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A Conversation With … John McQueary

Founding Member of Springfield Identity Project & Co-Owner of Hotel Vandivort

Posted online

What is the Springfield Identity Project?
Its goal is to help define and improve the identity of Springfield. Springfield has been dealing with an identity crisis and, oddly enough, some of that stems from the name. That name for a city, Springfield, just means generic city. Our crew just noticed too many people were thinking that way and not appreciating Springfield for what it is and the history. I’ve had people tell me who have lived in other places that they have never been in a place where people have been so apologetic and self-deprecating for where they live. That’s just been a challenge of locals for so long. Not to quote Jeff Houghton too directly, but you can do something here. Springfield is at a time and size where that’s a reality for people.

How are you using this campaign to market Springfield?
The first thing we dug into was, “Who are we?” We’re not trying to reinvent ourselves for the future; we were just after something authentic. That led us down a road of exploring our own history and identity. We’ve been a historical, physical crossroads, but Springfield also does fall in the cultural crossroads of the country. And owning Route 66 is really cool. That’s something the city, outside the flag, has started to capitalize on. That’s a history point that people connect with all of over the world. One of the things that this can help accomplish is just keeping our young mind trust. Giving a sense of identity and place here will help keep them local and just provide a better experience for somebody who is considering moving here.

Tell me about the proposed city flag your group designed.
The main thing was keeping it simple. We felt that there needed to be some kind of icon within the core of the flag design that was remixable into different places. We wanted that simple identifying mark; we deem that the compass crown. It represents our history as a crossroads. The three stars represent our city’s connection with nature, entrepreneurial spirit and Ozarks culture. The white stripe is Route 66 and also the Ozarks plateau.

Why does Springfield need a new flag and defined brand identity?
There hasn’t been a lack of pride in Springfield for people to live here; I think there has been a lack for people to express it. We’ve provided the design materials. This isn’t copyrighted. We want people to grab this and remix it and use it. We’re already seeing that happen, whether it’s with clothing or tattoos or company logos and nonprofit logos. It’s already starting to prove itself.

What’s the status of adopting this design as the city’s flag?
We’ve just started conversations with some city officials as a temperature gauge and just to fully understand what we need to do to make this thing official. Those have been very positive. We’ve been intentionally slow. We wanted this thing to infuse into local culture enough that it just felt like it was an obvious procedural thing to do when the time came. Our biggest challenge is just going to be education on what the current flag is. I think it’s been obvious that it hasn’t done what a good flag could do because most people, before this conversation started, didn’t necessarily even know we had a flag and certainly didn’t know what it looked like.

John McQueary can be reached at johnpmcq@gmail.com.

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