Posts Tagged ‘brand identity’
Passed down the Twitter corridor (via @keeganmeegan, and @crankypressman with a stop at Monoscope) I was alerted to the beautiful liquor labels by drink brand company, Stranger and Stranger. Let me tell you, their portfolio is beautiful. On the whole, I’d say that they are one of the more consistent designers of quality drink labels (Game Day leaves a bit to be desired, but source material what it is…).
I tend to get thrown in the “modernist” style of design, and that’s fine, because, really, it’s true. But I really do appreciate work of other styles/principles. Especially when they’re as beautiful as the Kraken Black Spiced Rum Label. This is what I want from rum. From the vintage jug bottle to the playful, tongue-in-cheek taglines (“Bizarre & Fierce SEA CREATURES as seen through the eyes of imagination”) to the old-world Kraken illustration and the beautiful black badge, you instantly get the vibe you want from rum: seafaring reverie. Without that cheap Captain Morgan stigma. What’s more, the adjectives on the label (“bizarre” and “fierce”) are pretty much the adjectives I want to sum up my rum drinking experience. All this goes to say this is rum you’re gonna enjoy; that it isn’t for Rum & Cokes. This is a beautiful bottle of rum you break out at a party and sip.
So, I’m currently engaged in two particular ongoing projects, although, that’s likely underselling them. They’re not so much ongoing as undead. The first one being a redesign and content overhaul of Razterized.com. As you can likely tell, this site is starting to show its age, and it’s a bit thin on the content. That’s really where all the burden comes in.
Ramping up content for this site has been like surviving a zombie apocalypse. One never-ending run. You see, I got it in my head at some point that it would be a great idea (and it still is) to write up in-depth case studies for just about every project I’ve ever done (or, at least, the ones I want to show). This means pulling sketches, thought processes, colour samples, mistakes, alternate treatments, proposals wireframes, logo specs, client briefs, et al, and attempting to synthesize them all into a concise, pretty little packages for clients to stare at.
This seemed quite the easy task for the first few. Now that we’re on multiples of ten, it seems no longer easy but also like it will never end. I’ve literally been writing case studies since the end of December. Now, granted, this is a back-burner project and that accounts for a good deal of that, but, still. Then there’s the matter of writing it all again in Japanese.
The second is the much ballyhooed Sasquatch project. No, it has nothing to do with the Sasquatch Music Festival, but rather a community for northwest designers and developers past, present and future to just collaborate. I’ve always felt that was one thing that was missing from Seattle’s tech-heavy domain. Sure, you collaborate with your co-workers in an office, but how often do you just sit down with someone from the community-at-large, have some drinks and hash out some really cool ideas? When was the last time we had a web designer jam, or got together to crank out a cool app. My friends and have done that, going on to spawn a start-up game development studio, but, frankly, the impetus was on us. So, Sasquatch would be a forum for things like that to happen. Tweetups, collabo-projects, current going-ons, exhibitions, the like.
The infrastructure of which is just daunting, especially for (and the irony here is not lost on me) a one-man project. It’s about time to branch out and build Sasquatch with spirit it is intended to foster. At least the rough look & feels are done, see?
Typography heavy designs, of course. Typography still rules the world. Even if it won’t get content written.
Originally brought on to give them a true web presence, our first step was an honest content audit. This included pooling together all written and branded materials. Upon doing so, we concluded that content was a bit shallow, especially in the form of truly branded materials. The client had business cards, and a logo that they had done themselves with multi-colored type. It wasn’t so much a brand or identity. We came to the conclusion that prior to developing new materials for the client, it would be best to pin down a succinct identity/brand.
From the start, there were concepts I wanted to try. Although them term cognitive implies its own associated vocabulary (thought, mind, brain, etc), I was drawn to a word inside cognitive: cog. Cognitive Communications, Inc. is a company that helps young individuals and their parents with proper development. This development is brought along with a series of exercises and processes. Cogs are an important piece in mechanical processes, hence the association.
