How do you describe a logo to someone who can’t see it? At great length, it turns out
More than just about any expression of design, a logo represents a jillion tiny decisions as to how best to convey emotion and metaphor within a two-dimensional form.
Given a chance, the compulsive designer absolutely WILL spend the remainder of their time on earth agonizing over the space between letters, the angle of a line, the size of a circle, and (more often than you’d imagine) whether or not the logo looks like a part of the human reproductive apparatus.
A good client makes all the difference
It is a small miracle every time a logo realizes its final form—a signature image that represents both the talents of the designer and the vision of the client. We at Curio recently had the pleasure of one of these moments of joy when the final design for the new Theatre Alberta logo was approved:
It helped immensely that our friends at this non-profit society (dedicated to developing the Alberta theatre community) are excellent clients—perceptive, self-aware, confident, and kind. Thanks to their well-distilled goals, Curio was able to develop a clean, modern logo that reflected Theatre Alberta’s values of inclusion and vibrancy.
That would usually be the end of the story… except, in this case, for
One little last-minute request:
Could we, asked the client, provide a verbal description of the new logo that could be used to explain the logo for visually-impaired persons?
No problem, we replied, assuming that accommodating this request would be just that—After all, we know what decisions we made in the process of making the logo; how hard could it be to describe that logo to someone who can’t see it?
The exercise, it turns out, was surprisingly challenging. The ability to manipulate visible elements on a screen or a page is something fundamental to the work of most designers, and it’s a privilege we often take for granted. We also tend to assume that our audiences will be able to visually interpret our work and (hopefully) understand the feelings or associations we’re trying to evoke.
The logo, in our own words:
In the end, our description of the Theatre Alberta logo came in at a not-insubstantial 333 words, which our gracious client assured us would satisfy their request. To write this description (reprinted below in italics) was a lesson for our team on the importance of accessibility in design and a reminder to develop our own understanding and abilities of this principle.
Curio Studio is grateful for the excellent input and guidance provided by Theatre Alberta in the design of their new logo, which undertakes to embody the values of inclusion, playfulness, and spectacle.
Visually, this new logo approximates the view from the back of a theatre, with the words “THEATRE” and ALBERTA” writ large in all-capitals on the stage. At the top, the letters of the word “Theatre” decrease in weight from left to right. Below it, the letters in the word “Alberta” increase in weight from left to right. This variation in boldness in the letters approximates an effect of spotlights moving across a curtain.
The font that we chose for the words “Theatre Alberta” is called “Vary,” which is a unique, readable, and adaptable san-serif typeface (think of Arial or Helvetica).
Below the organization’s name, we see an audience of seven people sitting in a row—each of these characters has been rendered using pairs of simple geometric shapes (i.e. circles, squares, rectangles and wedges).
By representing a character as, say, a circle placed above a triangle, the logo can be reproduced and recognized even at a very small scale. By diversifying the shapes and colours used in each character, we establish that Theatre Alberta is welcoming of people of all identities.
The logo package Curio has provided includes versions of the logo appropriate for web and print (scalable to any size), both in single-colour and in full-colour. The full-colour version incorporates the yellow and purple used in the most recent Theatre Alberta brand, and we’ve introduced lime green to the colour palette to allow more diverse applications of the brand moving forward.
In brief, the logo is really just the word “Theatre” stacked on top of the word “Alberta”, which itself is stacked on a row of seven people who are made up of two geometric shapes each. Though it’s visually fairly simple, the small choices included in this logo design create a contemporary and versatile look for this esteemed society.
Extra credit: Meet an inspiring designer!
Oh and hey, if you’re interested in learning about the work of an amazing Canadian graphic designer doing inspiring work in inclusive design for people with disabilities, please check out Jessica Oddi’s interview at the Canadian Women in Design website!
This post was last updated on January 12, 2022 by Matt Steringa