20 January 2012

Logo study: Texas Academy of Science (rejected version)

Last year, the Texas Academy of Science announced they were interested in a new logo. I could see why when you looked at their previous logo. It looks a bit complicated and a bit dated to me.

I submitted one, which was not selected, but I wanted to show it off anyway.

The original announcing the competition suggested that people might want to consider incorporating the “pillars” of teaching, research, and service in the logo. It also recommended that simple designs were often effective.

As a general state society, you’re sort of limited in what you can do, because you need something that conveys the geographic location. Fortunately, Texas has an advantage there. Its border cuts a distinctive shape. It’s the Lone Star state. It’s virtually synonymous with the old west.

Normally, I don’t sketch much on paper when designing, but this an exception. I decided to make the state outline the point of the design.

I toyed a lot with trying to work the curves of the southern border into something like a molecule, or something else related to science. In the top sketch, you can see I tried to play with the idea of bringing in math by putting in some right angle symbols. Along the southern border, you can see some dots that I think were meant as half a DNA molecule.

One idea that was too high concept, but that I played with for a long time before abandoning, was to work in the shape of an orbiting spacecraft, in reference to Texas’s important role in the great NASA missions.

You can see in the lower sketches the other idea that I pursued, though, which was to work the shape of the “T” into the state border. My original plans were to use a typeface that was a more traditional “Old West” slab serif, but they didn’t fit the shape as I wanted.

I wanted something that was a simplified version of the Texas map, rather than realistic one that showed every little jag. I wanted lines of varying thickness for a bit of visual interest, and ended up with brush strokes, which I made by traced over a state map in CorelDRAW.

Since I had the brush strokes for the map set, I played with my options for the text. I set the letters in place, then scrolled through almost every text font I had installed on my computer looking for a good fit to the space. And I found one that was not what I had in mind, but was a better fit than what I had in mind.

I loved how the center lines in the letter forms lined up with the strokes I had made for the state borders. The horizontal bar in the “A” also was pretty much bang on the northern border, strengthening the closure of the brush strokes.

I also liked this design because it would hold up well at any size, from a small black and white logo on a letterhead, to a big colourful conference banner. I liked the state colours in the logo (right).

I’m very proud of this design. The only thing that I do see as a problem is that it doesn’t contain any elements that say, ”science.” But many logos have no connection to the thing they represent, so I didn’t worry to much. How does the Nike swoosh say “shoes,” or the Pepsi ball say “cola”?

Apparently, the logo contest was crowdsourced to 99 Designs (see the designs here). I missed the announcement, which I guess was made after my submission. This is the society’s new logo.

The society website comes with this explanation:

The three colored sections represent the focal areas of the Academy: Research, Education & Service. The color green represents our early foundations in the biological sciences and our attention to research impacting the environments of Texas. The color yellow serves to encourage wisdom, enlightenment and mental stimulation. The color grey indicates our long-standing history as an institution and the stability of our practical approach to mentorship and training of the next generation of Texas scientists.

To me, explaining a logo is like explaining a joke. If you have to do it, you’re missing the point of the exercise. You should just get it.

I also worry a bit about how well this will reproduce at small sizes, and in black and white. I do think it is an significantly more contemporary looking logo over the old one. I like that the designer spelled out the society’s name, which I think I toyed with for mine, but abandoned, because I went for simplicity.

Logo love external links

Todd Klein’s logo studies
Tony Jay’s blog


neuromusic said...

this is why logos should never be crowdsourced... the final design (requiring a complex color palette) is f'ugly.

I would have voted for yours, zen.

Jeff Alexander said...

Ah, yes. The canonical three-orbit atom. Just like...which element is that again?