“Why is there a volleyball on the wall?”


“Look, there’s a volleyball on the wall. What does it mean?”

My 11 year old sister asked me this as we walked through my parking garage on our way to see the Columbus Symphony at the Ohio Theatre.

This logo isn’t a volleyball to me. It’s City Center, a wonderful mall that was in the heart of the city. This wall is a secret passageway to some of my favorite memories.

The Connection to the Past

Columbus, Ohio is my home and has been since I was born. In fact my maternal grandparents and mother also grew up in Columbus. We all have stories about the city. Some of our stories overlap and others show the transition of a city over multiple decades. When I was hired at CAPA and told one of my cousins that I worked at the Ohio Theatre, he started talking about the hotel next door. He said it was the Hyatt. I had to tell him that it’s the Sheraton now. Cities grow and develop just like families. I absolutely love the fact that my family has been walking the streets of Columbus for so many years. I know that when I walk into the Ohio Theatre every day that my grandparents went there to watch shows years ago. Some of these family members have passed away but I imagine them walking the same streets that I do. I like to look at pictures and see what it was like when they were my age. I feel them with me every step I take. It’s one of the reasons I love this city so much and why I want to make sure that it continues to grow.

My mother taught me to love the city. She took me downtown all the time. We were never afraid to go into the city and we loved every part of it. She took me to the Ohio Theatre and Palace Theatre to see shows. We explored restaurants and museums. She also introduced me to City Center. She loves this city as much as I do.

City Center was the best. As I stood there with my sister staring at the logo I started traveling through my memories of the gorgeous mall that held the magic of my childhood. I remembered begging to go to the Disney Store and see what felt like hundreds of stuffed animals and toys from all of the movies I loved. I remembered the green circle amphitheater and glass elevator that seemed to rise to the sky. I remembered the Christmas decorations, window displays and that City Center had the REAL Santa. That logo was so much more than a spiral of lines. How could anyone see a volleyball?

skyla and sparky

A New Life

Of course, it’s not my sister’s fault. City Center was demolished years ago and Skyla has different magical childhood memories of Columbus Commons. The Commons is a beautiful park filled with fresh flowers, a carousel, outdoor amphitheater, food, and seasonal activities. The parking garage still exists for downtown employees, like myself, and supports the park.

IMG_0141I love the Commons and Skyla has been to many events at the park with me. The Commons has even made Christmas downtown magical again with thousands of lights but I miss the magic of my City Center.

What’s in a Name?

This conversation also appealed to the marketing professional and communication major in me.  Marketing is only successful when you can connect the logo, message, and name of a company together.

LogosBrands transition and change all the time. Logos have to fit in with the modern world and sometimes that means changing the look. When this happens companies work hard to erase all of the old logos and connect the new with that same message and company name. It’s a difficult process. At one of my internships there had just been a rebrand and part of our summer was spent searching for the old logos still on any signs or buildings. It was an adventure for us but it meant a lot of money to replace these signs for the company.

When companies close and logos are abandoned the connection may still remain (if there was good marketing). Think of your favorite restaurants or stores that have closed. Do you remember the logos? If you do, even though it’s gone, the brand still exists. Think of the marketing staff that spent hours brainstorming the catchy slogan and colorful design that made that connection possible. They might still be around and working for a different company creating marketing campaigns that you recognize today.

city center stairsIt’s strange to think about all of the hours that go into creating a brand and how in a matter of years it can become nothing more than a questionable object for the next generation like a volleyball….or a dusty escalator leading nowhere. I wish I could jump on this escalator and become the little girl in the magical mall I remember.

Keeping it Alive

If you’ve never been to City Center, what do any of these words and logos mean? Where does that escalator go? What do they connect the “volleyball” to? Do they think it’s just a piece of art in the concrete walls of the garage? Do they even notice it as they walk down the stairs on the way to their busy days at work?

We’re getting to a point where there are people in Columbus who weren’t around when City Center existed. I’ll talk about a memory of the mall with someone and they’ll have no connection to it at all. That’s very sad.

IMG_7867At some level my sister has been introduced to City Center even though it’s gone. Now when we park in the garage she knows that the logo on the wall isn’t really a volleyball. She knows that City Center used to exist because I tell her about my memories. She doesn’t have her own memories to connect to the logo but she has mine. City Center marketing was a success because that logo connects me to magic that I will never forget. Even as I’m walking through the beautiful Commons and creating new memories in the same space.

In my heart, City Center, will never die.

Have you ever had an experience like this? What brand do you help live on?