When I moved to Sacramento, California two years ago, I certainly knew what a brand was but I didn’t know what Sacramento’s brand was. Being the state capital, you really get a feel for the city and state. Here, the biggest influencers in the state come to live and work. The state leaders come to the capital seeking change and improvement in their own communities. This is an exciting place to call home. After having lived here for a few years, I think I’ve finally figured out “who,” or I should say “what,” the Sacramento brand is. I found it in what Sacramento is not. Sacramento is not just a county, a city, or the Capital, Sacramento is a city with personality, a giving heart, and most importantly, diversity.

Sacramento Water Tower Changing City Motto From City Of Trees To Farm To Fork

City of Trees to Farm to Fork

How did I figure this out? Well, it really came to fruition when it changed from the City of Trees to the Farm to Fork Capital. Right as I moved to Sacramento, they were beginning to make this transition. I remembered not thinking much of either as a “brand.” As a seasoned graphic designer, I think it’s not only local businesses marketing materials or billboards and signage that really make the brand. They create change and influence on their surroundings. Sacramento’s brand (at least, for me) still feels hard to describe. I couldn’t say, make a style guide of Sacramento like I could a client’s brand. But, if you ever visit the city (even just downtown) it is so clearly seen and felt. I believe you can envision it with a culmination of its culture, people, historic sites, and the things that it’s citizens believe in.

The seasons changed and so did Sacramento

As a new resident of Sacramento and the state of California, there were many things I noticed right off the bat. Flip flops and jean jackets were a staple of any Californian’s wardrobe. Food, seemingly all of it comes straight from the farm. Even the farm you saw driving through Northern California just a few days ago. Sunsets are unbelievable. The cool summer nights are a wonderful touch to the dry, hot days.

Northern California is just as laid back but the farmlands and the abundance of outdoor activities make it its own unique feel. There are very few places in the United States that you can drive the same distance one way and get to the beach and drive the opposite direction to encounter century-old Redwood trees and snow. And that’s just the view. Sacramento, in particular, has an extremely diverse community culture. We not only have people from different backgrounds, different sexual orientations, and different cultures, but we also have people with different views on life. I think these differences make for a beautiful and interesting community.

Discovering a different side to Sac-town

When I moved to California about two years ago, my first impressions of the area were of Yuba City, where my husband’s family lives. The miles and miles of farmlands, trees in perfectly straight rows, and small-town feels were just the beginning of what Northern California would show me. A few months later, I came to Sacramento where I witnessed my first bike party parade downtown, learned more about trains than I thought I ever would, and brushed up on my California arts at the Crocker Art Museum. We took a weekend to visit the capital to see where my new representatives worked. I also took it back through history and walked through the Gold Rush Era themed Old Town Sacramento. These unique and light-hearted activities don’t completely identify Sacramento. One night, my husband and I attempted to watch a Kings game but we were stopped by protesters for the Stephan Clark shootings. The protesters were peaceful but they were angry. We could tell that this city definitely has a serious side to it as well.

Black Wrapped Needles Box Wrapped With Uptown Studios Brand In Front Of Uptown Studios Office

Working at Uptown Studios

All of these little personality quirks came together for me when I started working at Uptown Studios a year and a half ago. There, I learned about the other side of Sacramento through our clients. We serve so many different Sacramento County departments, state and local government municipalities, nonprofits, and commercial entities—it was amazing to see how well connected our agency had become over the years. The love that Sacramento’s citizens have for the people and businesses here is inspiring. In the short time I’ve worked here, I’ve had the pleasure of creating work for entities that literally create change right outside of the Uptown Studios office. Mercy Peddlers is a nonprofit group of volunteer bike riders that bike around and give supplies to homeless people across Broadway, Midtown, and Downtown. Sacramento County Coalition for Youth (SCCY) has a prevention program called Future Forward that educates young teens about marijuana use and peer-prevention (see below). The county is creating a coalition to promote helping people recover from opioid and methamphetamine drug addiction. Life Looks Good on You is a campaign we worked on with the Sacramento County Department of Regional Parks to create awareness of water safety on the river or any large body of water. We created a wrap for a sharps container to help keep the streets clean and safe. All these clients of ours, to me, encompass what Sacramento branding is.

Connecting to the city through philanthropy

Several of us volunteer our time to the community in different ways. And where do I even begin with our fearless leader Tina Reynolds and her involvement? Here at Uptown Studios, we have a massive collective number of volunteer hours in the community. And that’s just in 2020. At our staff meetings, we have a portion of it dedicated to community involvement. We do this not only to help people and communities in need but to stay connected and relevant. Our tagline isn’t Design for Social Change for no reason. Marketing and design can be a powerful thing. We’ve seen in our time marketing used for ulterior motives. But at Uptown Studios we have harnessed our powers for good. Making it Easy, Fun, and Popular is our theme for most social change projects. Integrity is also something we uphold.

Uptown Studios knows Sacramento branding because we are a part of it. We regularly guide our clients in the art of standing in with the community, standing up for the community, and what it takes to stand out in their space.

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Kara Primm
By Kara Primm