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Design for the New Century

By Ryan J. Thelen · April 22nd, 1999 · Ad It Up

I've always been intrigued by the little house that has been part of Century 21's corporate identity since 1972. The design is simplicity itself -- not a Habitat for Humanity home, yet no Biltmore Estate either. One may imagine it as having central air and probably a skylight. It could be a two-story or a ranch with a two-car garage.

The real wonder is how the elementary shape captures the spirit of the American dream with a happy marriage of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mike Brady. A marriage as bold and daring as the name represents: Century 21. Ahead of their time, these people were applying for a copyright on the next millennium back when computer programmers were taking the 19 out of 1900.

Apart from avoiding the Y2K problem, the number 21 holds a special place in American culture, since 21 is the legal drinking age in most states.

Thus, the number symbolizes a rite of passage. The name says, "We're the company that is old enough to drink, young enough to party and big enough to kick your ass." To all those underage drunks cruising the backwater byways of America, it contains another message: Take your buckshot and baseball bats to that Coldwell Banker sign.

As if the name and logo were not enough, these people threw a yard sign coup with their giant gold colored wooden posts. While Le Cars litter the residential landscape, this Chevy Suburban of yard signs stands as a monument to American capitalism. You don't post these souvenirs of old growth forest, you plant them. It's the only yard sign that can be chopped down.

Nevertheless, it might be time for the Century 21 people to go back to the drawing board in preparation for the new millennium.

Here are three ideas the executives of Century 21 might want to consider. In the first design (Figure 1), the international symbol for mankind's self-destructive behavior has been turned into a selling point. Many people are afraid of the future: This logo embraces it. It says to the consumer, "Come rain, sleet or nuclear winter, Century 21 will be there for you." It also says, "You're buying a quality home that can withstand a nuclear holocaust."

Another bugaboo of modern times is the corporate merger. But here again, the power of fear has been redirected in a positive manner. The second design (Figure 2) shows how a merger with, let's say RJR Nabisco, can be incorporated into the logo. Instead of thinking about a cold, impersonal corporate giant, the consumer is apt to recall the sights and smells of childhood: of Chips Ahoy cookies and Shredded Wheat. Another message conveyed is that this house gets great reception.

The third design (Figure 3) is based on the popularity of the gold post. To the average college-educated home buyer, the logo becomes a playful open door to a universe of impressions and higher consciousness. "Hmmmmmm," the passer-by says to himself. He may even call the broker for an interpretation ... such a call could lead to sale.

With a new look, Century 21 could prove that it really is ready for the 21st century.



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