Confluence and Connection.


For centuries, the waters of Central Iowa nourished and defined our region. Yet somehow over time, we lost touch with the water. And instead of a sanctuary for fun and reflection, our water was something we were afraid of.

Now with ICON—the biggest transformational project ever attempted in Central Iowa—we have a chance to return to our roots. Connect with the future. Our job was to create a memorable destination brand for a network of 150 miles of water trails. The brand needed to emotionally connect numerous target audiences with the project, conveying its impact on the Des Moines area, from economic growth to tourism to attracting a more diverse population.

Most important, our goal was to make this brand uniquely Iowan—leverage a core Iowa-ness that will appeal to people who live here and people who are looking to make a home here.


Strategic America, partnering with Spawn Ideas, developed a brand rooted deeply in insights garnered from extensive research.

Hundreds of citizens were contacted and asked for their opinions, with an emphasis on hearing from minority and historically marginalized groups. All viewpoints were welcomed.

The scope of the project was not only to bring together different waterways and communities within Central Iowa, but to bring together all the different stakeholders groups.

‘Confluence and Connection’ was a key theme to the work. Connecting the rivers. Connecting people to the water. And connecting people to each other. This theme is carried through not only the name—Iowa Confluence Water Trails, ICON for short—but also through every element created for the brand.


Improvements along the waterways will go on for years to come. But already a new sense of purpose and energy exist around the project. While SA has worked to raise awareness and build a brand, our strategic communications team has worked to raise funds for it.

People are starting to appreciate the magnitude of this undertaking. How these water trails represent a new commitment to water safety, conservation and recreation. And how a movement of dreamers and doers are collaborating to improve the quality of water—and quality of life—for Central Iowa.

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