A Horse of a Different Color
The city of Lexington in the center of the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky is the self-proclaimed Horse Capital of the World. So it is only natural that in 2010 Lexington will become the first American city to host the World Equestrian Games. Thousands of new visitors will be coming to Lexington to attend the games and the city is taking this opportunity to put its best hoof forward. As a part of this effort the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau asked Pentagram to develop a visual identity that reflects Lexington’s one-of-a-kind personality.
DJ Stout, working with Michael Bierut, created an original and multi-faceted identity concept that goes beyond the forgettable standard-issue logos adopted by many cities in the United States.
“There really aren’t that many identities for cities in the U.S. that you actually remember”, says Stout. “What you are more likely to remember about a place are its distinctive buildings, towers, statues, and landmarks like the Statue of Liberty or the Seattle Space Needle. That’s the kind of memorable icon we wanted to create for Lexington.”
Stout and Bierut conjured up a mythical character based on a portrait of the famous racehorse Lexington painted by the renowned Kentucky artist Edward Troye in 1868. The designers crossed the image of the Thoroughbred with the region’s native bluegrass to create a blue horse named “Big Lex.” This eye-catching twist on a traditional equine oil painting is a metaphor for the city of Lexington and the surrounding community. The designers even developed a backstory for the mythical beast: he turned his distinctive shade after eating bluegrass for his entire life. (Visitors are encouraged to report Big Lex sightings on the visitors bureau’s website.)
This contemporary interpretation of a classic art genre is the primary component of the new identity. It gives the city an unforgettable signature that draws attention to a legendary horse and the unique place that shares his name. The Big Lex oil painting will be used in public areas in eye catching large-scale ways in order to draw Equestrian Games visitors downtown.
A large-scale three dimensional reproduction of the iconic blue horse depicted in the oil painting is planned to be unveiled at a central downtown Lexington location prior to the World Equestrian Games. The dramatic sculptural likeness of “Big Lex” will become a beacon for visitors and a popular tourist attraction during the World Equestrian Games. A banner based on traditional horse racing graphics can be draped across the Big Lex sculpture to announce special occasions and upcoming events.
A simple icon derived from the silhouette of Big Lex is used in oversized dimensions throughout the identity program. “LEX” is an abbreviation of the name Lexington and the official airport code for the city. The three-letter wordmark is a short and graphic way to say Lexington, and the contemporary sans-serif typography, set in Akkurat, acts as a counterweight to the 19th-century painting. The letter “X” in the logotype makes it distinctive and references the 2010 World Equestrian Games by highlighting the Roman numeral ten in blue.