I’m a software developer, so it’s probably not entirely surprising that I juggle. I don’t juggle particularly well, but I juggle with gusto so hopefully that counts for something.
Anyhow, a couple of years ago I discovered and started attending the Melbourne Juggling Convention (MJC), organised by the amazing juggler Christian Parr. Until recently the MJC had changed their branding annually, but this year they decided to run a competition to design a new permanent logo. It’s not an area where I have any formal training, but I’m very interested in graphic design (and there was a lifetime membership at the convention up for grabs) so I thought I’d give it a try.
The brief included the following direction:
Logo Design - things to consider: Try to consider as many of these points as you can:
- A simple design that MUST clearly show the words “Melbourne Juggling Convention”
- Works both on a white and black background
- Clear & resizable, ie. stays recognisable whatever the size
The concept/idea is more important than the quality of the drawing. We can get a graphic designer to touch up your design if required, ie. you need a good idea more than good drawing skills! The new MJC logo needs to reflect the vision of the conventionʼs future. Some things to consider are: the community, the people, circus culture, performance, workshops (learning and teaching), environmental awareness, friendly & inviting, everybody is welcome.
As a juggler I already had a fair amount of domain knowledge about props, disciplines, terminology etc., so for my research I had a look around at other juggling related logos and designs. The spectrum of examples I found was incredibly broad with varying levels of detail, complexity and finish, but it gave me a good general feel for the problem space.
Brainstorming & Concept Sketches
Based on my research, I decided to aim for a simple, descriptive image with fairly bold spaces and colors to make it as eye catching and recognisable as possible. I came up with some basic ideas about the representation and worked through a few iteration of sketches and mockups.
A lot of the examples I came across in my research tended use clubs as a descriptive symbol for juggling. While clubs are a very common prop, they tend to provide a bit of a psychological barrier to entry for casual and amateur jugglers. I figured that I could either represent every circus related prop I could think of (balls, clubs, scarves, rings, diablo, devil stick, unicycle, hula hoop, cigar boxes - ah! Too many!) or reduce it back down to the simplest, most basic and recognisable prop I could think of - the ball. It’s what most people start with and is instantly recognisable. With this decided, the overall shape of the design started to lean towards heavier use of circles symbolising the balls, the trajectory of the objects as they are juggled, and more abstract concepts like inclusiveness and sustainability. I also thought that it was very important to include the people and community around the convention in some way, and toyed with several different versions of human figures. I tried using groups of figures to represent a feeling of community, belonging and inclusion, but I though the resulting concepts were looking too busy. When I tried to use fewer figures I encountered issues where the symbolism attracted potentially unrepresentative connotations (for instance when I used a male, a female and a child to represent the different kinds of people who are part of the community it just ended up looking like an atomic heterosexual family). In the end I decided on a single gender ambiguous figure.
I made a conscious decision to avoid excessive detail in the rendering to make it more easily resizable, identifiable and recognisable.
As there was a requirement to display the logo on a both black and white backgrounds I decided to go with a very simple monochromatic palette, only using black and white so that I could reverse them for the opposite colored backgrounds. I went with green as the base color as a fairly obvious tip of the hat toward environmental awareness and sustainability (and with the option that different base colors could be used to differentiate between different convention years).
Looking back I think this was the biggest weakness of my submission I left the text until last, and I didn’t put enough importance on integrating the type with the imagery so it ended up looking very generic, tacked on and didn’t really add to the overall concept.
I submitted the two color mockups above and (as the focus was on the concepts rather than a polished product) I also included some of the sketches. I received feedback that my concepts had been accepted with some changes made by the selection board and the designer including a different typeface and incorporation of concept ideas into the mockup.
You can see the final results that were sent back to me below:
Things I’d do differently
Because I’m still learning I tend to have the feeling that whatever I’m doing now is the best thing I’ve ever done, and everything I’ve done before is terrible. Looking back over these materials brings to mind some obvious things that I’d do differently now:
- Type - When I took on this project I didn’t know much about typography and completely under appreciated its importance in the finished product. In the end the client chose their own font, but even with the requirement for a free font, I think that the overall design would have been better if I’d lead rather than followed in this instance.
- Tools - The mockups here were raster images produced in the GIMP - partially because the final concept was going to be cleaned up by a designer, but to be honest mostly because at the time I didn’t know any better. Since then I’ve learned a lot more about vector graphics and I produce all of my scalable stuff in Inkscape now.
- Color - At the time I liked the idea of negative images for the white and black backgrounds, but my taste has matured a bit now and I’d probably go with some more subtle use of greys instead.
- Texture - I’ve been producing some stuff lately that makes use of textured overlays to give a slightly worn poster effect and I think this would have really benefited from the additional depth.
- More feedback! - It’s not really in the nature of competitions to be collaborative, but I having just thrown some ideas over the wall, I can appreciate the advantages of going through iterations of client interaction starting early in the process to minimise any gap between client expectations and the product and avoid wasted effort.
This project was well outside my comfort zone at the time and I was nervous enough about rejection and critique that I almost didn’t enter. I think that the lesson I take away from this is the understanding that you have be willing to embrace failure as a learning experience if you’re going to learn and improve. If you don’t take that risk you’re safer, but you’ll never get off the ground.
Oh, and sometimes you can win stuff :)