I went about sketching. Admittedly, it didn’t go so well. Using a true representation of a cog was too mechanical, too industrial. It was not a good representation of the client or its business. In fact, it was a bit frightening. I switched gears (pun intended) to sketching more abstract cogs, and even ignored it completely with other associations.
Once there a suitable amount of sketched options that I didn’t hate, I moved over to Illustrator. The first thing I wanted to do was select a typeface. I had an idea of where I wanted to go based on the clients’ type of work. With the typeface, I wanted to achieve a “softer” feel, something more “amiable.” That would eliminate all serif typefaces and any blocky sans-serif typefaces. I wanted rounder, curvier sans-serif typefaces and I probably didn’t want any weights above a medium. It was important to have a typeface selected first as I wanted to use the letterform of the “o” in a few samples as the base of the cog.
I ran down a simple test of ones I knew were more what I was after: Aquiline, Trade Gothic, AG Old Face, Avenir and Geneva. Immediately, Aquiline and Trade Gothic stood apart based on the wonderful letterforms of the lowercase “g.” Only Trade Gothic contained a looped descender while Aquiline had more character with a teardrop shape.
Time to build icons/design elements. Honestly, most of them didn’t go so well. They felt off the mark, especially when wedged in as the letter “o” in cognitive. I then kept them separate as icons. That didn’t really work either. At that point, I left my sketched behind and just started cutting up letterforms. It wasn’t until I removed the ascending “.” of the “i” and used a square piece from the cog in its place that I really felt I was on to something.
In back and white samples, it still didn’t connect, so I decided to add some color. I knew that I was going to apply more colors to this brand than I normally would. The previous client logo was a rainbow (think Google), they worked with children and, in their work, they use something called a “spectrum” which I wanted to achieve with color as a metaphor.
I liked the example better with color, but it still wasn’t perfect. I removed the cog, and used the multi-colored squares in place of the regular “i” forms. Not yet ready. Cutting up the ascender in the lowercase “t” I replaced it with one of the multi colored squares. Having the color spectrum across the middle of cognitive was something I liked, but it had no connection, no association and just seemed to be designed that way “just because.” Never a good reason.
The segmented, multi-colored squares did remind me of something: an assembly line, which, interestingly, connected with the concept of a cog. My next step was simple: grab the rest of the colored squares I had used on the cog, and put them together. The result was -abstractly – a process, from start to finish.
Rue – a street or road (French). Rumination – to meditate or muse; ponder. Rueminations – to dissect, analyze, inspect or appreciate design found on the streets.
I’m hoping that many of you are familiar with The Sartorialist, what might be considered the standard as far as street fashion/photography/journalism is concerned in the blog-age. There are many others, mostly based on location like Japan, Korea or Toronto. There’s even Street Peeper. Rueminations, you could say, is similar. Instead of keeping an eye on fashion, however, I’ll be keeping my eye on signage, billboards, storefronts and the back of cars, looking for great typography, color and overall aesthetically pleasing graphic design. It’s something as a designer I do anyway (I’ve gotten separated from friends many times as I stop to ponder a company logo), it will be a good resource for aspiring designer as well as old, and I feel that companies with good design (and their designers) deserve some love.
First up is a sandwich shop in the Fremont neighborhood, Homegrown. Beyond being a pretty darn good sandwich shop (the Bluffernutter blows my mind), it has a brand and logo combination that easily trumps everything else in the wannabe trendy Fremont neighborhood.
A simple, clean typographic treatment (of which is unmistakably Garamond) with a single artistic mark fashioned out of the letterform of the ‘g’ which makes an easily distinguished rooted vegetable.
The Garamond typeface which is kerned slightly tighter than normal helps give an upscale and rich atmosphere. With the tradition of Garamond, it also speaks to a rich heritage of craftsmanship as if to say this store is handcrafted, artisanal, which it is.
