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Creating a dynamic brand for a dynamic art scene

Free thinking Design have just been putting the final touches to Idea1, an exciting new online events portal and community


Free thinking Design have just been putting the final touches to Idea1, an exciting new online events portal and community blogging platform for Peterborough’s exploding arts scene. Due for release in September, to coincide with the genuinely awesome looking Peterborough Festival, we hope this site will become the go-to place for all of you who are interested in what’s going on in the city. Seriously, check it out when it goes live:

In advance of taking a deep breath, holding back tears and releasing it to the big scary world, I thought I’d write a little about how I created the new brand and why I enjoyed the job so much.

If you’re at all interested in logo design, brand development or the local arts scene, please read on.

The client, Metal, provide space and opportunities to local artists in Southend, Liverpool and now Peterborough. They exist to help artists of all disciplines network, learn, evolve and exhibit and I had heard on the grapevine that they were hoping to develop a website for local arts events. I made it clear that Free thinking Design were right for the job. After an initial consultation with Metal’s MD Colette Bailey we were well on the way to defining the website, based loosely on Southend’s existing Idea13 portal and a series of dinners provided for local artists by Metal. All the ideas from the local artistic community were taken into consideration and used to finely tune the website’s structure and functionality. We’ll talk about the website later on, once it’s live.

First we needed to come up with a brand.

Brand new idea

With the website largely defined, the first thing we had to focus on was the all important Idea1 logo and associated brand elements. This proved to be a really interesting project in itself, and not for the reasons I had expected. Below you can see my initial logo concepts.

These were the results of a day or two of research and sketching and a further day of building in illustrator/Photoshop. With such a broad offering and large target market to consider I felt I’d attempt to create a brand mark that played on the name itself. I also thought about existing Council funded projects and arts organisations. In retrospect, what I was doing was answering a corporate brief, without really stepping back and looking at the bigger picture.

With a little trepidation, I sent this collection of initial concepts to Collette at Metal to start the conversation. I was right to feel a little unsure of the concepts. Colette, to all intents and purposes, was left feeling unimpressed and promptly organised a meeting to discuss where to go next.

How to get the best out of your designer

In a nutshell, Colette’s feedback boiled down to, “sorry, this isn’t working”, and I wasn’t surprised. Fortunately, what might have felt like a knock back, and a delay for the project, promptly turned into one of the most positive client meetings of my career. Colette could tell I hadn’t allowed myself enough freedom with these ideas and simply said “Start again, but do whatever you want.” Music to any designer’s ears.

As graphic designers we quickly grow used to the idea that, despite being driven by creative urges, we’re not artists. At best, what we offer is an elegant solution to someone else’s problem. If we are genuinely given the freedom to flex those creative muscles for a project, then we cherish that moment.

I simply hadn’t recognised this project as a real opportunity to be unabashedly creative. What Colette did, having worked closely with artists at Metal for over 10 years, was let me free to be creative. I shunned and rejected the above logo concepts and grabbed a clean sheet of paper.

Incidentally, if you’re commissioning a designer, of any kind, to create something for you, step back and let them do their thing, with as little intervention as possible. You won’t regret it.

Oooh, Dynamic!

As much as all designers love a blank slate, it can also be pretty daunting. However I knew one thing for sure, and that was that I wanted to take this opportunity to have a go at creating a dynamic brand. A dynamic brand goes against one of the most well known corner stones of traditional logo design; that a logo should never change. Dynamic brands can change, move, evolve over time and lend themselves brilliantly to the digital world. Good examples of identities that use dynamic branding to good effect include, Google, Nickelodeon and MTV.

Knowing that I was creating a brand for a multi-disciplinary, ever-growing art scene, it was a no-brainer really. It could be ages before another opportunity like this arose.

Why a Polygon?

The problem with Peterborough’s arts scene at present isn’t that there’s a lack of talent or energy, on the contrary there’s lots of exciting stuff happening, and up until recently with little support, the problem lies in that all those passionate individuals and groups are disparate, dissociated and even unaware of each other. Part of Idea1’s mission is to pull everyone together, across disciplines, by creating a much needed resource that not only spans those disciplines but can evolve to encompass new ones, so I started thinking about representing a network of individuals and organisations making up a cohesive whole. This could be represented by points in space, being linked, like a network of wires.

This idea of representing a strong network is how the Idea1 polygon logo mark was born. The floating points in space are linked to form a strong and cohesive whole, which despite being a solid shape, shows flexibility and dynamism. The 3-dimensional shape itself won’t change and nor will the typography. However the colour; transparency, finish, relative position and angle of the shape will remain in flux. Changing to suit the occasion to represent a diverse and dynamic arts scene. The Idea1 homepage will, for instance, load one of the following three logos randomly. As you surf around the site, reading blog posts and learning about events, the logo transforms and changes it’s skin. More interesting examples of the brand’s flexibility (orbs in the sky and parallax scrolling no less) will be seen once we finish creating other marketing material, but in the meantime there are some examples below.

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