How do you teach a city about itself?


A few people have asked if I need help with this website. It’s a polite way to say I don’t know how to make a blog pretty and functional, which is entirely true. If you post this on Facebook, the thumbnail is a giant W. I don’t know how to fix that. Perhaps magpietown could be somewhat more appealing, with images and things that move.

We need a more sophisticated digital place to celebrate the companies, events, movements, and initiatives Edmontonians have created from the ground up. We need a place for future Make Something Edmonton projects.

This is a lovely offer and we will take you up on it. We’re just the people who registered the domain name.

Others have e-mailed and phoned and stopped us on the street with a more fundamental version of “How can I help?” A few were City of Edmonton employees, who want to be in the business of encouraging and aiding Edmontonians’ creativity. A city government, after all, ought not to be strictly in the business of saying no or protecting the status quo. Sometimes new ideas are good.

What are you making? How can I help?

Most have been people with ideas for potential Make Something Edmonton projects. Some are wonderfully massive things that would require City of Edmonton approval, and money and resources, like ATB Financial CEO Dave Mowat’s idea. Others are smaller. A woman asked if her teenage daughter and friends could design Make Something Edmonton logos in art class, figure out which one is best, and paste them all over the city. Put them on T-shirts.

You don’t have to ask anyone. The only way this will work is if Edmontonians just start doing things.

If there’s a line between legal and illegal you want to cross, it is always a clever idea to check with the authorities. But mild naughtiness should be encouraged at this moment in Edmonton’s history. I spoke to a restaurant owner last week who doesn’t believe he should pull in his sidewalk patio in the wintertime, which is currently the law. No one likes this law, not even the people in charge of enforcing it, and eventually it will change. This is good bad behaviour.

Instead of charging restaurant owners a fee to make outdoor patios, why not encourage them?

The new president and CEO of Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, Brad Ferguson, told city council on Monday that Edmonton’s brand is operating at one-and-a-half out of ten. There are two ways to handle this common problem.

The best way is to inspire and activate something that is already in our culture, in our story. It has to be a coordinated effort, with everyone from high school girls to CEOs participating and encouraging — challenging — their peers and competitors to Make Something Edmonton.

Our businesses, universities, artists, organizations, schools, community leagues can start now. The more things happen, the easier it is to say it — in your own way. If you have the courage to make something, to build something, to create something, there isn’t a better city on the continent.

How do you teach a city about itself? Kids — and adults — learn by doing.









12 thoughts on “How do you teach a city about itself?

  1. They’re going to make you mayor of Edmonton, one day, Todd. I am sure of it! You can make even cynical me feel a little less jaded and a little more positive about Edmonton. Even though I left it and don’t live in it. I like all these ideas!

  2. “A woman asked if her teenage daughter and friends could design Make Something Edmonton logos in art class, figure out which one is best, and paste them all over the city. Put them on T-shirts.”
    I appreciate the sentiment of this, but lordy, as a graphic designer it made my stomach twist and turn. Can I interject? After “figure out which one is best” could it come to me instead? I could take the concept and polish it up? I would even be happy to work with the artistic teen and explain what I’m doing and why. Again, the heart behind this is great, but I fear the execution would be lacking.

    Please don’t take logos and branding lightly… they tell stories too.

    • I don’t take either lightly. Hence the blog. I’ve never heard an adequate definition of the word brand, to be honest. But I accept your diligence about logos. Would you create one? Please just create one and I’ll put it up here.

  3. Years ago I had read about an artist that created T-Shirts with people’s photos on them, and in order to purchase one, the customer had to submit of photo of themselves to go onto another T-shirt. When I read this, I thought it was amazing – the idea that I would be walking around with a stranger’s face on my shirt and that somewhere else in the world, my face would be on a stranger’s shirt.

    Could we borrow an idea like this and create Make Something Edmonton T-Shirts? The faces would be limited to folks in our city…heck, you could be walking down the street and see your own face on someone’s shirt! Same rules would apply: to buy one, your picture must be submitted for a shirt. Any collaborators? Let’s talk!

      • Yes, Nicole, thank you, I am also a graphic designer (funny enough also named Nicole) and fully agree with your suggestion of having any potential graphic/branding ideas refined. Though I do love the enthusiasm and think it’s so important to teach young people about the importance of getting involved in their community.

        Stephanie––cool idea, I would love to get involved!

  4. Stephanie, What a great idea! I know a place where people can make their own tshirts with their own artwork. Email me and I will give you the particulars, Perhaps Nichol’s logo (and whoever else participates) and the photos could somehow be used together.

  5. Pingback: Ten million to leave Edmonton? No thanks. « magpietown

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