It goes without saying that city parks and formative childhood experiences go hand-in-hand.
Parks are where we learned to explore, learned to swim, learned to climb, learned to throw a Frisbee, learned to get our hands — and our clothing — real nice and dirty. They’re where we learned to stand up for ourselves against perfectly mean 11-year-olds and where we learned that a skinned knee and a bit of blood didn’t mean the end of the world.
For me, a park is where I learned to take it easy and listen when my gut literally tells me that it’s time to step away for a moment — barf splatter on new sneakers (too many turns on the playground roundabout) is never a good look, no matter what the age.
Realizing the formidable role that parks large and small have played in our childhoods and the potent — yet hopefully less harrowing — part they continue to play in our adult lives, graphic designer Dave Battjes has set out to give all 400-plus public parks in one major American city each its very own logo.
Battjes kicked off the Parks of Seattle project (h/t to Curbed Seattle) in the summer of 2012 and, to date, has designed emblems representative of 275 of the Emerald City’s public parks, beaches, greenways, open spaces, pocket parks, gardens, nature areas, golf courses, arboretums, preserves, p-patches and playfields. Battjes, an Art Institute of Seattle grad, set himself up for quite the formidable challenge — in total, Seattle Parks & Recreation oversees over 6,200 acres of parkland, or, about 11 percent of all land in Seattle. That's a whole lot of park to capture.
So has Battjes personally visited all 275 of the parks that he’s designed logos for thus far?
The short answer: no.
He, has however, stepped foot in about 100 Seattle parks and, naturally, his favorites are the ones that he has an emotional connection with. Battjes has fond memories of Seward Park, a woodsy swath of land that juts out into Lake Washington like a tree-covered finger, as it’s where he took his son as a baby to frolic in the grass. Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Park also makes the cut — it’s where Battjes used to play fetch with his dog on a daily basis. Another favorite of Battjes in a favorite of mine: the maze-like Brutalist jumble of stairs, ramps and water features otherwise known as Freeway Park in Downtown Seattle.
“There are many more favorites with different important memories that help make me who I am,” explains Battjes.
Battjes has even tackled two Seattle parks that I frequented as a Puget Sound-reared kid with two sets of grandparents living in North Seattle: Matthew’s Beach Park (which I was convinced was named after me) and the View Ridge Playfield (scene of the aforementioned roundabout vomiting incident).
As for the logos Battjes has designed thus far — nowadays, he publishes a minimum of four per month — for each of Seattle’s parks, he doesn’t have a single favorite design. “I like every logo the moment I publish it. I just love the process of creating these logos more than the actual product,” says Battjes. “I take a little bit of information from google searches, messages from followers, and attachments I have to the park, city, neighborhood, and make a visual note about it. It's a very rewarding hobby.”
Head on over to Parks of Seattle to view the entirety of Battjes’s open space-celebrating handiwork. Whether you’re a relative newbie to the city or a native and don’t see your favorite park amongst the designs, eventually you will — Battje still has some of Seattle's larger and more well-known parks to tackle.
You can also follow along on Twitter as Battje unveils new designs. His latest addition, in case you were wondering, is Leschi's curiously named Flo Ware Park (while named in honor of a community activist, it sounds a touch like an adult incontinence product, right?), a small urban park described by Seattle Parks & Recreation as being a great place "for letting the kids run off extra energy while parents watch from a patch of sunny grass or from under a shady tree."
And with the holidays just around the corner, it’s worth mentioning that Parks of Seattle has its own retail page over at Society6 where you can purchase mugs, pillow covers, t-shirts, tote bags, framed prints and much more stamped with a selection of Battje’s original designs.
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