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Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for  Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, is the author of "The Savvy Designer's Guide to Success: Ideas and tactics for a killer career;" released by HOW Design Books in 2004. He can often be found preaching what he practices through speaking engagements at creative industry events around the country and writing for various design-related magazines and webzines. For more information about the designer's work click the link below.

URL:
www.jfisherlogo
motives.com

Email:
Jeff

 
   
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With each Creative Latitude update, Logo Notions will alternate essays on various aspects of logo design and ten-question interviews with industry professionals specializing in the creation of identity, from design icons to those working in the trenches. In addition, recent or new books, focusing on the design of logos, will be reviewed. Other books that may be helpful to designers in overcoming the challenges of identity design will also be recommended. – Jeff Fisher
What a “little birdy” told me about identity design
By Jeff Fisher, Engineer of Creative Identity, Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

In January 2004 the design industry publication Graphic Design:usa named Christopher C. H. Simmons one of its “People to Watch.” Hopefully others have in the profession have been paying attention since then, because it is hard to keep up with the designer, writer and educator. In late 2004 Simmons left his position as a principal with the firm Alterpop to launch his own design venture, MINE. Somehow Simmons manages to find the time to teach a course he developed, entitled “Identity Design,” at the California College of the Arts and at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University. He is also currently president of the San Francisco chapter of the AIGA. The designer’s recent accomplishments don’t stop there. When he’s not speaking on design-related issues at universities, conferences or seminars, the design professional is writing. Simmon’s first book, “Logo Lab,” was recently released by HOW Design Books. (see review below). His upcoming book, “Letterhead and Logo Design 9,” is scheduled for release by Rockport Publishers in September 2005.

JF: When did you first develop an interest in graphic design, and what path did you follow to eventually founding the firm MINE?

CCHS: When my brother and I were kids we’d play star wars and Lego a lot. I always liked the logo for the Lego spacemen, and I used to draw it a lot, so that was my introduction to design, in a way. Then, when I turned seven, my parents rented “Powers of Ten” on reel to reel for my party — nothing like educational movies to impress your friends — I think there was another one on evolution or something. Anyway, I didn’t know anything of Charles and Ray Eames, obviously, and I didn’t see it as a work of “design” but I was really fascinated not just by the subject, but also by how it was done. Okay, fast-forward a bit to high school, where I was suspended a few times for distributing an underground magazine. Mostly they objected to the writing, but also to the fact that we designed and sold hall passes, inflammatory t-shirts, and the like. So that was the first time I really designed anything. I ran a theatre company for a while, and did a lot of set design there. Then I went to CCA for a couple of years, but I ended up getting hired my sophomore year and learned the rest on the job from Doug Akagi, who was (and is) an amazing mentor. Over the course of eight years or so, I worked my way up from intern to partner, and then last year I started my own gig, MINE. That was in October, and we’re up to four people already, which shocks the hell out of me. I thought I’d get to wear pajamas to work for at least a year ...

JF: Has identity/logo design always been a major portion of your work?

CCHS: I think everything is identity design, so yes. If you’re doing a direct mail piece, or a book for a major publisher, or God forbid, an ad for the Yellow Pages, it’s all about expressing the identity of the organization it represents. But if you’re talking logos and letterheads and brand strategy, then the answer is still yes. It’s a terrific challenge and a great honor to be trusted with someone’s identity. I mean, when you just say it like that it sounds weird, doesn’t it?: “I want you to create my identity.” That’s pretty f*cking intimidating. And on some level it doesn’t make any sense. But that’s what we do — at least we help people focus and project their identity. I really think that most clients are who they are. We just find compelling ways to tell their stories, and maybe, sometimes, help them believe in their story a little more. 

JF: What was the first logo you designed?

CCHS: I did a logo design for a presentation of two one-act plays I produced one was called “God” and the other was called “Death.” Both were written by Woody Allen. The first one we staged as a vaudevillian comedy and I still think it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Really. You should read it sometime, it will make you laugh out loud. Then add in a wind machine and a rubber chicken ... it’s hard to describe. The second one, “Death,” was much darker and completely existential. The contrast was amazing. I designed the logo in Aldus Publisher or something like that. I don’t even remember. I know it was a $40 program and it came with, like, 12 free fonts, so I used one of those.

 
JF: What identity/logo designers have inspired you throughout your career?

CCHS: Well, Chermayeff and Geismar did some of the best and most enduring work of their generation. Just amazing stuff. Joe Finocchiaro has worked on just about every major identity you that you can think of (mostly ghosting for large agencies). Similarly, Jim Parkinson’s logotypes blow me away. 


