Logodotes: Cat Adoption Team concept

[Over the 30+ years I've worked professionally as a designer, interesting side stories have come up about my identity designs. This is one of an ongoing series of "Logodotes" - anecdotes about my logo designs.]

It's always interesting to be contacted by a nonprofit organization with a request to design a logo pro bono. I get numerous such requests each month. These days, to give myself permission to politely decline some inquiries, I only consider donating my services if the project is related to education, nonprofit performing arts groups, children's causes, HIV/AIDS or issues in which I have a strong personal interest.

I had certainly heard of the Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.), the Pacific Northwest’s largest nonprofit, limited admission cat shelter with  its own on-site full-service veterinary hospital. My initial contact with the organization came via an email from a graphic designer doing volunteer work for C.A.T. She explained that she was a fan of my own identity design work and asked if I would possibly consider designing a new logo for C.A.T. as it approached its tenth anniversary celebration.

After expressing my interest in taking on the project, an appointment was made with the woman who was the group's Executive Director at the time. I appreciated the advertising and marketing background of this individual. She had a great understanding of branding - and the fact that the logo in use at the time (above left) may have served the agency well in its first decade, but it was time to convey a stronger, more professional and memorable public persona. With the emotional and historical investment in the existing logo, the was certainly a "never tell a potential client their logo sucks" situation. Personally, I felt the hand-drawn logo, with one black cat looking outside a window while another looked in, projected a melancholy and somewhat sinister image.

My hope was to create a simple, memorable logo, that would be appeal to both adults and children, as an identifier for the group. With the gift of an organization name acronym creating the primary word associated with the cause, I set about the design a logo turning C.A.T. into the graphic image of the animal. I got increasingly excited as I doodled (above right) and saw a recognizable cat form taking shape within the name.

My excitement was shared by the Executive Director when I explained the direction in which I was taking the project. As I fine-tuned the concept, I opted to make use of letterforms from the font Frankfurter to form the cat and then be used to spell out the organization name. The roundness of the letters created a soft, friendly, inviting design (above) for review by the client Board of Directors. The Executive Director seemed very pleased by my effort and felt it could successfully take C.A.T. into its second decade with a clever and professional graphic identity.

The Board of Directors did not agree. The Executive Director shared that the board members did not feel the design was "warm and fuzzy enough" to successfully represent the cause. She then graciously offered me an opportunity that no previous client had suggested. Given the fact I had donated my time and invested so much energy, into a design that I was convinced would best serve C.A.T and the Board of Directors disagreed; she was allowing me to remove myself from the situation if I chose to do so.

I accepted her offer to separate myself from the project. Afterwards I learned that other designers had less than successful past business relationships with the agency, too. The combination of a mostly volunteer organization, the historical and emotional attachments to the group's past designs, a voting Board of Directors sometimes becoming a "design by committee' presence, and other elements can make such projects challenging - for the designer and the client.

Soon after ending my participation in the C.A.T. project, I received a call-for-entries for a book to display 50 of the best international rejected, or "killed," design concepts. The C.A.T. logo concept design got a second life when it was accepted for publication in the book Killed Ideas: Vol 1.

The C.A.T. design went on to have more than nine lives beginning with winning a Silver Award in the Summit Creative Awards. It is also featured in the books Letterhead & Logo Design 11, American Graphic Design & Advertising 25, Designing for the Greater Good, LogoLounge Master Library Vol. 2, Logolicious, For a Good Cause (Spain), iheartlogos season one, Logo Design Vol. 3 (Germany), Logo Nest 2 and LogoBook (Spain). The logo also appears in the textbook Perfect Match Art Primary 5, by Prisca Ko Hak Moi - a collaborative project of publisher Pearson Education South Asia and Ministry of Education Singapore. Most recently it is an illustrative element in an article I wrote for the 2011 Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market.

© Cat Adoption Team

What became of the need for a Cat Adoption Team logo design? Well, another designer (if I knew the name I would post it here) did take on the project and successfully created an identity for C.A.T. (above). It seems that the organization got their more literal and "warm and fuzzy" feline representation within the logo design. It has been used as the agency's identity for some time now.

I had an immediate critical, rather than personal or bitchy, reaction to the new logo when first seeing it - and other logo designers have emailed me with similar thoughts. With the illustrative cat's head resting on the "C" letterform, that letter seems to visually close creating a noose-like appearance - or the cat's head seems to resting in wait for the falling of a guillotine blade or the ax of a a public executioner. Perhaps not the best graphic message for a "no-kill" cat shelter.

