Moab’s beloved local radio station, KZMU (90.1 and 106.7 FM), started out of a dilapidated trailer in 1992. This year, operating out of a solar-powered station on Rocky Road, the station turns 30.
Serah Mead, station manager, has only recently allowed herself to dream about what KZMU could become. The station has had ups and downs throughout the years—the worst being that KZMU was defunded from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 2016, but the best being that its programming has grown exponentially. The station provides 24 hours of local programming, showcasing music picked by local DJs, local news, a radio book club, history shows and science shows. The station also puts on an annual radio play and livestreams most community concerts. Its growth is hindered only by the physical limitations of the small station building.
When Mead was brainstorming how to celebrate KZMU’s 30th year, she considered hiring a designer to create posters—but then, she thought, why not give the whole brand a refresh?
Mead worked with Abby Leighton, a local graphic designer who specializes in rebrands, to create a new logo and social media look for the station. Mead said it was challenging to capture the essence of KZMU, since the station does so many things.
“Our organization is so unique because we’re really like a bullhorn. We’re broadcasting experts,” Mead said. “We try to be really careful about being representative of all of our DJs, more than 80 people with their histories and beliefs and values.”
She wanted the tone of the brand to emphasize that KZMU is created by and for the Moab community—a reflection of where the community has been and where it’s going.
“We’ve gone through so much in the last 30 years,” Mead said. “And we’ve always been on the air, but there have been frequent times where we’re unsure of how much longer we can go on. But we’re at a place now where we really want to communicate that we’re a reliable organization.”
KZMU’s new logo is playful and multi-colored, both a nod to the 90’s and a reflection of KZMU’s modernity.
Abby Leighton, who designed the new look, has been a full-time artist for seven years. She got her start when she studied communication design at the Pratt Institute in New York City. She finds inspiration in National Parks design and in vintage graphics, she said—she regularly looks to designs created in the 60s, 70s and 80s for inspiration.
Her branding process is extraordinarily thorough. With the company or organization she works with, she focuses on the organization’s target audience, core values and voice to create a new logo that fits. She uses a “one concept” method, meaning she’ll present the organization with only one branding concept that includes a logo, color palette and mood board. Once the concept is approved, she’ll create other details such as business cards.
Working with KZMU was an “awesome project,” Leighton said.
“I really got to get a sense of who they were and what they stemmed from, which was really this 90s counterculture lifestyle,” she said. “That’s where the inspiration for the rebrand came from. We wanted to celebrate the past while bringing KZMU into its fourth decade of being in operation.”
Mead can see KZMU’s future expanding in a few ways, she said. She’d love to see the station have more of a presence in downtown Moab by collaborating and partnering with more local organizations; she’d also love to see the physical station expand.
“It would be really nice to have some kind of presence in town,” she said. “Not only to inspire people to listen more, but also to help affect the first impressions of people when they come to our town, so they see that this is a place that values creativity and public media. Sometimes even just seeing that there’s a community radio station here can really have an impact on people’s impression of a place.”
“I keep going back to this motto that I invented for this year,” Mead said. “Honoring the past, celebrating the present and dreaming of the future.”
KZMU can be listened to on 90.1 and 106.7 FM, or online at www.kzmu.org.