JF: Are there specific logo designs, historical or current, that have caused you to pause, and say to yourself "Damn, that’s brilliant?”

CCHS: My favorite logo right now is Crispy Cat, by Jermey Pruitt of ThinkMule. It’s hilarious. I like Deep Design’s logo for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, which is why I put it in my book. There was an event logo for the Kansas City Humane Society called woofstock (JF note: designed in 2003 by James Strange of the Greteman Group) that really tickles me too. My friend Cesar designed a logo for a company called tribe.net that is comprised of hundreds of tiny photographs. It’s insane. I also think the citi logo is a very clever solution to a merger, but apparently I’m the only one. Even Paula Scher apparently hates it.


JF: Are there logos that you, or your firm, have designed for which you have great pride or fondness?  If so, why?

CCHS: Well, that Paradox logo I did a few years back seems to still be getting a lot of play, and I’m still proud of it. We also did an identity for a company specializing in travel advertising that is comprised of combining various passport style stamps together. You never get the same logo twice, which is kind of a cool little antitheory as far logos go. I also like the logo I did for Kaiser Permanente’s Labor Management Partnership. The execution is average, but the idea is airtight.



JF: How would you define a strong, effective identity/logo design?

CCHS: I think a strong identity is like a strong person. It must have integrity. It must be authentic, confident and respectful. And I think it should be interesting — whether that means intellectual, humorous, cynical, or whatever. I teach my identity design students to think of identities as if they were people. Maybe the logo is your face, or maybe it’s your handshake. Then color and type and materials and imagery and language and all the other aspects of the identity are your clothes, your hairstyle, your sense of humor, the car you drive, the books you read, etc. 

JF: What advice would you give a design student who wants to pursue a career in identity/logo design?

CCHS: First of all, think of it as identity design, not logo design. A logo is a product of a process, but identity design is the process itself. It’s much more holistic, effective and meaningful. It's also very personal. One thing that you just can’t teach in school is how the personalities of the people involved — the clients, and their customers — will be affected. Like I was saying earlier, identity design is an intensely emotional experience for a lot of clients, even with all the strategy and analysis that goes into it, it still comes down to declaring who you are. It's an awesome responsibility, and very specialized discipline.


 
JF: If you had the opportunity to re-design any identity in the world what would it be and why do you feel it needs to be revamped?

CCHS: Probably Verizon, just so designers would shut up about it. 

JF: What do you hope readers take away from reading your recently released book “Logo Lab?”  

CCHS: “Logo Lab” is about process. It takes a wide cross section of designers and clients and very intimately discusses with them how they approach designing identity. In some cases it’s strictly about the logo — the craft and execution of the mark, but in most it’s about how different designers work, what they believe in, and how they achieve excellent superior results. The book is very candid, and regardless of what you think of the work presented, I think readers will learn something from every chapter. For instance, there is a chapter about Mark Verlander, who designs team identities for the NFL. In addition to taking away a sense of his profound respect for his client and their client (the fans), I think people will be amazed to learn that he’s a one-man studio, working from home by the beach in Northern California. In contrast, there's a story about big agency’s design for the NCY 2012 Olympic bid that includes candid discussion of their missteps and early failures. There’s a chapter that chronicles a student’s first professional logo design project, a rant by Art Chantry, the untold back story behind the Converse Shoes identity, and so on. So, if people actually read this book, instead of just flipping through the pictures, I think they’ll triangulate a good sense of where they stand on the various issues and principles raised. At the very least, I think readers will come away with a renewed sense of process. It really is a book that needs to be read, not looked at. I didn’t design it, but if I did, I think I would have made it small, like a novel. It’s not mean to be a showcase the way so many other design books are. It’s somewhere in the middle. 

JF: A bonus question for you: What is the significance of the bird image in identifying MINE?

CCHS: I called the business MINE™ because it’s “mine.” I own it. The “tm” came from the idea of ownership as well, but more from a standpoint of the identity work we do. Well, the whole thing started looking a little egotistical, so I thought I’d play up the pun — you know, a mine as a place where people dig down in search of something valuable. That’s what we do. So I put a canary on the logotype — the whole canary in a coal mine thing. Most people think of canaries as yellow, I guess because of Tweety Bird, but they’re just as likely to be red. 