On top of that, the rooted vegetable screams organic, which again, the sandwiches are, and are crafted to appeal to those who shop at places like Trader Joe’s, PCC or Whole Foods and want healthy, homegrown, organic alternatives for their lunch break.
That makes the name itself genius as, instead of trying to hint at what a place is or does, it comes right out and says it: Homegrown.
It’s a bit tough to tell with the signage lit up, but Homegrown also employs a simple two, three color scheme for their brand. Their signage in daylight is simple white on what looks to be maybe a 60-70% black.
The rest of their branded materials – including their website – deploy the logo in a solid black on a background that looks like scanner paper sacks. This speaks to the concept of “unfooled around with.” The logo is simple, presented with simple colors. The logo itself is a work of art, made of simple, uncluttered elements…exactly like the sandwiches in the shop.
I don’t know who designed the logo/identity/brand – I’m still trying to pin that down – but I gotta say, this is absolutely a hit. They should definitely be proud.
(4/8/10) I was recently contacted by the graphic designer behind Homegrown! His name is Dax Borges and the logo was designed and developed by him and the co-owner of Homegrown, Ben Friedman. So, there you go, big props go out to them.
This is what Dax had to say:
My friend and co-owner of Homegrown (Ben Friedman) just sent me the link to your Homegrown signage article… Can’t tell you how much I appreciate the kind words. Ben and I worked long and hard on that logo. I’m the graphic designer but Ben played a major roll in refinement and overall branding. It would only be half what it is without us working together.
Either way your observation of our hard work is awesome and speaks a lot to your own design and brand sense.
Thanks again for the writeup!
Of course, Dax has a website, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t pass the link along:
Original articles from which the images were taken can be found below:
Capture Press aimed to be an internet and print-on-demand publishing platform. They wanted eschew the traditional relationship that writers have with their publishers, which is to say, there isn’t one. When there is, it’s the publisher wanting something from the writer, wanting it now, and without any say in it from the writer. This was different, all the power and 100% of the proceeds from published materials were meant to go to the writers. The website would pay for itself hosting free content to bring in traffic, as well as hosting a strong community for the writers to meet and benefit from each other.
Before any of that could happen, however, the client needed not only a brand/identity, but a concept and a name. That’s where Razterized and I came in. The client was familiar with me as a writer first, and realised that I’d best be able to identify with their needs and execute their goals when it came to design related elements.
The first step was to address the client name.
Naming Capture Press
The client and I had talked at length about the goals of this venture, and the attitude it should carry. It was meant to be revolutionary publishing, “giving the power back to the serfdom” in the writer-publisher relationship. It was meant to be publishing for a new age. The mind immediately ventures toward thoughts of great societal constructs being crippled under a revolution. The fall of any great government. The burning of Rome. There’s a danger in using something like that for a company name, though. It might lead customers to believe it’s a choice based on genre, not mission. The only things we could come up with that were even slightly decent along this path were “Grey Culture Publishing,” “The Fourth Estate” and “The December Press.” Which is to say, I chose a different direction.
The final product needed to sound fresh, new and exciting. Not traditionally used as a company name, but versatile, and describing a forward action of some kind are action verbs. Words like acquire, defer, and improve, etc. They’re also vanilla enough so that they wouldn’t be associated with genre first.
Pouring through several lists of action verbs, as well as any others I could think of, I compiled a list of action verbs I thought would work well.
Afterward, I had the above list of twenty-eight action verbs. To narrow down the selection, I ran through each verb, applying to it any associations I had to see if they fit the tone we were trying to reach. After the litmus test, I had narrowed it down to the ten that I thought as standalones sounded the best.
I was left with launch, attract, inspire, uncover, transform, defend, gather, solve, upgrade and capture. I then asked the client for three terms (nouns) that they wanted their product to encompass that I would then pair with the action verbs. They said, “excitement, imagination and suspense.”
