Wednesday February 13, 2008

Next Update

More than any other kind of work that I do, logo and identity design is what feels most like sorcery. Oh sure — there are plenty of well-grounded bits of research to draw from, such as the answers to questions like “If you were a car, what kind would you be and why?” and “Warm or cool?” But at the end of the day, it’s really just me and my brain, working through lots of truly ghastly and clichéd ideas until something interesting shows up. Like magic, to point.

Working patiently to strike that spark of magic is unnerving, at least to me. There’s excitement in the exploration, but also dread in the realization that after a few hours of work I have achieved complete obviousness and mediocrity. It’s a little more unnerving when you’re doing this kind of work for a friend.

Such is the nervousness I felt upon accepting the request of friend and former BrightCornerGeniantEMC compadre Garrett Dimon to produce a logo to crown his brave foray into the world of full-time application development, Next Update. Luckily, Garrett and I have always seemed to share similar design sensibilities and a galvanizing love of the color pink. Once I got through Garrett’s 200-page RFP (lolz jk), I had a pretty good idea as to what the “spirit” of the logo would be, if not the actual mark.

And so The Sketching began. I got to present several colossal duds of ideas before Garrett and I both locked onto a simple but entertaining observation: that rotating a lowercase “n” yielded a lowercase “u.” There were attempts made to connect, interlock and otherwise conjoin the two letterforms, but the spark that interested us both the most was treating the “u” as a shadow cast by the “n.” This Escher-esque treatment still felt fresh after a couple of days, and so the other ideas were left by the side of the road with a knapsack and a cardboard sign that read “Logos down on their luck. Will work on sacks of dog food, lite beer or” Zing!

I’m happy to say that, within a relatively short amount of time, I was able to produce a logo that embodies Garrett’s “summery, fun, and laid-back” vision of his very own company. Most importantly, he likes it. The three-dimensionality of the mark gives it some sense of stability (important in business, no?) and the typeface (Serifa BT for the typographically curious) brings a sort of monospace/coding vibe into the mix, appropriately representing the digital nature of the company’s products.

‘Twas an honor to be able to do this work. Completely non-solicited plug: be sure to subscribe to the Next Update feed to keep up to date on Garrett’s progress.


Mike Stickel » 4967 days ago #

Looks great! Took me a couple glances to realize the shadow was flipped to form the U but I really like it.

It would be interesting to see how you would have fleshed out the twisty concept (to the left of the final one in your second image).

Travis Isaacs » 4967 days ago #

Brilliant Jared! The only thing it’s missing is a swoosh! J/K.

Garrett Dimon » 4967 days ago #

Mike – That was definitely the next option if this one hadn’t worked out. I agree and think Jared should go ahead and flesh it out anyways just for fun. Or, rather, I should just tell him that maybe this one isn’t right, and to just keep trying. I’ll know it when I see it.

Jared – Of course, it goes without saying that working with you is always fun. Thanks for seeing it through and helping us come out with something that definitely has sizzle even if there isn’t a swoosh.

Aaron Alexander » 4967 days ago #

Where’s the gradient and nifty reflection on the “next update” text?

Jonathan Snook » 4967 days ago #

I absolutely adore the logo. I think it’s brilliant and embodies all that an effective logo should: simple and creative.

Logos often feel like an afterthought but it’s nice to know Garrett thought ahead to get something solid put together right from the get-go.

Nathan Smith » 4967 days ago #

I dig it. Actually thought to myself when reading Garrett’s introductory post: “Dang, nice logo.” Turns out, he cheated and Jared did it. Nice job nonetheless.

chuck » 4967 days ago #

Very nice, Jared. I like the fact that it doesn’t look like so much typical web2.0 crap.

At first I thought that it wasn’t really what I might have expected and then realized that that was actually what made it really cool.

So nice and simple, clean-looking, yet free of glossy overlays or bubbly type. Nice work!

Alexander » 4967 days ago #

i like it, good work.

Ricardo » 4967 days ago #

The idea of the shadow making the form of a U is great.

Matthew Pennell » 4967 days ago #

Brilliant – the cleverness of the logo was the first thing I noticed. Excellent work, Jared.

Tim McCormack » 4966 days ago #

@Aaron Alexander: No no no, twisted shadows are the new table-top reflection. You’ll start seeing it all over the place, like Snook’s flagtips. :-)

shovi » 4963 days ago #

Hey, I just popped by to tell that I’m really excited ‘bout your style! It gave me some serious inspiration and I just can’t wait when I get job where I could use it. Thx!

Nebbercracker » 4962 days ago #

Very clean. I like! Keep up the good work.

Igor » 4954 days ago #

I think that the shadow which makes a U is slightly confusing to the viewer at first, because we instantly think that its simply a shadow for the letter N.

I feel that as a logo if people have an objection its likely that the logo should have perhaps undergone one more step of development just to get it “perfect”.

Apart from that i think its pretty good.

kenneth » 4944 days ago #

When some circumstance unforeseen at the first glance of something comes along, be aware that the human brain has extensive functionality that help us “overwrite” our initial reaction with a new feeling—or, to put it in other words, loose total thought and focus of our initial reaction. It’s why young girls marry rich, old men; even though their initial ambitions with some old man may be far from marriage, their mind may radically change when they come aware of the fact that he’s filthy, filthy rich and may leave money for loved ones in near future.

I find the idea of an “u” as the shadow of “n” pretty cool in this setting once it’s been explained.. but it’s coolness is also limited to just that—it needs to be explained. For me it didn’t come natural to identify the shadow as an “u” at first glance. If I remember correctly I instead found it rather distracting. If I hadn’t read this article, that reaction might very well have been my only reaction.

My initial reaction could be biased by the fact that I find design criticism in everything — but it could also be identical to the reaction of an unbiased observer.. I can’t know for sure, which begs the question: is the logo user friendly? Does the shadow cause more harm than good when observed by the target audience?

Jared » 4943 days ago #

Great thought, Kenneth.

The way I see it, the success of the logo doesn’t hinge on the viewer seeing the visual trickery in the shadow. That’s definitely a big part of the charm and personality of the mark, to be sure, but I suppose I look at it as a sort of “progressive enhancement.” As Easter egg, if you will.

The shadow was actually quite pronounced in earlier versions, and the decision was made to take it down several notches. Sure, I hope that most people notice the shadow’s treatment and have a delightful “Ah ha!” moment, but it was made more subtle deliberately so that it would be more of a supporting element and less of a gimmick.

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