Kid’s-eye view of brands

What a lovely idea. Show a 5-year-old a series of logos and see what she thinks about them. Ohio-based designer Adam Ladd video’d his daughter as she gave her impressions of the brand identities we see around us every day. Amazing what creeps into our brains as children.

You can bemoan the level of brand saturation we all live under. Or you can accept it, enjoy it and maybe even use it. One man’s overwhelm is another man’s choice. But no matter how you slice it, we humans are smart about patterns and very good at first impressions. We had to be in order to survive in a prehistoric world where we could instantly become food to dumber but more powerful beasts. (Oooh, maybe corporations aren’t people! They’re….)

So it’s no wonder a kindergartner can so quickly grasp the essence of a symbol, and associate it with something she’s experienced. Want to hear what she has to say? Check out this video.

Bands really should play in unison

The music program at Santa Monica High School (known affectionately as Samohi) is legendary. Last year, their Jazz Band swept the national high school competition at Berklee School of Music in Boston, blowing away some 300 other schools. Listening to them play is astonishing. All the various bands — jazz, marching and concert — are near-professional quality, and performances are always a treat.

Robb Brown, who tirelessly volunteers in support of the program, and whose son Eli is a stellar trumpet player, asked me to create a system of logos that would unify all three bands under the aegis of their parent program, yet still give each its own unique identity. The new visuals had to work on t-shirts and signs, as well as print materials and websites.

Here are the four new logos, each with its own sensibility, yet with elements — shapes and, especially, the school’s own blue and gold color scheme — that pull them together under one umbrella.

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Blumark brand identity launched

Blumark logoDynamic. Different. Distinctive. The new Detroit-based financial advisory group wanted to be perceived as anything but traditional. So they chose a name that would set them apart: Blumark. And they picked a marketing and public relations strategist who could help them find their voice: Sablan Communications. And Constance Sablan introduced them to FreeAssociates.

Our goal was to embody the youth, energy and vitality of the new start-up, but to temper it with a little warmth and and a lot of professionalism. In their words, “Traditional values. Innovative financial solutions.”

The crisp, clean typography says “We know what we’re doing.” The handmade brushstroke — the circular “mark” — speaks to the personal, human relationships that the partners forge with their clientele. And the single blue letter provides both focus and hook, letting the marketing team talk about how “U” are at the center of everything Blumark does.

Simple, bold and memorable, the new Blumark logo should drive the the Motor City firm’s branding efforts forward in high gear.

Negativity: not always a bad thing

Logo for The Arthritis Center at Encino Hospital

We designed this logo for The Arthritis Center at Encino Hospital. Negative space defines the afflicted hand, while positive space creates the healthy one.

I recently discovered a nice post on Irish designer David Airey’s blog, Logo Design Love. It’s a collection of 35 logos that make effective use of negative space.

For you non-designers, negative space is the “empty” space within a design. It can create its own shape and therefore can carry a secondary meaning, add interest and sometimes sneak in a subliminal message that makes all the difference in the effectiveness of a logo.

You know how, when someone says “Don’t think of an elephant,” you immediately think of an elephant? It’s a bit like that. The FedEx logo is a wonderful example. At first, most people don’t notice the right-facing arrow formed by the negative space between the “E” and the “x”. But once you see it, you can’t not see it. And it fuses the logo into your brain. (Interestingly, when it was presented to top management, CEO Fred Smith was the only person in the group to spot the arrow immediately.)

That kind of visual interest adds resonance, which is something we strive for in our own brand identity designs.