I’ve sunk my teeth into the process of finding a brand for something as abstract and non-commercial as a home. I’ve come to many conclusions, most of which were graphic solutions that were the results of a surprising amount of sketching. It’s fascinating to me how drawing through the concepts is actually helping me comprehend and distill the essence of a project. I’ve been sketching for years, but it still surprises me. I often talk through, or write out thoughts that can reach conclusions, but this time I found my way through the pencil.
Currently I have several sketches that I believe are really focusing on the spirit of the home. It’s much more than a home, as the clients, Dotty and Mountain Man, have spattered in their descriptions. At least, it MEANS more than just as home to them. The spirit of which is really what we’re about, but there are many other things to consider when delivering a graphic that represents this place. And “place” is a good foundation word; that’s essentially what we’re branding, and so the visual should communicate that in some capacity first. Second, all of the words the clients espoused for us that evoke their feelings for this place have begun to share the traits of unity, comfort and nature. I began the project attempting to find a representation without the need to lean on exterior or prefabricated tools (like typography, or color, or dimension), but to rather simply translate these qualities directly into graphics. And I don’t mean to say that typography is a crutch, on the contrary. I suppose I wanted to develop what I could before bringing in other agents. I wanted to try to capture this “unity” first, and then mix in the vibrance of typography or color or another convention, if I needed it.\
I had mentioned that the family’s name begins with the letter O, and though nothing regarding that was given to me in the creative brief, I began to believe that at the end of the day, I can draw rivers and forests and houses all I want, but without a premise that this is place is THEIR river, THEIR house, then what good would having a unique mark be? The letter O is already loaded with the device of “unity” and “cycle.” Much of my sketches were trailing off because I believed I was incorporating this element in the background, but upon stepping back I realized you have to mold the letter to have it interpreted as a letter. That is, I was just drawing a circle, not an O. I suppose I was inspired by the circular framework of the Japanese kamon, as well as my penchant for simple shapes and symmetry. Anyway, a more stylized O wasn’t working, or at the very least, wasn’t providing me with anything more than simply a letterform. It needed to do more for me, there needed to be meaning in the shape beyond it being an O.
Here was my second struggling point: Something as asymmetric or meandering as a river, something as chaotic or organic as a copse of trees, as peaceful as that is in reality, wasn’t convincing me it would align well in a graphic that was also forming this ring, this symmetric composition. There was even discussion with the clients about how stylized the shapes are, and how that would take some getting used to. It’s my perspective that the closer to realism this symbol gets to trees, rivers, homes, etc, the further we get from it symbolizing more than simply what it depicts. Just like the Timberland example of how that company had to put their money on this one tree, I was reminded of the Pacific Life Insurance logo. It’s a whale. Insurance and whales don’t usually get associated and so I thought about how this insurance company wanted to be remembered, distinctive, and how a logo doesn’t necessarily need to represent the product that the company produces. The whale represents freedom and confidence and zeal. It represents LIFE, which is what Pacific Life Insurance seeks to protect (at least, on the surface). They put all their chips down on that leaping whale, and for them, it works.
This home, however, is more simple. It is less about a “spirit animal” or a totem. As I continue to take this journey through drawing, I’m finding that the reduction of form is allowing for an ease of acceptance. It’s also allowing for interpretations from many angles. By that I mean, this is a family and a home, not an Insurance conglomerate. It deserves something comforting and easy and communicative. I appreciate it as a one-color line-based symbol. Once I got over the hurdle of understanding how the O could mean more than a letter, more than a circle and even more than a carriage for other design elements, I decided that made less sense to backtrack into a representation of realistic trees, or flowing water or pitched roofs. The closer it gets to appearing like realistic trees and rivers, the less need there would be to have a brand for a home…in a place with trees and rivers.
The circular frame I was working with before kept reminding me of a merit badge. At first I was attracted to this idea; merit badges, for me, mean camping and resourcefulness and values. However, over time, and with the incorporation of the O in a more integrated manner, the illustrative quality was retained without miscommunicating the real spirit behind the mark, which is soul of the family and their home. Furthermore, with the O framework, the central negative space of the O can be used as a tool, so no space is left unused. I’ve convinced myself in this following design, that the negative space of the O (the “hole”) is actually a space that resides between the concentric circles below which represent flowing water, and the diagonals above which represent a canopy of trees. The lines above and the lines below, however, can represent so much more as well since they are still so stylized. I gain a feeling of comfort, cradling, nesting and movement from the concentric half-circles below. I gain a feeling of architecture, building, support, strength and shelter from the diagonals above. WIth the overall core of the symbol in this rotund ring, it has the capital value of wholeness and completeness as well.
This is the symbol and sketch I’ll be refining here on out, and will look to the clients for a response, hopefully before a finalization come next week. I feel I’ve finally found a medium ground and a design that meets many of the needs and goals for the project. Let’s see what you think.