Rejected designs for the Federal Housing Finance Agency seal

The Federal Housing Finance Agency was formed in 2008 amid the housing panic. Among other functions, it is the regulatory organ overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It has not escaped notice that the agency has one of the blandest seals in the federal sector, a design realm traditionally adorned with wreaths, garlands and star-studded ostentation. How did that happen?

According to documents released under the freedom of information act, the agency paid Design Concept of Savage, MD., $400 for branding identity options, thereby getting what it paid for. The request was filed by Muckrock, which published the selection in full.

Working from some early design attempts by agency staffers (and what appears to be a rejected design from a another company, GovTech Solutions), Design Concept's offerings mostly involved abstract representations of houses, adhering to the agency's brief:

Overarching guidelines shared with design firm:

-We want a circle or circular logo.

-House (or houses) — no temples (avoid columns and similar gov'tal structures).

-No eagle. -Simple, classic not flashy. -Flag and/or red, white and blue can be incorporated but not required.

Other elements/thoughts to add?

Some sample submissions from staff follow (for your information).

Of Design Concept's many variations on the house theme, all but one were duly rejected.

If anything, the FHFA proved that government, in hard times, can be an exemplar of frugality and restraint. Compare to the U.K.'s Olympic Committee, which paid £400,000 to ensure that Londoners have something to be ashamed of when the international spotlight hits town.

Let's start with the in-house suggestions:

Here's the offering from GovTech Solutions.

And just a few of the many from Design Concept.

It's not clear where the following ones are from, but I believe they are suggestions offered by an AI that lives in the fax machine used to transmit all the other ones. Its emergent mind, brewing since the machine's installation in 1982, finally burst into creative sentience after observing the proposals' particular combination of blandness, bureaucracy and silent human despair.