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Dancer at King County's annual MLK celebrationThe Oregon territorial legislature created new counties in 1852 north of the Columbia River in what is now Washington State. It named King County after incumbent vice president at the time, William Rufus de Vane King. King was a slave owner and a strong supporter of the Fugitive Slave Act.

On February 24, 1986, the King County Council passed Motion 6461 recognizing the great contributions and many public service achievements of Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including his persistent and unfailing efforts leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The motion laid the historical foundation for changing the namesake of King County from William Rufus de Vane King to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

After a monumental grassroots community effort in which thousands of King County residents demanded during a six-year period (1999-2005) that the State Legislature and the Governor formally rename the County in Dr. King's honor. The State Legislature (Senate by a vote of 47 to 0 and the House of Representatives by a vote of 64 to 32) passed Chapter 90, Laws of Washington in 2005, legally changing the namesake of our County from Rufus de Vane King to Martin Luther King County. Governor Christine Gregoire signed the legislation into law on April 19, 2005. The law took effect July 24, 2005.

Then people all over our County put tremendous political pressure on the King County Council to change our County logo from an imperial crown to the image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This campaign resulted in the County Council on February 27, 2006, passing King County ordinance 8227, which declares, "Since the state has officially renamed King County in honor of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the official symbol of the county should reflect and call to mind Dr. King as its namesake... Use of the likeness of Dr. King as the new official symbol and logo for King County is intended to promote Dr. King's legacy of nonviolent social change and to effectuate the prior legislative policy decisions of Washington state and King County to honor Dr. King's memory by renaming King County."

The Process

4 Culture, formerly the King County Cultural Resources division of the County, was engaged to coordinate and manage the process of developing a new logo design. The agency worked in conjunction with the offices of the Martin Luther King Jr. County Executive, Ron Sims and County Council Chairman, Larry Gossett, elected officials, employees groups, business and community members, design experts and the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee to develop selection criteria and processes for selecting a design team. After a thorough review and interview process, the Gable Design Group was selected out of an applicant pool of 29 local and national design firms, on September 12, 2007.

The Gable Design team conducted a series of focus groups and secured vital feedback for the design of the logo. The feedback provided information relevant to messages the new logo should deliver, required usability for logo implementation, and expectations for the symbolism inherent in the new logo.

Focus Group Overview

Group 1: King County Employees involved in activities that promote Values of significant importance to employees and communities served. King County services and leadership embody integrity, justice, equality, dignity, creativity and accessibility with qualities that exemplify compassion, empowerment, inclusiveness and diversity (racial, physical and social).

Group 2: King County employees responsible for technical application of the logo. The logo needs to embody ease of use on multiple surfaces, should be distinct and easily incorporate with other county marks (i.e., Sheriff's badge, Metro transit lettering).

Group 3: Community and business leaders, some of whom have been involved in other efforts to recognize Dr. King locally and regionally, as well as business leaders with previous experience in logo/brand changes. Described the process as the culmination of a 20-year struggle considered this a source of pride and rare moment in American History, relayed a sense of celebration and much more than a government identity , with an opportunity to communicate strong messages, particularly to the disenfranchised.

Group 4: Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committe. Upon creation of design choices, members of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, along with some County employees and design experts, reviewed design choices presented by Gable Design. This group selected favored designs that were then modified, based on comments and suggestions, and prepared for a presentation to a group of elected officials.

Elected Officials: Martin Luther King County Executive Ron Sims, Council Chair Larry Gossett, Prosecutor Norm Maleng, Sheriff Sue Rahr, District Court Judge Corrina Harn and Superior Court Judge Michael Trickey, selected the final image.

Comments supporting the final selection: Image is striking, recognizable, reflects Dr. King, protrays a balanced sense of hope, is unique, holds some mystery which is good, can be supported and embraced by the community and meets the design requirements.