?"
The circular seal emblazoned with the words "Village of Brookfield" contains several elements – not all of which you'd immediately connect to the village. Like a Mercury rocket and a Sputnik-style satellite.
And, following a discussion of the subject at the village board's committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 10, there just might be some positive movement to actually change it.
"I do think it's time for an update," said Trustee Nicole Gilhooley. "It's served its purpose and it's time. As we jump forward, making changes in town, lots of updates and new programs … I think a change to this would fit in nicely."
Other trustees voicing strong approval for changing the village seal's design were Katie Kaluzny and Edward Cote, with Brian Conroy, Michael Garvey and David LeClere expressing openness to a change. Village President Kit Ketchmark, who noted that the seal's designer had recently died, also said that "it was very indicative of the time, maybe not so much anymore."
The existing village seal is decidedly of its time, specifically in 1962, when it was designed largely by then-Village Manager Fred McGuire.
Three bottle-nose dolphins leap from a body water inside an outline of the village boundaries, while the silhouette of an F-86L Sabre jet soars above.
Dolphins, like the ones depicted, had just begun swimming inside their space-age dolphinarium at Brookfield Zoo in 1961. The jet itself was a nod to the seal's designer, McGuire, who had flown such a jet during the Korean War and was the man responsible for bringing the aircraft to Brookfield and having it placed in Ehlert Park as a war memorial.
But, why the rocket and satellite? Well, in February 1962 astronaut John Glenn had just orbited the Earth, propelled into space by a Mercury rocket. That month, the village board passed a resolution making Glenn an honorary citizen of Brookfield and congratulating him on his successful mission.
The satellite, meanwhile, was likely a reference to Telstar 1, the AT&T communications satellite launched into orbit in July 1962. Telstar's launch was international news that year, the subject of a National Geographic feature, postage stamps, a film documentary and the title of a No. 1 hit instrumental record – for 16 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 list – by the British band The Tornados.
While some longtime Brookfielders might know the references and are fond of the seal's mid-century roots, many more new residents and village employees look at the seal and shrug.
"It's a topic that has come up frequently with staff," said Brookfield Recreation Director Stevie Ferrari, who recently directed a graphic designer to work up a half dozen options for a new village logo, with staff settling on one that focused on a few key elements, including a silhouette of the state of Illinois, a commuter train, a dolphin and a baseball bat and ball.
None of the village trustees expressed much support for the new logo, though they clearly saw it as a way to open up a village-wide conversation about changing the existing seal.
Trustee Brian Conroy suggested naming an ad hoc committee to tackle the process and also suggested opening up a contest to anyone, perhaps through a web platform like 99Designs, where designers across the globe can submit designs based on criteria determined by the client.
In any case, Conroy said, a redesign of the seal ought to get buy-in from residents.
"This should be a public [process]," Conroy said. "This is something that's going to last for the next 60 years, so I believe it's not something for a couple of staff members to put together, but something for a broader panel to work together on."
Often, the redesign of a village seal or logo is part and parcel of a branding exercise for municipalities, and one that takes months and costs thousands of dollars.
In 2016, the village of Riverside hired a marketing firm and spent $25,000 to create a new logo as part of a multiphase effort to create a marketing plan for the village. Just last year, LaGrange hired a similar firm to complete a new logo/brand identity package, which the village board adopted.
The last time a redesign of the Brookfield logo was broached was in 2006, when the Brookfield Beautification Commission sought resident input on the subject. However, the issue didn't generate much interest, said former commission member and, later, village trustee Brian Oberhauser.
"When it was discussed formally, the topic generated mostly indifference," Oberhauser said in an email. "No one seemed to care about it as much as I did. The one comment that came up multiple times was that the dolphins should remain on the seal."