Contact Information:
MINE™
190 Putnam Street 
San Francisco CA 94110
415.657.6463
info@minesf.com
www.minesf.com

 

 

 

Logo design book reviews:
Logo Lab: Featuring 18 case studies that demonstrate identity creation from concept to completion, by Christopher C.H. Simmons

 

“Logo Lab,” the new HOW Design Books release from designer/author Christopher C.H. Simmons, is the identity design book many in the profession have been waiting for to help actually explain the process of creating logos. The book lives up to its subhead by really demonstrating “identity creation from concept to completion” in a clean and beautifully designed format. Simmons, in a conversational style of writing, introduces us to the creative geniuses behind 18 individual identity projects and then takes us through the client meetings, concepting, sketching, scheduling, presentations and execution of the final design for the businesses, organizations and products featured. Along the way the reader is visually stimulated by initial logo scribbles, presentation boards and the end applications for the identities of Converse, the New York City Olympic bid, an NFL team, the Georgia Music Hall of fame and more. From the one-person firm efforts of sports identity specialist Mark Verlander to the teamwork of Ogilvy & Mather’s Brand Integration Group, the author takes the viewer to a position of peering over the shoulder of the designers hard at work through his text and vibrant illustrative elements. A favorite chapter is the presentation of Simmon’s fascinating interview with the perennially cranky and brilliant Art Chantry, as he explains his working relationship with client Estrus Records – illustrated with 60 logos produced for the company. It is also thrilling to have Simmons include the story and process of his own design for Paradox Media in this volume. His chicken and egg (or is it egg and chicken) design is destined to be a classic – as is this book. From now on, whenever a designer asks for an explanation of the logo design process the easy answer is: “Go buy a copy of “Logo Lab.” I do have one gripe about the book. At 144 pages, and with only 18 excellent case studies, the book is far too short. We can only hope that “Logo Lab, Vol. 2” is a future possibility.


Design-it-Yourself Graphic Workshop: A step-by-step guide, by Chuck Green

“This is not a design theory book – it is a design instruction book.” With the first line of his introduction to ‘Design-It-Yourself Graphic Workshop’ designer, marketing specialist, writer and Creative Latitude member Chuck Green has defined his recently released book succinctly. Rockport Publishers has wisely repackaged Green’s earlier books “Design-It-Yourself Logos, Letterheads & Business Cards” and “Do-It-Yourself Newsletters” into one handsome, all-inclusive hardback resource that will be a great addition to the design library of any wannabe, newbie or seasoned design professional. The book provides you immediate desk-side access to that favorite design instructor at school who always had the suggestion of how to tackle any creative challenge. Green belittles no reader as he conveys the hows, whys, shoulds and musts in making use of basic graphic design principles on a variety of projects. The messages throughout “Graphic Workshop” are clear, straightforward and gently challenging. The design is clean, colorful and inspiring. Some design professionals may cringe at the “do-it-yourself” portion of the title (as I admittedly did with the earlier books), which seems to unconsciously bring the controversial “anyone with a computer can be a graphic designer” school of thought into play. However, if a potential reader can get past that descriptive title element, and concentrate on the phrase “Graphic Workshop,” the price of admission will be well worth the ride Chuck Green provides. When that young student in your life expresses an interest in the field of graphic design, “Graphic Workshop” would be the perfect gift. For those starting their careers, opening their own firms, or just needing a gentle kick in the rear-end, the book should be a welcomed source of encouragement. Every corporate, or organization, in-house designer should have copy at hand. In reading the book, I also realized “Graphic Workshop” would be a great tool to use in explaining to clients why something has been designed for them in a specific manner.


Other suggested logo design books:
With each Logo Notions update a few possible additions to your identity design book library will be suggested:

Logos Redesigned: How 200 Companies Successfully Changed Their Image
David E. Carter’s recently released book, from Harper Design International, features before and after identities from numerous designers.

Logo Design for Small Business 2, by Dan Antonelli
Read more about this book in a previous Logo Notions review.


Future logo design book releases:
Be on the lookout for these upcoming titles from logo design book publishers and for reviews of the volumes once the books are released.

Letterhead and Logo Design 9
This upcoming Rockport Publishers volume, also from Christopher Simmons and MINE, is scheduled for release in September 2005.

Worldwide Identity: Inspired Design from 40 Countries
In collaboration with Icograda, Robert L. Peters has authored this book that showcases logos from around the world from the perspective of the brief, the client and the solution. Rockport Publishers will introduce the book in October 2005.

Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, has received over 475 regional, national and international graphic design awards for his logo and corporate identity efforts. His work is featured in more than 75 publications on the design of logos, the business of graphic design, and small business marketing.

Fisher is a member of the HOW Magazine Editorial Advisory Board and is also on the 2005 HOW Design Conference Advisory Council. His own book, The Savvy Designer's Guide to Success,” was released by HOW Design Books in late 2004. An excerpt from the book may be found at CreativeLatitude.com. More information about Jeff Fisher LogoMotives is available at www.jfisherlogomotives.com.
 
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