Carrie Rengers

Have you ever seen a Kansas lion? The Sedgwick County Zoo is going to introduce you

Have you ever seen a Kansas lion?

If not, you’re about to.

The Sedgwick County Zoo is unveiling a new logo that’s part of a major rebranding campaign, and at the heart of it is what Gardner Design senior art director Brian Wiens calls his Kansas lion.

Wiens came up with about a dozen designs to replace the Zoo’s previous logo, a purple paw print with multicolored toes, but each was missing something.

“When I thought about it, I was like, there has got to be something more Kansas specific,” Wiens says.

“I thought, well, if I ran into a lion in Kansas, how crazy would that be? What would a Kansas lion look like?”

He thought of Kansas sunflowers and how their petals could double for a lion’s mane.

“It just seemed to fit perfectly,” Wiens says.

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Bill Gardner, the design firm’s owner and creative director, says a lot of research and thought went into the rebranding. He and Wiens studied about 200 zoo logos and learned that one challenging aspect is that they don’t often speak to where zoos are located.

“We want to make sure that people nationally and worldwide have some sense by looking at the logo where we are,” Gardner says.

He says it’s “a lot deeper than just drawing a picture.”

Wiens says the yellow and brown colors of the logo are “just like the sunflower, and I think that really represents Kansas in a positive way.”

“It’s sunlight and sunshiny and just exudes that daylight glow.”

He says the new brand “is intentional about where Sedgwick County Zoo is headed.”

“We’re really telling the story that we’re concerned about conserving wildlife and wild places.”

Wiens says it’s not that he wanted to exclude other animals in the logo, but he felt the qualities of a lion could highlight the zoo’s essence.

“It’s a symbol of the animal kingdom.”

He says a lion has qualities that make sense to associate with the zoo: strength, honor, leadership and integrity.

This week, the new logo will begin being installed on monument signs leading into the zoo.

Throughout the next year, it will start popping up on uniforms and on signs throughout the zoo.

It’s been almost 15 years since the zoo’s logo changed. Marketing and public relations manager Jennica King says with the zoo’s new 25-year master plan and its 50th birthday coming up in 2021, now was an ideal time to rethink the brand.

“We have a new mission; we have a new vision,” she says. “This is really the first step.”

When executive director Jeff Ettling first saw the new Kansas lion logo, he “absolutely loved it.”

“It really reflects who we are as a zoo, a community and also a region,” he says.

“People will really be able to say, ‘OK, I know who that is.’ ”

Carrie Rengers has been a reporter for almost three decades, including 16 years at The Wichita Eagle. Her Have You Heard? column of business scoops runs five days a week in The Eagle. If you have a tip, please e-mail or tweet her or call 316-268-6340.