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AXIS visual creates the Word Meeting of Families Logo
If you haven't yet heard of this event, stay tuned, it will be a BIG event for Philadelphia!
See our interview
I sometimes think of designers as giant file cabinets filled with the visual references that they've acquired through their endless observations of everything from other design solutions, marketing and signage, patterns in nature, how a toaster works, and just about every other possible thing we see and experience. We then utilize that information when creating a new graphic solution by thinking if there is any appropriate connection (visually or conceptually) between any elements of that information and the specific client need.
The visual translation of that initial inspiration into a design solution is the creative process that not only allows for, but also demands the personal aesthetic of the individual designer. This is where experience and a history of studying design separates the skilled professionals from the "designer" who merely has learned a graphic software program. It also separates successful and effective graphic solutions from the all to frequent mediocre, or even damaging brand development.
But the purpose of this writing is to discuss the logo development of the World Meeting Of Families (WMOF) logo. So let me jump into that.
I received a phone call on a Friday back in late October. It was from Brian Communications. They had been referred to me by another client of mine. They described this Catholic event, that it was to be held in Philadelphia, that they were offering a small stipend to four firms for the initial submissions, and to add a little more challenge to the process, all submissions needed to be sent to them by the following Monday.
I normally try not to engage in "spec work" where a company asks a number of firms to submit work, paying the firm that "wins.' However, in this case the stipend justified the initial work and Brian Communications proved to be a quality organization to work with. The potential exposure would also be pretty large for a project like this. Of course, there is also a personal enjoyment to working on something where the purpose is to have a positive effect on human culture.
As a designer, one of the most enjoyable aspects of my work is being able to think visually for different clients and business areas. Each and every client has (and should have) a different visual approach that is correct for them. I had not previously worked for the Catholic Church, so this was an opportunity to think differently. It's almost like getting to exercise muscles that are not frequently used, or like exploring a different medium as an artist.
When I write about the design process I think that at times it comes off as a simple formula, a right or wrong issue, a mathematical equation. Although I do see many areas of the process that have well grounded reasoning, it is also critical to touch the emotions of an audience through creative expression. This combination is what makes effective design.
So after clearing the decks for the weekend and moving any obligations to other points on the calendar, I was able to get some uninterrupted time to create and think. It is one of the challenges of the design industry: some projects require time to think through a project, time to explore an idea and let it evolve. There needs to be uninterrupted time to play with thoughts and concepts. A weekday of phone calls and emails can at times obstruct the creative flow. So the short time frame for the WMOF logo added some stress but it forced me to carve out the only available time.
I explored various ideas referencing images like cathedral rose windows, family unit images, globes, typographic solutions, I guess all the "usual suspects" for an assignment like this. One of the client's requests was to explore some imagery relating to Philadelphia like the Liberty Bell or a pretzel for example. Having been raised in the Philadelphia area, I have seen so many Philadelphia, cliché images that I was a little hesitant to go that direction in a logo. On the other hand, it's important at times for a designer to step outside their own biases. A comfortable chair, a pad and at times headphones with various styles of music work well in this early stage of brand development. I usually like to sketch very loose ideas of different possible approaches. It's almost like visual shorthand and is used to generate a wide variety of options. After about 8-10 pages, or maybe 40 -50 different "scribbles" I usually go through them and mark roughly 8-10 that I want to explore further. This next step involves some sort of transition from a rough idea to a tighter version on a computer. This too is a process of trying different options, working through a number of thoughts and lastly editing them down to a select group of options that I feel deliver the correct image for the client. In this case I think there were 6 or 7 in the final presentation to Brian Communications.
People who don't know the process for logo development, or may not understand what a quality logo can do for their business sometimes look at the final product and say "It is so simple. Why does it cost that much?"... Assuming that the path between the project assignment and the end result is a straight line. Like a good movie, there is time and effort put into what essentially ends up on the cutting room floor, the many travels down paths that lead nowhere, or at least to a less than optimal destination. It is this exploration that generates more options and in the end, a better product. But for the record, we work hard at being economical for our clients.
