"A logo doesn't sell, it identifies. A logo derives its meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around. A logo is less important than the product it signifies; what it means is more important than what it looks like."
– Paul Rand
On New Year's Day this year my wife, Krista Dalby, came up with the notion to accompany an NGO to Ghana and take shadow puppetry and art supplies to the kids in small villages there, but it wasn't until late spring when she was having serious fundraisers and was deep in prep for this project that I first heard the phrase "puppets without borders" and I immediately knew I had to get graphically involved.
I had planned to start my concept doodles after I got home from my projectionist shift at The Regent Theatre one night, but inspiration struck while I was still in the projection booth, some Hollywood blockbuster flickering in the background, and all I had at hand was an envelope and a ballpoint pen. Good enough...
In these early iterations you can see the arrow shape developing (on the far left, going down) and an emphasis on playing with the letter P, as well as a few puppet-based options. I tried to stay away from the PWB initials as long as I could because it's the obvious way to go and they just didn't look too good together, the W being so wide and awkward. Plus, I wanted a strong iconic image that could stand alone but also work with the full text of the organization's name and PWB is in the middle of that, neither here nor there and rather boring.
More arrows and the first appearance of the circle which was supposed to represent our planet, the arrow pointing at it representing action, motion, direction.
Not to dwell too much on one idea, I took a page to explore the graphic potential of the letter P a bit more, playing with some negative space (and losing it at times).
Back to the arrow motif experiments. Even though I really liked the "diamond" profile, I rotated the image 45° and suddenly realized it looked like a figure. Hm, interesting. I now had a nice double image didn't I? Well, yes and no: my intended implication of "the arrow pointing at the world" was now overpowered by the form of the figure (especially in the red sketch).
I did try some digital mock-ups of a few of the designs shown here and, for the one above, even tried putting grid lines on the "world," but it just looked goofy. So I went with the figure and put a couple of oval eyes on it ("in perspective") to play up the puppet angle. Krista suggested I make it "cuter" so I added the mouth and joined the world/head to the arrow/body.
Happy with the puppet concept, but still not willing to dwell, I returned to my sketchbook for some fresh ideas just in case something exciting presented itself.
The dreaded PWB finally reared its head and showed me that, yes, it wasn't a pleasing or particularly exciting group of initials in any typeface (I tried many others in the computer).
The globe with the puppet over it was looking good, and even made it to the digital mock-up stage, but was immediately abandoned after stepping back from the monitor and realizing it looked like a Christian organization.
Back to the preferred concept...
Further refinement of the logo complete (thumbs added to seal the puppet deal) and suitable typeface meticulously chosen (friendly, but not too casual; strong, but not too formal), Puppets Without Borders now had a visual identity Krista was happy with and I am proud of.
Now the hard (but exciting! and fun!) part's up to her and Susanne Larner this November...
28" x 20", oil on canvas, 2012, private collection
Back in February, Krista and I held a contest to celebrate our two year anniversary at Small Pond Arts. We were kind of surprised to find, once everything was added up, just how much we had achieved in those two years. This wasn't about bragging because it was stuff we had to do out of necessity, but we thought it might inspire others to share the great things they had achieved...and that, in turn, might inspire others as well.
The draw was random and on 15 March we had our winners; I was most concerned with the winner of the portrait since I'd be painting it. A local PEC man named Clinton won that and we discussed ideas for the painting over Facebook. It turns out he is a big comics fan and his favourite character is the Blue Beetle –and we figured it'd be a whole lotta fun if the portrait of Clinton had him wearing BB's costume. Being a fan myself, I was not only familiar with BB, but I even had a number of issues of Justice League America from the late 80s which happen to have been drawn by Clinton's favourite artist of BB, Kevin Maguire. So after we had a brief photo shoot, I rummaged through my JLAs for suitable costume reference and set about "dressing up" Clinton as the Blue Beetle.
It was really lots of fun to paint and, needless to say, we were both very happy with the result.