With that information in hand, I went back to pen and paper pairing the verbs with the nouns.
As I moved onto this part of the process, it became quite clear that some of these – while sounding great on their own – didn’t work very well when paired up, and moved too far away from our goals. It was important to make sure that the pairs worked, too, because the verb/noun pairs could easily work as taglines for branded materials.
I had narrowed the initial list of twenty-eight down to five: capture, upgrade, transform, uncover and launch.
Now with the action verbs, I wanted to create concrete company/business names. Simply “Capture” or “Transform” just wouldn’t work so much. I decided to pair each up with a couple industry-standard terms that everyone would understand: press and publishing. I also wanted to pair them with some other non-standard terms like vault, repository, registry, and library.
This worked with mixed results, and on pen and pan I wrote down the lists, then went over them over and over again, making notations about what wasn’t working.
At the end of making all my notations, I’d had a good group of ten workable names, but wanted to narrow it down further for the client presentation. I kept only Capture Press, The Upgrade Repository (my personal favourite), Transform Publishing, The Unlock Registry and Launch Press. Materials and a cleaned up presentation in hand, it was time to visit the client.
Throughout the meeting, two stood out in the client’s mind. Transform Publishing was too much of a commentary on what they were aiming to do, The Unlock Registry just didn’t make enough sense and The Upgrade Repository was too flashy and abstract. They loved both Capture Press and Launch Press. They really didn’t know how to choose between these two. It came down to my opinion. I went back through my notes and scribbles and got back to the original pairing of the action verbs with the three vital nouns.
Capture Excitement! Capture Imagination! Capture Suspense! vs. Launch Excitement! Launch Imagination! Launch Suspense! Side-by-side, to me, Capture was clearly the stronger of the sets. Launch just seemed to be a starting point for each of these descriptive nouns whereas Capture seemed to already have these things, own these thing, taken by force. In this context, Capture seemed much more provocative. The client agreed.
We had our name: Capture Press.
Drafting a Logo
The first thing I want to do when drafting a logo are a series of “cocktail sketches.” I call them these because of the old idea of drawing or writing on cocktail napkins. I have several smaller notebooks that I will use, scribbling logo concepts into. These are often very rough sketches, in various states of completion. They’re just there to get my mind rolling, or the conceptualise what I see in my head. As you can see, they’re pretty crude.
From the instant we had decided upon Capture Press, I had a central theme I wanted to explore: handcuffs. Little says “capture” quite like handcuffs, and the circular shape lent itself perfectly to the letterforms of the client initials, “c” and “p.” A majority of my early sketches reflect an attempt to make that work. Other rough concepts centered around my associations for capture, like escapism, prisons, lassos and Houdini.
Afterward, I’d go back refining these sketches in better detail, picking apart the ones that might work, perfecting the ones that would and discarding the rest.
Then it was time to step into Adobe Illustrator, and get the best concepts dialed down, cleaned up and properly treated with type samples. A smattering of them included:
I still liked the concept of the handcuffs, but it became obvious that trying to force the “p” was not working. Not to mention that there was an associated element of inappropriateness to the handcuff motif. The stand alone “c” above the serif capturepress was effective, but was perhaps too traditionally print-like. I also decided to leave the more circular typefaces at home in favour of gothic typefaces. I quickly settled upon Alternate Gothic No. 2 as the best option. I still liked the joined handcuffs inside the circle above a simple CAPTURE treatment, as well as the simplified concept of the keyhole. I’d also still be willing to tug at the “c” handcuff icon.
I ended up presenting just these two:
The client liked both, but concluded, as I did that handcuffs might not be the correct style of iconography, no matter how cleanly it was presented. They also insisted that the term “press” be brought back into the logo. I showed a few samples of that logo with press beside it, below it, struggling with the balance of weight that adding press took away from the lock-element, finally settling on the approved logo:
I’ll save for another post how we expanded the identity into a full brand across web and printed collateral.