Des Moines Historical Society

DMHS Logo Meaning

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This logo solution for the Des Moines Historical Society brings together several important elements of Des Moines’ history.  Each element has been carefully considered to create a symbol that represents and celebrates the most important facets of the history and development of the city. These elements are: the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers and their convergence, Des Moines City Hall, the Polk County Courthouse, the Capitol, Fort Des Moines, and a flag. They were also used to show Des Moines’ importance on a city, county, state, and federal level.


The convergence of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers is very prominent in the logo, because the rivers were the foundation upon which the city was built, and the reason for Des Moines’ location. The rivers also represent history and its connection to life, flowing from the past and toward the future. The Des Moines River has been mapped under various names since it was first seen in 1673 by Marquette and Joliet, and even at that time it was known to be a major waterway for exploration and growth.


Fort Des Moines is another prominent element in the logo and represents the importance of Des Moines on a national level. Placing a United States military garrison at the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers was first mentioned in the early 1800s and Fort Des Moines II was there from 1843 – 1846.  The cabin on the right represents not only this fort, but also the important role the city plays today in the administration of U.S. laws, with the Federal Building, Federal Courthouse and Veteran’s Administration Hospital, and the early beginnings of Indian relations and settlement of the area. 


To the left of Fort Des Moines in the logo is a simplified version another Des Moines building of great importance, the Des Moines Municipal Building (City Hall). This past June, Des Moines celebrated the centennial of laying the cornerstone for the building in 1910.  The City Hall was of major importance and introduced the United States to a new form of open, citizen-centered government known as “The Des Moines Plan.”  The City Hall and the early 20th century ‘City Beautiful’ movement were also some of the first efforts to beautify the riverfront and downtown.  Just like the Riverwalk and new bridges of today, it is part of the continued emphasis placed upon the riverfront of the city.


The Courthouse represents the historic role Des Moines plays as the county seat for Polk County.  Polk County received this honor in 1846, in preparation for Iowa becoming a state.  In the logo, the courthouse is represented by its most prominent feature, the clock tower.


A representation of the State Capitol Building presides at the top of the logo to signify the biggest honor the city has received—becoming the state capital in 1857. In Des Moines, the capitol sits on a hill prominently overlooking the city, and in the logo, it completes the top “point” of the logo’s shape.


These important elements in the history of Des Moines have been placed together in diamond-shaped logo. The diamond shape is similar to a compass and symbolizes the northwest-to-southeast flow of the rivers. It also has four points, symbolic because Des Moines is important on four levels: city, county, state and federal. The rivers cut through the middle of the diamond as the most prominent element, because Des Moines’ location and importance is centered around the convergence of the rivers. The four historic buildings are placed together in a “skyline” formation to represent the city, and a flag is included to represent government and also on an aesthetic level to repeat the river curves found elsewhere in the design. Below the rivers is the name of the organization; this can be modified in other versions to include the address, website, or any other information needed.


The logo has been included in four versions: detailed 2-color, simplified 2-color, detailed black & white, and simplified black & white. It is important for a logo to be effective in a 2-color version for applications in which 4-color printing is either not appropriate or too expensive (t-shirts, brochures, letterhead, etc.).  The black and white version is included for printing in one-color or grayscale applications. The more detailed version of the logo, which includes the full name of the organization and more detail in the buildings, is intended to be used on larger applications such as t-shirts, posters, etc. The simplified version is less detailed and includes the acronym instead of the full organization name, and can be used for smaller documents such as letterheads when the complete name and address and displayed elsewhere. The blue-and-brown color scheme was chosen to draw attention to the rivers and to give a “historic” feel to the image.


This logo brings together symbols of some of the most important elements of Des Moines history, and has been carefully constructed in an attractive and practical format to be used as an identity symbol for the Des Moines Historical Society.


Emily Bibler

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