City of Waterloo

The Challenge

The City of Waterloo is gaining momentum, recruiting businesses, redeveloping its downtown, and leading in technology and infrastructure investments. But the city suffers from a perception problem driven by decades-old economic and social issues, and a small but vocal group was controlling the narrative. Many residents are unaware of all the positive work the city is doing, and the small city staff was struggling to focus their efforts on completing improvement projects and communicating these successes with residents and the wider community.

Without a cohesive vision and a framework to enact it, this inaccurate perception and lack of awareness of all the good things in Waterloo were hampering the city’s success.

City of Waterloo Logo - Iowa - Tag RGB
City of Waterloo Public Works & Utilities Logo
City of Waterloo Parks & Recreation Logo

Our Approach

Leaning on our experience in community facilitation and research, de Novo began a year-long discovery process with the community of approximately 66,000. We listened a lot—conducted surveys, facilitated conversations, and produced a community Spark Event that highlighted 10 amazing ideas for growth. Spark Events are interactive community-driven events where 10 ideas are presented and then voted on by the audience. Whether those ideas become reality is up to the community, but they feed the creativity of the planning process, connect people, and help the community dream about its future.

The result of the research and planning was the vision plan in the 8×8 framework: Eight ideas to transform Waterloo over the next eight years, a new graphic identity and tagline—A Community of Opportunity—that better represents the vibrancy and direction of Waterloo, and a campaign to help the city share its successes—Fly the W.

At the request of the steering committee, every finalized recommendation in the 8×8 vision plan was developed, keeping equity and opportunity top of mind.

Each community is unique. Our approach works to determine what each individual community loves about and envisions for itself. When a community engages with its residents and builds a vision together, the results are far better than those who don’t. Our approach—research first, creativity from within, and strategy based in experience—helps communities reach their goals.

“Fly The W”

It’s time to change the mindset of Waterloo, celebrate its many wins, and flip the script from inaccurate and negative perceptions to accurate inclusivity and positivity. On December 1, 2022 Waterloo unveiled its new logo and tagline at Mayor Quentin Hart’s annual State of the City address and planted a flag, launching the new City of Waterloo flag.

What about the old logo?

The old logo was a very colorful but hard-to-see graphic. With a few minor upgrades that included the pedestrian bridge over the river, that logo is now the official seal of the City of Waterloo. For those who felt affection for it, they can still find it!


This process left no stone unturned, with multiple ways for the public and involved citizens to participate. This is how you find the intrinsic identity of a community. What we discovered was that Waterloo’s residents feel a sense of intense pride and want to be able to share that pride with others. Our process led to a plan and a framework for Waterloo share that pride to Fly The W.