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  • Writer's pictureBrenna McCormick

The Story of a Logo

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

In my little corner of the world, this past week was full of things that felt kind-of monumental. I stepped onto the stage to welcome the new Business of Creative Enterprises (BCE) First Years at Orientation, having taken on the BCE Director role this summer. During that welcome speech, I also revealed a new logo for the program which is entering into its seventh year.

In sharing the logo (which has internal and external versions) publicly for the first time, I was realizing a summer of hard work and moments of creative and strategic alignment, where I had gone “all-in”—and asked others to come with me, such as my husband who helped to make my vision a powerful, modern bright- colored reality through the magical process of creative collaboration.

The logo was created out of a personal need for a better way to articulate the BCE program, and to weave together the threads of all the assets and endeavors that (naturally) come from a program filled with creative thinkers and savvy business minds. Author Todd Henry recently wrote, “When you make work that you need for yourself, it is likely to resonate more deeply with others who need the same thing.” I feel the truth of this every time I share the logo with another member of our community and they too see the joy of our work, the innovative nature of our program. It is a logo that is doing the hard work of making the strategy and purpose of the program visible.

The Context & The Sketch

This summer, I stepped into the role of Director for the unique and innovative Business of Creative Enterprise program at Emerson College. The BCE program, as it is known on campus, is close to my heart. I was hired in 2016 as one of the first full time faculty members for the program, and it has been my academic home and point of passion as I made my way through the building and teaching of courses that now feel like an extension of my being, like Introduction to the Creative Economy; Creative Collaboration; and Marketing the Creative Enterprise.

Becoming Director felt like a monumental perspective shift. And I responded to the first conversation about being Director with a sketch: an infinity loop mapping out how the threads of the curriculum flow continuously, moving from student to leader to community to industry and back again to campus, where the core skills of the curriculum remain the same, but the content is ever-evolving.

This first sketch (below) was a strategic map, but the shape stayed with me as well as this idea of information becoming transformation. The idea had echoes of the structural design of my first class in the program BC110 Introduction to the Creative Economy. In organizing the content, and preparing for the very first class, back in 2016, I created a triangle connecting the core points: creativity, people, and industries, connected by ideas, values, and money. Two years later, on a hot day in August, I was staring at the ill-fitting lightbulb icon that I had stuck in the middle of the triangle just to put something there. Then it hit me, the creative economy wasn’t a triangle. It was a prism. It was the cover art for Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon. It was a single beam of light transformed into a rainbow.

The Logo & The Collaboration

Fast forward to another hot day in August this summer about two weeks into my new position. I’d just finished co-teaching a week-long summer intensive course where my workshop lesson Brand/Identity was part of how we kicked off the course. A rainbow-colored map of the meaning of colors in branding was part of the slide deck I’d put together and it had lodged itself in my mind. I often tell my students that I hope that the material in the course causes them to look at the world around them with newfound curiosity. I am not above this often being the case for myself too. So, with a mind filled with the threads of the program and a desire to tease them into something structured, I also started looking at our current logo and asking the most pointed question of all (as also any parent will know): Why?

Somewhere in this daydreamy train-of-thought, all the ideas aligned like the pins in a lock falling into place. I pulled out a sketchbook and my colored pencils and I drew the first version of the logo: a ring, that is also an infinity circle, and contains both the rainbow threads of the program content and a point that transforms them into the mosaic structures that are the creative industries. No longer was I just thinking strategic map, I was now looking at a visual representation of the program that had the potential to be a new logo.

I am not a designer. However, I am very fortunate to be married to one. Sketch in hand, I stood in the living room and enthusiastically shared my vision, with my husband Chris Ball of @pherballdesign, asking if there was a way he could make this logo “real” in Photoshop or Illustrator—oh, by the end of the week. My husband studied the sketch and a night later showed me the first version. Which was getting there, but it was too pool float. Or donut. But it was a start.

Then there was lots of the conversation that takes place when people collaborate on a visual piece which involve too many mashed up similes and shapey-hand gestures, supported by pulling up images on the internet. It feels frustrating and messy and like you are inching your way closer to something better.

Then, two nights later, he shows me what would very soon become this:

The image takes my breath away. “You broke the circle,” I say with reverence. “It is creativity. It is a void, then light rising through the mist.”

There is more tweaking, there is more defining the infinity loop. Moving elements around with minuscule single tap of the arrow keys.

Then there is the gradient of the side of the loop, which over time becomes this curve, representing the creative industries, defined, yet connected. Content overlapping and flowing together.

It looks like a sail catching the wind. It nods to a global perspective. It reminds me of a hot air balloon lifting, filled with air and ready to take flight.

It fills me with joy.

When I shared it at our faculty retreat, which we call the BCE Braintrust, the response was palpable. A collective intake of breath and then everyone asking to have the design files “right away.” The logo is bringing aesthetics and strategy together to inspire others. Just like good branding is supposed to do.

The logo now takes center stage on new merchandise. Documents. Email Signatures. Social. It will be worn on campus, and around the world by our students when they travel abroad or head home for the summer.

The logo represents the transformative power of creativity when connected to industry. It is the unknown and the known. The bound and the unbound, the “ideas that jump” to quote author John Howkins from his book, The Creative Economy.

The logo represents the BCE program curriculum: context, soft skills, creativity and collaboration, cultural economics and aesthetic sensibility shifting into finance, strategy, marketing, and electives that move each student closer to the careers they want to start in the creative industries. Their sails filling with the wind.

The logo represents the transformative work of the BCE community; made up of learners, leaders and scholars, intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs, whose collaboration around new ideas transform perspectives, identify new ways of doing things.

A future that is continuously evolving. Ideas flowing across industries.

Taking shape, creating change.

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