National Leadership Conference. Also, known as NLC.
NLC is the event that happens every summer where district officers, counselors, and governors come together along with national leadership to discuss how to better serve Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma as well as college and university bands. It is a very important event for the Fraternity and Sorority. So, as with every other event hosted by the organizations, it needed a logo. As the National Publications Manager & Multimedia Designer (my title is boss), it fell on me to provide such.
Obviously, the first thought that came to mind was how to represent leadership. Leadership describes the participants as well as speaks to the goal of the event itself. When I thought leadership, my mind went to podium (or lectern). Often during meetings and conventions, presiding officers speak from behind one. In Adobe Illustrator, I tried a few options for the illustration of a lectern.
Once I had the base I wanted, I thought about what else I could put on it. I could have tried to put both the Fraternity and the Sorority crests on the design. However, I wanted to do something that fit more seamlessly with the design. The star in the center of the lectern represents Kappa Kappa Psi. Much of the Kappa Kappa Psi brand uses the star. The director baton represents Tau Beta Sigma. Also, if you turn the entire logo clockwise 90 degrees, you can see the bottom of the lectern is a musical staff. I love fitting in subtle references to organizations in my designs at work.
To complete the design, I used the font Trajan to write the names of the organizations, “NLC”, and National Leadership Conference around the logo. The NLC is most prominent because that’s the most commonly used name for the event. I’m a fan of Trajan because it gives off a level of official sophistication that I like. I adjusted the kerning above and below so that the additional text would cover a good amount of the length.
Overall, the logo looks really nice.
Hopefully, I’ve created something that will stand the test of time.
Welcome to the first official installment of a new series entitled “I Didn’t Design It But I Like It”. In this series, I want to highlight the design work of others that I enjoy. I am a big advocate for giving flowers while people can still smell them. I believe loving design means loving designers. Seeing great work acts as not only inspiration but motivation. We should all share our appreciation for and to those who inspire us.
In this first official installment, I’d like to salute Torch Creative and their work on the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) logo. My first time seeing the logo was when it was brought into the office by my friend and co-worker TJ, a graduate of UNO. It actually took closer inspection to realize that the O itself was designed to include the U and the N. This increased my fondness of the logo as I am a huge fan of clean and clever logos. TJ also showed off the UNO Maverick logo which I was also a fan of. The entire athletics brand of UNO gets two thumbs up from me.
When TJ took my friend William and myself up to Omaha on a road trip, he gave us a tour of the university. On this tour, we were able to see the beautiful on-campus applications of the logo. We attended a UNO hockey game, my first ever hockey game, which was played in Baxter Arena in Omaha. On the outside of the arena, you could see that mighty fine O shining brightly in the night. Inside, the store had the logo (and other brand elements) on all kinds of different apparel and other items. It’s one thing to see a logo on the internet. It’s a completely different and much more rewarding feeling to see how it is being applied on site in its natural habitat.
I actually didn’t find out that Torch Creative did this logo I was crushing on so hard until later. Torch Creative is a design studio based in Dallas, Texas that I have been following on Twitter for a while now. On June 19, they posted a tweet that stopped me in my tracks. So, I went to their website and discovered that I had somehow missed, in their portfolio, a project entitled “University of Nebraska Omaha Rebrand”.
The work of Torch Creative is a source of great inspiration. They done work for so many big time brands, events, and schools. A lot of their work lives in that beautiful cross section of design and sports. Even their sketches are absolutely phenomenal. Salute to Torch Creative!
Let people know you like their stuff. When you see design work (or any good work) you enjoy on social media, don’t just like but leave a positive comment. Let the people know that they are creating and sharing something that positively impacts you. I hope I am creating designs that are doing the same.
I am the Publications Manager & Multimedia Designer at Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma National Headquarters. This means that I serve as the one-man graphic design department at headquarters and handle a variety of projects, which include websites, visual brand identities, trade show displays, magazines, and more. Last year, the more included designing the visual layout for the Chapter Vice President of Membership Teaching Manual and the Membership Candidate Guidebook for the Kappa Kappa Psi National Membership Education Program: The Road to Wisdom.