Presentation meetings are less common these days so there is always a level of anxiety when I send initial design options to a new client. It was a little less of an issue in the past when a presentation always required a face to face meeting where one could talk through the pros and cons or manage any misinterpretations before they became firmly rooted in a client's thinking. This project was no different. The presentation of the logo options with sample uses in stationery, a brochure cover and other applications went to Brian Communications mid afternoon that Monday.
It was a day or so before I heard back. I would have loved to have heard back in a few minutes if the response had been something like "These are great! We're not going to look any further for any other logos." But I do know the process and the time it takes to gather a group together and look through any number of different ideas. In addition, a client may be dealing with any number of other issues at the time. The response Tuesday was that they liked them all but had a few minor requests on one before they showed them to the client, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
If you are still reading this, thank you. I know this is long for a newsletter but I wanted to get into a little more depth than I normally do.
When a client is clear with requests and they talk in terms of what they are trying to achieve, or why a certain element or area bothers them it is simply part of my business to use my skills to solve their concerns. Brian Communications was a pleasure to work with so by Wednesday they had the revised logo files that went to the Archdiocese and the next step of the approval process.
The next couple months were an exercise in patience. Somewhere in there I heard that one of my logos was in the "final three." I believe that soon after, either a final logo was chosen and sent to the Vatican for a review by the Pontifical Council for the Family and The Holy See, or that three final logos were sent for this review. I have to say that it is quite an interesting feeling to know that work that I created was being seen by Vatican leadership and possibly even The Pope.
In January I received the news that one of the logos I developed was the final "approved" logo and that the legal paperwork transferring the rights of the logo to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia would be coming through shortly. It really was exciting. Like any profession, to be acknowledged for good work is a wonderful feeling. This held the added quality of representing a huge event where an expected half to three quarters of a million people from around the globe (and possibly the Pope himself) will come to my hometown.
The next piece of news came when watching CNN one morning. The Pope was stepping down for the first time in many... centuries. Now, I don't mean to draw too close of an analogy between the Pope and a company CEO or President but when someone at the upper most level of almost any organization steps down the results can ripple through any existing plans or decisions. And there aren't... well... ANY levels higher than the Pope in this organization. But in a week or two all the legal forms were signed and the official public announcement was made that this event WAS to take place in Philadelphia in September 2015. The official announcement also meant that I could openly discuss my work on this logo. It is pretty common that when creating new branding for a large-scale business or event there will be a time when they want to "launch" their new entity to the public. If done well, this involves almost all forms of media and any number of other tactics.
A logo is often the "front door" where the public first enters a company, product, or in this case an event. It's the first impression that someone has and it begins to create an expectation about what they will experience. People will often see different things in a logo. They sometimes will see and discover more as they look at a logo over time. There are literal elements in this logo of a Liberty Bell and the suggestion of a family. The secondary image of additional people or additionally family images in the background imply the many people that build the strength of this event. A cross as part of the Bell structure is a nod to the Catholic foundation of this event. In the "almost final" version I included two children and two adults as the family unit. While I was concerned about the effect of adding the infant to the pure aesthetic balance and while it took numerous different designs to make it work, I understand the request of the client. As a designer, the issue of the "Domino Effect," where one change affects the relationship between other elements, was forefront in my mind. Yet, I found a way to make it work and while not my original vision, I still believe it works well, infant and all.
There is always pride in doing effective work for my clients. I love creating communications that inspire either a company, an owner or a target market. This was no different in that sense. However, I can say that the client and the size of the event added a little wider smile to my face.
From here I don't yet know if I will be involved in the brand development. I don't know if I will be asked to design various elements and materials for this event. I do know that I would enjoy involvement in this and like with any business, a consistent approach to the design of all the materials will improve the overall public impression. But whether I am involved in future work for the World Meeting of Families 2015 Philadelphia event or not, I am thankful to Brian Communications and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and I'm happy to have been able to develop the core brand logo for this historic event.
Problem Solver No. 1
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If we can help with your design and marketing needs feel free to contact us.