Sunday, June 16, 2013

Logo: Camp YES!

      I recently had the good fortune and opportunity to work up a design for use as a logo of a local youth camp for autistic kids & parents. Over a meeting with the client I took notes on both the backstory and the ultimate envisioned future for the endeavor, so as to incorporate as many of the aspects as possible. It will be an activity-oriented camp, heavily focused on movement-based therapeutic recreations with an additional emphasis on nature, so events such as dog training, gardening, yoga, skateboarding, art, music, cooking etc. will take place all under the guidance of trained staff and volunteers.

     The initial parameters included an element of all the above, or of the common vein that runs throughout such activities, so invoking high energy, promote a positive feeling was in order. Also keeping in mind it has to be clean, simple, and easily reproduced for usage across a broad spectrum of products and platforms (ex: print, web, garments, letterhead, signage etc.).
     Many if not most of my more successful logos contain contrasting elements of a unique, organic and hand-drawn element set against a tighter, more formal aesthetic, say like a computer-set font. Any such selected font would have to be lower-case to fits with kid, and/or a cartoony/blocky font, or a cursive/handwritten font to represent spontaneity + motion + exuberance. But the text should have to be somewhat understated so as to not overwhelm the graphic and maintain a balanced overall composition.

     This version (above) evolved from a series of experiments that pivoted off abstraction of the letter "y." Refining it further I just focused on the symbol itself. This one was so good I seriously doubted it hadn't been used before by somebody, indeed that usually precludes the paranoia that it had been planted in my subconscious long ago after seeing it somewhere else. So an exhaustive Google image search later, it made the cut. Speaking of which this post only shows a fraction of the intermediate steps that went into the many, many steps and dead-ends one invariably winds up wandering around. Nobody (excepting my students) ever gets to see the impressive gerbil-pile of leftover roughs and thumbnails, least of all the client, whom you don't want to confusticate with too many choices. One criticism this version got was that it was in fact too clean, too slick and polished - almost corporatist in character, which is at distinct odds with the folks involved in the project. That, and once you see the boob, it never really goes away.

     Now this variation on the theme happened at the last minute, which more often than not happens shortly after the long, convoluted process of thinking about, working up and finalizing a concept and design is over. This has happened more than a few times with some other logos in my experience: after finally arriving at a couplefew different takes, a another one will emerge from the mental compost-heap as an afterthought, an idle doodle aside, which in the end turns out to be the best one of all. Lends credence to the theory of letting the entire process incubate for a time, ferment, or stew in its own creative juices as it were - this unfortunately shares a common boundary with the other extreme, which is the dreaded "paralysis through analysis" otherwise known as flogging a dead horse moose, lashed with a wet noodle no less. At the very least "sleeping on it" seems to a crucial component in design... even for such a quick drawer I'm a slow thinker.
     The gesture of the leaping figure really got across the message of positive energ, whose shadow doubled as underscored emphasis on the work "yes," with the font ("Dakota " - "Dakota Handwriting" on Mac OS, or elsewhere as Fulton's Hand Regular) meshing up perfectly with a casual, but balanced overall visual flavor.

     All that being said, this - the second in the series - was the winning selection, once again bringing home the point (and comparative distinction against "fine art") that now it isn't mine anymore, it's the client's call. Another interesting factor is that during the design process it's not far from my thinking that the logo also isn't really for the client either, or even the kids - it has to primarily appeal to the parents of said children (or at least in some way appeal to all of the above - sometimes including the artist - which is a monumental challenge, often leading to the dreaded "art by committee" wherein trying to please everybody means nobody is ever happy). So it has to contain at least some element of professionalism, as a logo represents the company and will to some degree reflect and promote the inherent character of the company (ex: does it look halfassed, serious, boring, creative, safe, fun etc.). It was a deliberate choice to not clean it up overmuch, retain just a hint of roughness and preserve the impression it was done by a human being. And it's exuberance definitely imparts a message of fun.
Even while a good design has to carry through when rendered in black and white, a strong logo will only improve with color - and one exciting idea already underway for the tshirts is to have the kids actually physically imprint them using their own hands... quite literally a hands-on activity!

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