The Road to Wisdom is a comprehensive education plan that provides lesson plans and activities that was adopted at the 2017 National Convention in Orlando, Florida, by an overwhelming majority of brothers. The work behind this plan began years before its completion. My work with the Kappa Kappa Psi Curriculum Committee began with design the logo for the program. Knowing this logo would be the centerpiece of the entire brand of the program, I wanted something that would be immediately recognizable.
The star is a frequently used shape throughout the imagery and symbolism of Kappa Kappa Psi. I made the star the main shape and within it cut out the shape of a road. The road is drawn at an angle and curve, moving forward, upward, and onward. The two lines on the road mark the center of a two-way road. The two-way road can represent the giving and receiving of education as well as two-way communication between teacher and student. The logo was used to promote the program and brand the curriculum committee but the two full textbooks would be a much larger and in-depth design undertaking.
The outstanding Kappa Kappa Psi Curriculum Committee spent a lot of time crafting a lesson plan and corresponding documents to provide maximum value to brothers and Membership Candidates. Once they had the content collected and organized, they trusted me to interpret their great work visually. To do that efficiency, I used Adobe InDesign. For this kind of project, there is no better program to use that InDesign.
First, the covers of the two textbooks had to properly represent the Fraternity and the program. I put the Road To Wisdom logo large on the cover with the official Greek letter logo of the Fraternity at the bottom. The title of each book was placed in-between. In the background, there is a collage of various photos related to Kappa Kappa Psi, including historical landmarks and symbols.
Inside the book, I had to use the power of InDesign to setup certain things to make sure each book was visually consistent throughout. Font choices and title styles were saved in the Paragraph Styles section. Section titles, excerpt text, Membership Candidate Responses, Guiding Questions For Discussion, and other elements that would be in every lesson were made to be consistent throughout. Also, speaking of consistency, InDesign allows you to create Master Pages that create the template for the rest of the pages in the document as assigned. The majority of the books use the template I created with the full text Kappa Kappa Psi logo on the left, the Road To Wisdom star in the center, and “Road To Wisdom” with the page number to the right.
Each lesson in the Road To Wisdom is color coded. These colors are not only featured in their corresponding section but in the Table of Contents. The Table of Contents also are the first hint that I will be using the road (from the main logo) as a motif throughout the books. The road is featured on each of the lesson covers. Each lesson has its color and a summary of the information they will be learning or teaching, depending on the book. The Vice President of Membership had additional elements such as Required and Recommended Attendees. The differences in the two books stem from the different perspectives (teacher and student).
Throughout each book, information and directives are presented so that the teacher and student can get the most out of their membership education experience. The committee and I talked at length about the best way to translate their incredibly important and hard work into tangible publications. The purpose of The Road to Wisdom is to ensure that each future Brother, regardless of initiating chapter, is receiving the same national standard of education and training. These books are the foundation of building a positive life-long Brotherhood experience and I am blessed to have played a role in their design.
The Finals Logo Should Be More Different From The Playoffs One
I am not saying the logo isn’t well made. The logo is fine. However, the importance of the NBA Finals had typically been made immediately apparent by the logo. The sophisticated written wordmark with the trophy in the background was special. This new thing is way too similar to the new Playoffs branding.
In my opinion, there should be a stark difference between the logo promoting a first round game and the NBA Finals! Reaching the NBA Finals means reaching a special echelon in the sport of basketball. The logo should reflect such.
The NBA Finals logo has become so iconic to me and I will miss it. Listen. I understand what they are doing. I really do. I understand their desire for consistent branding and colors for the Playoffs and the NBA Finals. I just don’t like it.
But I expect, like most changes like this, we will eventually get used to it and accept our lack of control in the whole matter.
It is your stamp. Your mark. It represents you, even when you aren’t in the room. It is your symbol. Your emblem. It’s worth working with a professional designer to craft the right one to be the centerpiece of your visual brand identity. If you yourself are talented at logo and brand identity design, have at it! However, for those who are not skilled in those areas, you need to consult a professional.
Gain A Professional Perspective
Professionals in the design can help you see the long game. There are a lot of parts and steps to building a brand. Someone experienced in logo design and brand identity work can help you navigate the process. It’s not just the designing but the opportunity for consultation. The conversations you have with designers about your goals can be very fruitful and enriching for you personally and professionally. We are not simply tools but potential teammates. The questions creatives typically ask will refine the need you have. Your vision plus an expert teammate you can trust equals magic!
