Some might think design was simply a matter of developing a compelling style and applying it to whatever walked in through the door. Consciously or unconsciously, I’m sure there are designers who work in this manner. Designing this way would be quick and easy and execution would follow in a straight line toward the finished product.
I prefer an approach that is collaborative and exploratory in nature. It is rare for me to have a clear preconception of the final product. Presented with a project, I often have strong instincts that inform the discovery process, but of equal importance is client input. Together, we move the project forward toward a final conclusion.
Last year I posted Four Centers and an Auditorium, describing the evolution of a job I did for Smith College. Part of that project was to develop separate identities for most of the centers, under a tight budget and time constraints. The results were fine, but the Global Studies Center identity suffered some from those constraints.
Recently that center received an endowment that allowed it to reconsider that image and rework the signage. What follows is a brief summary of the evolution of that process.
Finished sign for Global Studies, Smith College, completed in 2011.
After meeting again with a committee from the center and discussing its mission, I put together some initial ideas. The second image down in the left column and the top image in the center column were chosen by the committee for further exploration.
Here are the results of that discovery process.
The image at the top of the right column in the second of the three examples above was chosen for further refinement.
It was at this stage that the smaller globe surrounded by the yellowish corona found its way into the design. In the end it was the middle image above that the committee selected as the identity for the center.
At this point, we needed to explore how the typography would work with the image and together how they would be incorporated into the existing signage. Along with the endowment, the name needed to be changed to reference the benefactors. Here are two sets of variations combining image and typography, as a logo and as part of the sign.
Below is what was finally decided.
Here are some photos of the final sign installed. We were also able to install much needed lighting since the center was situated in an area not well lit. Lawren Rosen, the CEO of ArtFx Signs, came up with a nearly invisible lighting system that illuminates the sign without calling attention to the fixture. ArtFx Signs also fabricated and installed the sign.
In my previous posting, I expressed some disappointment in the interior lighting as pertaining to signage. The lighting of this sign solves that problem, revealing all of its details and subtle coloring – a very satisfying conclusion to this project.
It remains somewhat of a mystery as to where this identity came from. It’s certainly nothing I could have imagined ahead of time and that’s exactly why I keep designing.