Many people, including me, have weighed in on the progress of Cundari’s effort to brand Hartford. Three campaigns with three logo marks were presented, and the feedback seems to be overwhelmingly negative. Comments on Hartford Courant articles aren’t typically worth the pixels they darken, but these include the criticisms I’ve heard most often:
- Why was a Canadian group hired instead of a local designer?
- They look like hospital logos.
- These are generic marks.
- They don’t do justice to Hartford.
- They don’t express what Hartford means to me.
Now that I live in Washington DC, I no longer qualify as a local designer. However, I still love the city, have many, many, many friends there and want it to realize its fantastic potential. I’m also deeply interested in graphic and identity design, and the challenge of developing a mark for the city was too appealing to resist. After lots of research on Hartford landmarks, placebrands and the masters of identity creation, I sketched a bunch of ideas and developed a few. Here’s a look at the process:
Unsurprisingly, I quickly honed in on the “H” letterform and what ideas it could incorporate and represent: exclamation points, arrows, hearts, roads, rivers, the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch. I wanted to come up with a mark that had multiple points of meaning, but I wanted it to be bold and simple. So began an intensive period of experimentation with shapes and negative space. For that, precision and speed were vital, so it made sense to move from paper to the computer. I came up with a few ideas that were encouraging, but I ended up rejecting them for different reasons.
1. Love Hartford.
I went to a Jolie Holland show this week, and one particularly memorable line of stage banter was that “New York City believes its own hype.” This is embodied in its tagline, I ♥ NY. Hartford is maybe the opposite, in a lot of people don’t realize what’s great about it, even if they live in the city. The “Love Hartford” slogan is a command, a wake-up call, and maybe a plea. Implicit in that is a call to action: show that you love Hartford. Do something.
I discarded this idea since it required more than two colors to set off the heart from the trunks of the H, and I couldn’t get it to work to my satisfaction by changing the size and spacing of the elements.
2. Let’s play.
This was really exciting at first. The shadow very subtly creates the “H” and the Soldiers and Sailors Arch in the negative space. Those same elements, with the shorter left leg, also resolve as the body of running child with arms spread wide, while the old crescent moon outlines the child’s upturned head. Ultimately, I decided that it wasn’t bold enough to be a mark for Hartford. Another designer could probably make it work, but I decided to go in a different direction.
3. Historic Hartford.
My desire to create an energetic and propulsive mark led me to to work a lot with upward-pointing arrows, which brought me back to the peaks of the arch, which in turn brought me back to the “H” letterform. That territory is simply too fecund for a literalist, which is what I am. In this logo, the arch and “H” stand out as the most obvious symbols, while the negative space at the bottom echos the top of the mark and suggests a city skyline viewed at 45 degrees. Every arrow points up in this mark, expressing the trajectory of Hartford. The angles also remind me of Gothic Tuscan woodtypes, a callback to the past. I like this mark for its simplicity and boldness, but felt I came up with something better.
Final: Your Hartford.
This is your city. Whatever you contribute to it will be repaid with interest. Once again, we have the “H” and Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch as the primary symbols of the city. Within that container, things start to get even more interesting. The upward arrows are again present, but their paths are traced through the negative space in the mark, suggesting the choice and individuality of the “Your Hartford” campaign. The city can be what you want it to be. The elements are also separated into a stylized “y” and “h” to reinforce that tagline. Finally, a slimmer “H” is contained within the larger “H” and stands out in blue with the two-color variation of the mark.
I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project, and I’m happy with the final mark. At the very least, it expresses what Hartford means to me: accessibility, intelligence, sophistication, history, beauty, depth and potential.