You Get What You Pay For
Experience and quality matter. If your main objective is to spend as little money as possible building your brand, you will get what you pay for. What is achieving your goal worth to you? If you are not willing to invest in you, why would you expect anyone else to? The more you put into your foundation at the start of the process, the more value will be realized and the longer it will last. If you are unwilling to spend money on your brand, that says something about how much you actually believe in that vision.
What is your brand worth? Do you believe in its purpose? Is it worth making sure you do it right the first time? The best logos should be timeless, original, and versatile. There’s so much that goes into the conception and construction of such a logo. Seek out those who are experienced in crafting such so that your brand may experience maximum excellence.
Central City is the home of the Silver Age version of the DC Comics superhero, The Flash. It’s a large, vibrant city in need of a visual brand identity that highlights the hope and energy it represents.
As with any visual brand identity I work on, I start with the main logo. The main logo will be the centerpiece. My efforts centered around playing with the lightning bolts and Cs. The Flash is the most recognizable part of Central City so I wanted to create something that referenced that while being a unique emblem for the city itself.
I drew a circle and adjusted the weight. Then, I cut a small portion to make the simple C. Inside the C, I created my own lightning shape using the grid. When it came to the colors, I pulled inspiration from The Flash – the red and gold shades. Within my Adobe Illustrator artboard, I worked on the various ideas that tied into the idea of Central City.
The shapes (the C and the lightning bolt) can be seen portrayed in various ways throughout the branding of the different districts and areas of the city. My research revealed the following areas within Central City: Downtown, the Waterfront District, the Theater District, the Upper East & West sides, and the Lower East & West sides. Downtown features two buildings in front of the main C and the lightning shape within the line art. The Waterfront District is a variation on the main logo with shades of blue and ripples in the center representing the color and movement of water. The Theater District logo is inspired by the masks commonly used to represent the acting profession. The lightning strike in the middle splits the mask referencing the city’s hero. With the Upper & Lower sections of the city, I took the inside shape and manipulated it to subtly reference that section of the city. You can see the inside is raised when used for the Upper sides and lowered for the Lower sides. The West sides are pointed to the west while the East sides point east.
Beyond the presence of metahumans, Central City has a lot to offer. I wanted to design additional logos that reflect that. Beyond the main logo, I created logos for such Central City landmarks as the coffee bar Jitters, the Central City Police Department, Central City University, and S.T.A.R. Labs. I took the logos and tested the brand concepts within mockups of various city advertisements. I also designed apparel for the city itself, CCU, and S.T.A.R. Labs.
This project was initially inspired by The Flash on The CW as well as my love of the creativity of fictional locales within comic book universes. This was fun to work on and a joy to see come together, as I figured out exactly what I wanted to do. I’m thinking I want to do more of these full brand projects in the future.
Torchwood. Outside the government. Beyond the police.
Consider this an extension to my #WhovianBobbie design series. Torchwood is one of the spin-off shows of the incredible television program I’ve grown to love, Doctor Who.
The Torchwood Institute was founded in 1879 to protect Britain from extraterrestrial threats and secure alien technology for Britain. The Torchwood TV show focuses on the small modern day team that is based in Cardiff, Wales.
In this project, I challenged myself to come up with a new logo for a new version of Torchwood. Since this would technically be a rebrand of sorts, I started with studying the previous logos. The first Torchwood logo was simply the letter T inside of a hexagon. The newer version of the institute’s logo, used in the show, is composed of hexagonal shapes arranged to make the letter T.
With this in mind, I decided to continue the tradition of using this particular shape. However, I wanted to see if I could come up with something different. My goal was to design something that was more of an evolution of the logo rather than a complete departure from tradition.
In my handy dandy sketchbook, I start looking at options for the hexagon and how to incorporate the letter T within it. If the initial logo for Torchwood was a single hexagon and the newer version was several arranged beside one another, how about I overlap hexagons? This created an interesting opportunity to create the letter T within the shape. I toyed with filling the letter as well as various sections but decided to make it an outline type logo. I wanted something that would be clean and recognizable. I pictured what would, in my opinion, look best on a clear office door. I didn’t think a big block T was necessary for me to get the point across.
