Brands in the News

The Trump Sign Controversy

12 Jun 2014  

Trump TowerDonald Trump is generating a lot of controversy in Chicago this week with his new sign.

Several years back he built a huge building along the Chicago River. He finished it in 2008. It is one of the tallest and most recognizable buildings in the city.

This week he is putting a big sign on the side of the building. It says (surprise!) TRUMP.

Many people don’t like the sign. Major Rahm Emanuel called it awful. The Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic attacked it.

I’m baffled at all the controversy.

Donald Trump isn’t putting up a sign in a national park. He isn’t putting his name in big letters outside a cherished historical monument. He built a building in Chicago and is putting a sign on it. Why is that so bad?

Cities are not museums.

Great urban centers are bustling and active and cluttered. Signs add to the excitement and interest. Tokyo and Hong Kong are tremendous cities, full of bright neon signs that add to spirit. New York and Chicago have many buildings with huge logos on the side or the top.

If anything, people in Chicago should be delighted that Trump is putting up a sign. It means that Donald is proud of his building and his place in the city.

Donald Trump is a great brand builder and his sign will only help Chicago.

4 Responses

  1. Tim Calkins says:

    Zane—Well said. Trump shouldn’t have put up such huge letters. I suspect he regrets that decision, though of course he would never admit it. Perhaps he delegated the decision to one of his children, who then made a bad decision.


  2. Zane says:

    The new TRUMP sign irks me for two reasons, although I would definitely say that it is on brand from Trump, it is just a brand that I personally don’t enjoy or care for.

    First, because the building has been up for almost three years we’ve all gotten used to it not having a sign, which makes the sign even more jarring. We know how nice the building looks without it. One of the most impressive things about the Trump Tower is that it is slightly off Chicago’s grid, which means you can see it from far away. The river points straight to it (see my photo here: and Wabash Avenue points straight to it (from the south). This means that Trump has put his name in very large very prominent letters that can be seen from a lot of different parts of downtown.

    Second, the letters are huge for where they are on the height of the building. If Trump had put the exact same sign another third up the building I think there’d be a lot less outcry. Or, perhaps, a smaller sign at that same height. As the sign is now it is very aesthetically out of balance.

    Basically, the building was great architecturally and was a positive impact on the skyline, especially if you’re walking down by the river. Now that’s ruined. Maybe we’ll get used to it, but it is like being given a wonderful painting and then having someone spray paint a corporate logo on it after you’ve had it three years.

  3. Tim Calkins says:

    Tom—Good thoughts. I agree he certainly pushed the limits on the one. A smaller, more tasteful sign would have worked better.


  4. Tom Shanahan says:

    Tim, I thoroughly enjoy your blog! I am surprised by your comments here, however. When Mr. Trump decided to build a building in our town I recall a lot of discussion expressing concern that he’d build reflecting “his” brand a.k.a., something flashy and not respecting Chicago’s brand, which to those of us who are natives might describe as anything but.

    I recently was downtown taking out-of-towners to dinner and we sat a stop light where to all of our dismay was the first of three letters being erected. One of my guests was the first to say, “Oh that doesn’t work for Chicago! What a shame…”

    And, truth be told, I felt embarrassed. So, though I appreciate your take that this reflects his brand…I would also say that if a strong brand is akin to reputation, well…like Enron…Mr. Trump’s brand continues to be strong…just not in a positive way. Too bad he couldn’t have taken this opportunity to add some class to his and think of the community he’s imposed this brash sign on.

    I don’t disagree that there are buildings in Chicago that are named, but I can’t think of one that makes you wince. My guess is it could have been done in a way fitting for Chicago AND Mr. Trump. There’s an idea…hmmmm…consider the neighbors.

    That’s something very Chicago…

    I wonder if he’ll add sparkles and music to it? That would be great.

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