Design is like baseball. Each project is an at bat and in the process of an at bat you may foul off a few pitches, you may get walked, you may ground out, or fly out, you may get a single, a double, a triple, or even a home run. But you may also strike out. Either by swinging and missing a pitch, or you get called out looking at a pitch as it goes flying by you into the catchers mitt.
No one wants to strike out. We all make a purposeful effort to succeed, but in the end it just doesn't work out the way you had hoped and you go back to the dugout and sit down knowing you'll get another attempt at it again soon.
Baseball is all about stats. The key statistic regarding at bats is of course the "Batting Average." The higher the average, the better the player, the better the player the more hits they'll get and more hits mean less strikeouts. That said someone only has to succeed 3 out of 10 at bats and they're considered an all-star. Yet in design that type of creative batting average would be looked upon as marginal at best.
Let me tell you about a recent at bat I had. And like an umpire you can make the call in regards to my performance.
Polar bear concept 1.
I started this project off like any other logo identity project. I am pretty methodical in terms of my creative process and the first stage of my process is research and collecting of information so I can create from an informed approach and develop appropriate solutions. Since we're talking baseball analogies I like to develop a good game plan.
Polar bear concept 2. (Modified Motif)
The client filled out my creative brief and I started to create my concepts. The topic of refrigeration brings up classic metaphors yet I wanted to capitalize on these in my own stylized approach.
Polar bear concept 3.
My thought on this option was to create a badge or sticker approach. They install in a broad range of locations and this would work well as a leave behind branding on all the installed units.
Polar bear concept 4. (Modified Motif)
On this project I felt a character based logo would be a good solution, so most of what I presented in my first group of logos were character driven. I arrived at this decision after auditing about 50 competitors logos. I also ran this by the client before I started building my concepts out too.
Penguin concept 1.
I've never done a Penguin logo before. That said I've never done a Polar Bear logo either. Unlike the Polar Bear I wanted this logo option to be extremely iconic and the forms of a penguin lend themselves to that approach.
A secondary nod to refrigeration in this option is the horizontal version which I intended to resemble the stereotypical shape of a thermostat. I wanted it to be a subtle attribute and not overt.
Penguin concept 2.
Still playing off the iconic penguin I work it into the letter form of an "A" since the company name is "Advanced."
Corporate approach 1.
I wanted to show a few options that weren't character driven. This was one of them.
Corporate approach 2.
On this one I decided to play up the concept of "Air." I also decided to use a badge approach with customized letterforms.
I was happy with these options and presented them to the client with my rationale for each explained. The client said they'd show the concepts to the their board and get back to me.
As soon as I heard the word "Board" I had a bad feeling. No mention of a board approval was ever brought up until now. I knew at this point that more than likely I'd be doing more explorations.
Whether it's a Board, Committee, Team or any other name given to a group of individuals who'll critique art it almost always results in a graphic train wreck. Marketing people love this type of approach because it allows them to play art director. You get a hundred ignorant opinions flying around that rarely result in a good direction.
What you do tend to get more times than not is a request to see more ideas and additional information not provided before you started designing because they've decided to either change the rules of engagement or their mind.
Such was the case with this project. The client said "The board loved your ideas. They thought they were very professional. But..."
The only word worse then "Board" is "But." What comes after "But" is never anything you want to hear and this was no exception.
The board had now decided they wanted a more corporate approach. A mark that was not integrated with the type. They explained their desire to see some form of "Crystals" but didn't want "Ice Crystals." They also explained their new found penchant for hexagons as well and asked if I could do something with that shape?
Corporate, Crystals and Hexagons oh my! I had struck out in my first design at bat.
None of this new criteria was explained in my creative brief and was outside the scope of the original agreement so I informed them I'd have to charge an additional fee above and beyond my quote since this new criteria was not provided up front. They agreed.
So even though I was a bit bummed that my Polar Bears and Penguins would now go into deep freeze I still held hope knowing I had another at bat coming on this project.
I choked up on the lumber and continued.
Crystal Concept 1.
To be completely honest I had no idea why they wanted crystals? The client spent about ten minutes explaining to me how ice crystals were actually a bad thing in refrigeration. So I had questioned the wisdom of pursuing crystals as a graphic language on this project but they insisted.
This is the type of direction you get from a committee.
Crystal Concept 2.
At this point I wasn't feeling too confident in my work but kept working out as many crystal inspired directions as I could. "After all they were paying for it." I told myself several times.
Crystal Concept 3.
Maybe they realize a new growth demographic in the "New Age" movement in regards to refrigeration? Bad designer, get back to work and stop questioning authority.
Hexagon Concept 1.
Hexagons-O-Plenty! See how clever I am, I made them stack to form the letter "A."
Hexagon Concept 2.
The client asked if I could make the hexagon shapes interconnect in some way to relay how they can network systems.
Repeat to self: I am not an extension of my clients arm, I am a creative person.
A Simple Approach.
At this point I was a bit frustrated with this project. I decided to put a donut ring on my conceptual bat and take some practice swings to loosen up. I had to hit this next one good. A frozen rope if you will. The pitch looked like a beach ball as the idea popped into my head so I worked out this last concept and included it with the new batch of logo designs to send off.
Fast forward three weeks and I finally get a truncated email from the client explaining the board loved the new directions, but (Our friendly word making it's second appearance in this project) has decided to shelf the logo project because they have other things they need to focus on right now instead. They asked me to bill for the work done.
I doubt they'll return so I billed them my full rate since I did everything short of the final art.
I had high hopes for my second at bat on this project but once it again it looks like I struck out? It's times like these I feel like I am in a creative slump or should be sent back down to the minors. But since I am a player manager in this written analogy I at lease don't need to fear being released.
The above is the companies actual logo at the time of the original post. Whether or not it went through board approval I have no idea?
The Final Board Approved Logo Solution.
It's been about seven months since the original post and someone notified me of the final logo this company settled on. Can't say it surprises me at all based on their comments while working with them myself. They got exactly what they wanted I guess.
I thought I had some good ideas going, felt like I was hitting the ball well in batting pratice and would get a hit with one of the options but in the end I struck out twice and thus my design batting average has suffered.
Not sure what I could have done differently? Is there such a thing as design steroids? Perhaps a Barry Bonds filter for my drawing application? (OK, so I fouled out with those jokes.)
I do know I'll have other at bats soon so I am not too worried. How ever part of me thinks this board threw me some spitballs.
At the very least I have a cool Polar Bear and Penguin logo in my design line up now and if the opportunity arises I'll definitely do some creative pinch hitting with them.
Much like the boys of summer, my main motivation is the love of the game.