In the final stage of the design process, I actually cut everything outside of the center. I tend to want to cut as much as possible when refining a concept. This decision also made the T on the inside more of the focal point. After arriving at the final logo, I applied a little color to it. The colors chosen took inspiration from the title sequences of the TV series.
Coming up with logos inspired by TV shows and other media is always fun. With each new project, I learn. Creative exploration is essential to keeping your mind sharp and curiosity satisfied.
In my humble opinion, Black Lightning is one of the best shows on television. It’s the newest addition to The CW Network’s family of superhero shows. It’s based on the DC Comics character Black Lightning and his family. From the music to the acting to the storylines, I have thoroughly enjoyed the program thus far. So, as is custom with me (see 100 Fictional Places and Doctor Who as examples), I wanted to design something inspired by the show and the fictional world it depicts. The result was this Freeland Electric Company logo.
Get it? (Electric…lightning…I’m clever)
Freeland is the fictional city that Black Lightning is set in. So I got into my sketchbook and started coming up with some options. The main idea I had was to somehow combine the letter F with a lightning bolt. The lightning bolt is often used as a symbol for electricity so the challenge was to represent it in a unique way within the letter.
I’m fond of using the grid and simple shapes to construct logos. I like the challenge of designing a logo that accomplishes its goal with as little as possible. When making logos that involve letters, I’m trying to discover what is the minimum required for the viewer to recognize the letter. Even within the relatively simple concept, there were some different options in how to present the combination.
The colors of the brand are taken straight from the Black Lightning promotional poster. Typically, when I design something inspired by a show or movie, I like to use the eyedropper tool to take the colors directly from the reference.
I love designing logos. So it’s fun to come up with these ideas and see where I can take them. It’s great to take opportunities to do work outside of in-house and client projects. Helps me practice my craft and express myself in new ways.
Why just tell people what I’m enjoying when I can show them through my work. I like sharing these types of pieces on my social media and tagging the franchises I’m paying homage to through the vectors I push in Adobe Illustrator.
There is a great value to inspiration. Inspiration makes you feel something. It influences you. It stimulates you to do something creative. It’s the spark that can ignite an ever burning flame. The need for inspiration is real. However, you need not limit your sources of inspiration.
One of the sources can be and should be real life.
No matter your area of expertise, getting outside for inspiration provides you with a fresh view. As a graphic designer, of course I am inspired by the outstanding work I see from the designers I follow. I’m also inspired by the work I see out and about. I’m inspired by people, nature, scenery, etc. For example, let’s say you’re trying to design a brand identity for a city or town. You’ll want to look at other municipal branding projects to see what other cities have done. But the best way to get started is to take in the city itself. Take photos of the landmarks. Talk to the citizens. Walk around and get a feel for the city. The inspiration is around you. When trying to capture a specific locale, you need to experience it and know the nature of the scene. That will allow you create the symbols/icons you need.
Looking at other similar logos can be inspiring but just doing that is limiting. Taking in the real life outside live and through photos challenges you to interpret in an original way. Capture the originality of your own perspective. There are a lot of tigers, panthers, lions, etc. in the world of sports. The reason why there’s such a variety of designs is because each designer has captured a unique perspective of the animal through photo references. A tiger is a tiger, but what you pull from its features is what makes your design yours. If you’re only looking at others’ interpretations, you’re limiting the potential of your own creativity.
Every project you take on may not have a direct example you can look to as a guide. Play with the perspective and the visual representation of things that currently exist in the world. Get creative with how you use the elements you see. Expand your sources of inspiration as much as you possibly can. It will often surprise you where the spark will come from.
That spark could also come from outside of the market that you’re operating in. When I create branding for Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma National Convention, I am pulling inspiration from other fraternities and sororities. However, I more so pull inspiration from the Super Bowl, Final Four, NHL, NBA, Oscars, Grammys, etc. Dreaming big means you’ll bring the most value to each and every project. I want my work to be able to stand in the same room as the work from much larger brands in much larger markets. I’m not limiting myself to work like mine. I’m inspired by great work across genres, styles, and markets.
To be the best version of yourself, you need to keep your mind and eye open.