Onto some drawings for this Oregon house logo. They’ve been developing for a while now, and although my time was scratched thin for a bit, I’m back in the armchair pondering the expansive world of non-commercial graphic design as well as back at the desk chipping away at an appropriate representation and system for such an abstract thing as a home (yes, I’ve gone from “house” to “home”). First, as I often do, I attempted allowing related words to flow and conjure sensible parallels between the client’s impression and their objective. Friends and family, river and forest is what they delivered, but essentially those subjects are wide and exclusive. The words happiness, beauty and peacefulness lead me on a bird walk exploring the culture of the Japanese, in their fine appreciation for such virtues, and how they represent their families through emblems called Kamon. I began to wonder about incorporating some fundamental qualities of our specific family, like how their last name begins with an O, or that the house is built in an American Craftsman style, or their heritage, or their affinity for games and sailing.
There always seem to be an incredible amount of aspects to be incorporated in a logo. It’s the burden of a single mark. It seems it has to do a, b and c, but also q, r and s, and often clients will throw in curve balls like “x, y and z would also make us happy.” This isn’t a remark about the pressure for this project, it’s an observation that asks, or practically requires us to use symbolism as a foundation for identity. If you put together the aspects for this house in Oregon, you might end up with something like a tree; it’s peaceful, it reflects an environment of forestry, but it also represents shelter and the many branches of family and friends. But, where’s the river? Isn’t it a river house? Well, yes, but a river doesn’t exactly resound in symbolism like a tree does. I once developed a tree logo for a financial support program for families, and after a solid feeling that I’d hit the idea on the head the client reported back that the imagery made them think of the notion that money grows on trees, and that was the opposite of what they were looking for. In the end I wasn’t terribly let down, for the same reason I’m avoiding a single tree logo for this project, because the tree is a bit hackneyed and the only way to really make it work is to design such a logo with a solid style. With a tree logo, you’d want to put all your chips down on that tree—it represents everything for you.
Through my exploration I kept coming back to Timberland, for instance, whose logo is so concise and beautiful, but I can imagine was an aggravating process for the design team that produced it (sorry, I can’t find any information on the designer or team). Here you can see what I mean: this is a footwear company that has a drawing of a tree and the path underfoot. The tree connects to the name, clearly, as a “forested land,” but it has it all: the strength of the silhouette, the peace of hiking, the waft of the outdoors you get…just by looking at their tree. And it’s a specific tree, look at the erratic branches, the asymmetry of it. Imagine being the design team convincing the shareholders to just put their trust in one tree, that one tree says it all. “But aren’t we more about the trail than the tree?” asks the shareholder, “We make shoes, not axes, after all.”
Okay, maybe I imagine design pitch meetings a little too much, but I hope you see the point. Regarding my own logo for this house in Oregon, I may have a different direction. River and forest, while also saying family and friends and beauty and peacefulness. Take a look at some of the sketches. The ideas range from abstract notions of flow and shelter to a feeling of being surrounded in a darkened old growth forest. I later moved on to more pictographic notions, literally depicting the house, the river and the forest in something more akin to a stained glass design that could be easily recognizable or even reproducible. Another notion was leaning on the symbolism of a knot, like a figure-eight knot or square-knot or something of the sort, in a stylized, celtic or even integrated method. The knot might be the unifying symbol that represents the bond of family and friends and the outdoors.
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One last note about how the logo is developing. I’m finding that as a symbol, this graphic isn’t so much a logo, or even an emblem, so much as it is a marking. Very subtle differences undoubtedly, but the word marking, to me, implies that one can reproduce the mark. Like, with a pencil. And easily. This goes back to the trail marks that inspired me at the beginning of the project. These marks signified the path of a trail, but they might also have been used in forests to denote territories or owned land. One of the aspects of a marking that is palatable is that they can be illustrative, simple to recreate and simple to explain—you can see what it means. This method developed the framework direction, where it is more inclusive of the aspects of the house: the river, the trees, the shelter, the nest of it, the solace of it. It’s something you can point at as representational, and less abstract. This direction you could draw it in 12 lines or so—something that might make it exceptionally attractive as a facility for a family, recreating, remembering and embodying it.
These are the current directions for this very strange project, I intend to take them further to really finish a piece that speaks to the home for which it is being designed. Let’s hope there’s a good response.