Anatomy of a logo design

Several years ago my friend, and long-time client, Anne Kilkenny contracted me to design a logo for a grass roots community effort to oppose the inclusion of a "big box" hardware store in a new development proposed for construction on the east side of Portland's Willamette River. The site, at the end of the Burnside Bridge, was within a few blocks of numerous owner-operated smaller home improvement stores. Residential neighborhoods were nearby. The construction of a large retail store could have a tremendous negative impact on local business, the quality of life for neighbors and traffic.

I had worked with this client for years - including designing the award-winning identity for the nearly 100-year-old W.C. Winks Hardware store and the logo for her Heart of the Pearl retail development in the city's Pearl District. Kilkenny didn't need to provide much initial input on the project. It's just the way we've worked together over the years. I'd read the newspaper reports of the community issue and was familiar with the area in question. She gave me the rather clever acronym for the organization and set me to work. My one directive was to create something "that might look cool on a T-shirt."

I did a couple doodles on a piece a paper and then went directly to my PowerBook to fine-tune my one and only concept for the logo (above). Recently a friend was looking at the design and said "that's a design that would look really cool on a T-shirt, but what is it?" I gave a brief explanation of the concept behind the design and then my friend commented that it was "a really cool design."

In dissecting the design (above), I explained that the squiggly blue line (A.) represented the east bank of the Willamette River and one boundary of the area being impacted. The color blue was another representation of the water. Within the logo there are four abstract human forms (B.) representing the local community activists, the small business owners, other concerned citizens, and the public officials siding with the group. Together these four human forms created a circle (C.) signifying the unity of the various groups on this emotional community issue. Together the elements also created squares (D.) representative of Portland's grid system of small commercial and residential blocks in the area. I used upper and lower case letterforms on the AFriend element (E.), an acronym for Association for Responsible Inner Eastside Neighborhood Development, to make it seem friendlier and a little more neighborly for the group going up against the big corporations (and their lawyers) and city planners in dealing with the issue. A little last minute treatment was coloring the dot over the "i" blue to symbolically remind those involved that a single drop of water in a bucket can make a difference in the end result.

I don't know if my "cool" design had much of an impact on the outcome, but the developers of the project did end up going back to the drawing board to remove the "big box" retailers from their architectural plans.

The AFriend logo appears in The Big Book of Logos 5 and 100s Visual Logos & Letterheads (UK).

© 2010 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

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