A Rock and a Typeface

Is your brand due for an upgrade? Brand recognition in design isn't limited to overall composition, color and design elements, it's also a question of time. Trends in branding tend to change as media evolves and how we process that evolution is critical on determining whether or not it's time to reevaluate where you came from, where you are and where you are going.

When I was coming up in this field, Brendan Fraser and "The Rock" were fighting it out in some horrid movie about Mummy Scorpions...or something. I recall being excited about the prospect of this movie as it was the third installment in a series of fun, campy, summer action movies that would provide me with a cool, dark place where I could binge on Snow-Caps and Cherry Coke for 2 hours without feeling too bad about myself.

Fast forward to 2017 where we have Brendan "would you like fries with that" Fraser and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. One man had a successful run as an action/comedy star and the other was known for wearing a Speedo and, evidentially liked to cook things. Unfortunately, if you smelled what he was cooking, you were getting an elbow to your face.

Each man was at a point in his career where he had to make a decision. Evolve to the next level - or live in obscurity. Fraser chose to remain stagnant and continue with the same shtick while Johnson dropped "The Rock", took more dramatic, diverse roles and broke into stardom. The same analogy can apply to your own identity. In other words, are you doing everything that you can do to stay relevant to your audience?

I take no pride in admitting that I have pulled a few "Frasers" in my tenure as a professional Brander. My biggest Fraser was a result of not enough experience, understanding and lack of time.

I present to you, one of the first logos that I ever made...be gentle.

Ugh...Where to begin?

Let's examine this abomination in its context. Aside from its' generic, unbalanced form, it lacks the proper visceral theme. Aspire Wellness Center is about growth. For some reason I decided that dead branches were the way to go. If I recall, I initially liked the pattern of the branches and decided to focus on what I liked and not what was best for the overall concept of the client.

Let's say that this was a brand for clumsy tree trimmers who love serif typefaces and 90's-style gradients. Scalability was my second big mistake. Your brand name, theme and text must retain it's power - no matter what size it becomes. The third factor that I dealt with was launching the brand with very little time to think about all of the elements and messaging.

There are other things to hate about this logo. It's not very cross-compatible. In print, it's bad. On the web, it was worse. There is no modern flare, or design elements, or a thought-out color palette that could carry over to every medium and give a sense of brand continuity. Thankfully, Aspire saw consistent success in their market and they were growing in staff, clientele and space. I had an opportunity to redeem their brand - and myself.

There are two types of rebranding initiatives. A revolution of a failed brand involves scrapping the entire look and starting fresh. This usually occurs when a business is experiencing a drastic decline in attention and sales due to competition, lack of awareness or a new direction. As a designer, there is no greater pleasure (or pressure) like starting a revolution. Like any good coup d'état, you must have patience, a plan and the trust of your allies to get to a better state..

When a company is looking to update and modernize their look and has brand recognition to their clients, partners and the public, they need an evolution. Evolving a current brand seems easy, but it takes a bit of deconstructing the value of the old brand and developing it into something better. Since Aspire's brand had been a visual staple in the community, an evolution was the way to go.

I started with the one thing liked about the old brand, The emphasis and exaggeration of the 'I" felt personal and gave the impression of strength and security. I wanted to design around that element and give it a better sense of purpose and fluidity. Then I trimmed the branches and added leaves that would carry on throughout Aspire's marketing collateral, Next, I wanted to integrate a light green gradient though a bold leaf pattern to counter-balance the cleaner typeface and resonate as a tree at any scale.

Eliminating the black serif fonts and introducing a brown for the typeface allows the new brand to have a more subtle color balance and gives a better contract when put over images. Unlike the old brand, Aspire can now use its' true-color logo over a darker background without resorting to the a distracting reversed option.

With a better understanding of design theory, a few more years of experience and time, Aspire's brand evolved from a cluttered, uninspired tumbleweed to a fresh, modern and organic identity. By focusing on what was successful and interesting about the old brand, I was able to expound on the "growth" theme and balance the typeface and graphic elements to bring new life to a dead brand.

Learning to think about the overall execution though things like flyers, signage and the website is something that every good designer needs to keep in the back of their mind when they evolve or revolutionize a brand. Given the proper guidance by the client, understanding the principals of design and taking the time to research and develop placement and platforms - you can get create something that really ROCKS.


Not Brendan Fraser,









336 South Main Street Bel Air, MD 21014 443.417.4312 • garth@gerhartink.com