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Partnership header Ranger talks with group of people sitting on grass
Rich Silverstein

Rich Silverstein standing by Golden Gates National Parks sign
Rich Silverstein. Photo courtesy of Golden Gate National Parks.

What He Gave

"Got parks?" might have been foremost in Rich Silverstein's mind when his advertising agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, adopted the Golden Gate National Parks as a pro bono client. The San Francisco agency that Silverstein cofounded lists Hewlett-Packard, Sprint, Comcast, and the NBA among its clients. But it is the "Got milk?" campaign for which the firm is perhaps best known.

Silverstein joined the Board of Trustees of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in 1988 and volunteered his expertise to create a brand worthy of the park's growing stature.

Prior to Silverstein's involvement, the park's nearly 80,000 acres lacked a strong identity and had no unifying symbol or brand.

"When people think of a national park, they think of the crown jewels like Yosemite or Grand Canyon," says Silverstein. "The Golden Gate National Parks are more like a string of pearls. They needed to be connected in people's minds."

"The site awareness for Alcatraz and Muir Woods was strong, but the collective park identity was weak. So we spent a lot of time trying to make that collective identity known by dealing with Golden Gate National Parks as one overall park," said Greg Moore, Executive Director of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. "Rich Silverstein was fundamental in turning our thinking around. As he looked at the problem, he came to the conclusion that if the strength is from the different park sites, then you have to build the identity from the sites up, not from a false overlay down."

Silverstein made the case for rebranding the park using iconic designs for key visitor destinations. He asked Bay Area illustrator Michael Schwab to get involved. Beginning with the Golden Gate Bridge, Schwab created and donated twelve stylized symbols that visually unified the various features of the park.

"What was needed was a great emotional idea," Silverstein says. "We wanted to tap into the community's hopes for a park in the making."

With Silverstein's leadership, campaigns such as "Post to Park" built support for turning over the Presidio from the U.S. Army to the National Park Service; "Help Grow Crissy Field" helped raise millions to transform Crissy Field from an airstrip into a beloved marsh, promenade, and education center; "Trails Forever," featuring a rabbit on the run, became the unifying concept for expanding and improving trails parkwide.

Schwab's symbols appear on mugs, T-shirts, posters, books, and other merchandise sold at park visitor centers and shops around the city, providing a steady stream of funding for the park. The stronger identity has helped galvanize public and private support.

Silverstein acknowledges that branding the Golden Gate National Parks required pleasing a lot of people, but that the effort has paid off. "It might be said that the whole is more than the sum of its parks," he says.

Why He Gave

When the native New Yorker came to the Bay Area in 1981, he fell in love with the place. "We get to live and play in a national park every day," Silverstein says. "Very few people can say that. You might say I believe in the product."

"If you're doing it (volunteering) for a job or because you think you'd like to do just a little pro bono project, it's not going to work," he says. "You have to love it. I ride my bicycle through the park everyday. This is my way of giving something back and contributing to the legacy of saving and making the parks better."

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