Written by Mike Abb

It was 2016, and Bentonville was getting serious about mountain biking. We had just opened phase 2 of Slaughter Pen and were starting on the trails at the Coler Mountain Bike Preserve. The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) had agreed to host their World Summit in Bentonville, and we needed a way to encapsulate all the efforts in a brand that could be promoted.


Creating a logo isn’t something particularly difficult. It can be done rather easily with computers, but creating a brand is another matter altogether. A brand is the identity, the ethos, the personification of the product or service. When done well, a brand resonates on a human level, not just a user or customer level. This brand was meant to honor the world it was meant to represent: the beautiful Ozark mountains.

Photo by: Paul Caldwell


Our vision for cycling in Arkansas was expansive, and we knew that the trail system had the potential to change the entire narrative of the region and state. This was no small task for the design team to match such a lofty vision. We knew one thing to be true: we had to showcase in the brand the beauty of the land. The verdant forests and the color of the skies are special elements of the Ozarks, and we felt they had to be included in some aspect of the design. The natural world would be our inspiration! But how should we translate that to the brand? We came across a great photo by Arkansas photographer Paul Caldwell that captured the cotton candy pastel skies of a sunset over the rippling mountains. It was majestic. It was powerful. It was our home.


How do you transfer that image into a brand? That question was a difficult one to answer, so out came the research of what high-impact brands we admire had done with their branding. What had prior promotions of the region done? This led us to classic logos from Atari and Apple, as well as an early Ozarks magazine ad. The unifying factor in all of these examples was the use of horizontal color bands. These examples provided the framework to create the sunset color gradient, which became the color way of the brand. Next, we paired the sunset gradient with a geometric take on the mountains with varying forms of green to showcase the wide array of trees and plant life we enjoy in Arkansas.


We had the basics of the logo figured out, but we still had to communicate what and where this brand is and about. The decision was made to take the state outline to cement that, yes, this is indeed in Arkansas. Then came the actual name of the brand. We struggled through various versions and ultimately agreed that the strongest brand is the one that was already known to the people, and that was the Ozarks.


Since those early days in 2016, the brand has grown and is now recognized across the cycling world. However, it has done more than just impact cycling. OZ Trails has become a symbol for those living in Arkansas. It encompasses much more than cycling; it represents our pride in living in such a beautiful place, and our shared appreciation for the undeniable beauty of our natural world.



Stevie Emmons

After living in Frisco, Texas, for nearly 15 years, Stevie and her husband, Joe, moved to Bentonville in 2021. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas and has five years of marketing experience in tourism and economic development. Her personal interests include photography, cooking, and all things dog-related. She and her husband spend their free time riding mountain bike trails, watching movies, and enjoying time on the patio at their favorite restaurants.