© 2015 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

2012 Articles about Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Articles, mentions of Jeff Fisher and sightings of Jeff Fisher LogoMotives designs online and in print:

Benefits of Pro Bono: roundup of good deeds by designers, by Bryn Mooth, The Creative Group eZine (November 2012)

Copyrights, Trademarks and Infringements … Oh My! (Part 2), by Neil Tortorella, GraphicDesign.com (October 2012)

5 Steps to Finding the Best Clients, by Ilise Benun, HOW Magazine (September 2012)

Neighborhood Branding: How to Launch Your Neighborhood Brand and Engage Your Community, by Chris Young, Neighborhood Notes (August 2012)

10 Steps to Creating Your Freelance Brand Personality, by Martha Retallick, FreelanceSwitch (August 2012)

Neighborhood Branding: How To Create A Neighborhood Logo, by Chris Young, Neighborhood Notes (July 2012)

Indie: Last Call!, by Steve Gordon, Jr., RockPaperInk (July 2012)

Neighborhood Branding: Goals and Guidance for Creating Your Neighborhood Brand, by Chris Young, Neighborhood Notes (June 2012)

Neighborhood Branding: Determining What To Change and How, by Chris Young, Neighborhood Notes (May 2012)

designer conversations // Jeff Fisher, by Brian Gray, iheartlogos (May 2012)

Neighborhood Branding: Do People Have The Wrong Perception of Your Neighborhood?, by Chris Young, Neighborhood Notes (April 2012)

10 Things you (probably) didn’t know about Jeff Fisher, by Ilene Strizver, The Type Studio (March 2012)

5 Steps to Finding the Best Clients, by Ilise Benun, HOW Magazine (January 2012)

© 2015 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Retail Logos

(Clockwise from upper left)

Client: WhatNots
Location: Ogden, UT USA

The identity for an antique and collectibles seller. The design is featured in The Big Book of Logos 3 (HBI, USA, 2002).

Read more about the WhatNots project on bLog-oMotives

Robinwood Center
Client: Robinwood Center
Location: West Linn, OR USA

In 1981, fresh out of college, I was hired to create the logo for the Robinwood Center retail mall. The image was created on illustration board with a rapidiograph pen.

For The Birds
Client: For The Birds
Location: Portland, OR USA

For The Birds was created for a friend who was planning on opening a bird house store. The logo is featured in the books New Logo & Trademark Design (P.I.E. Books, Japan, 1998), Bullet-Proof Logos (HBI, USA, 2000), The New Big Book of Logos (HBI, USA, 2000) and Logo & Trademark Collection (P.I.E. Books, Japan, 2004),.

Read more about the For The Birds logo on bLog-oMotives

Walk Your Talk
Client: Walk Your Talk
Location: Silver Springs, MD USA

This icon was created for Walk Your Talk, an urban sportswear company that projects a positive message with their products. The design has been featured in the books Logos from North to South America (Index Book, Spain, 2005), Logos Cafe (Page One, Singapore, 2005), Fashion Identity (Index Book, Spain, 2007) and Logos from North to South America (Paper-mini, Index Book, Spain, 2007).

See more retail logo designs by Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

All logo designs © 2015 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives. All rights reserved.

Were these clients expecting original logo designs?

Quite often these days I am receiving emails, tweets, Facebook messages and direct messages, from design professionals around the world, expressing concern that they have come across a logo design that was much more than inspired by one of my own original identity creations. I really appreciate the vigilance of the design community.

In February 2012, one copyright infringement situation was brought to my attention by way of a personal email from a designer in Denmark, a tweet with the offending page link and a direct message from another designer on Twitter. Much of the concern shared by other professionals has been the result of the design industry's recent experience with LogoGarden and the large number of copyright violations of my own work found via Google reverse image searches.

Recently I received an email from a design peer in Texas, expressing his concern that he'd come across a rip-off of one of my designs in the online portfolio of an Austin designer (above). In viewing the example, I immediately knew that he was referring to the Neighborhood Service Center logo I designed for the City of Portland's Office of Neighborhood Involvement - an image that evolved from an earlier local government agency identity I created in 1999. In responding to my online design pal, I explained that I would suspect that the Austin image had somehow been inspired by my design, but it didn't appear to be a literal rip-off.

Still, my curiosity was piqued - and I did a Google reverse image search using the logo image from Austin. Initially, I found a Shutterstock graphic (above) that was being sold by the company until at least 10.12.10. I suppose it was "inspired" by my design, as there are some very obvious similarities. I then came across numerous sites around the world offering the image for sale or as a free clipart download. The search then resulted in finding many logo designs making use of the image, or variations of the graphic.

Here are some of the examples I discovered:

• Logos for a real estate investment concern; a Chinese company marketing first aid kits; a television show in Argentina, student housing accommodations in Syria, home medical services in Illinois, and a Michigan county program (with watermark lines from a clipart site still in place when enlarged).

• Symbols representing a glass and window business in Bangladesh, a real estate firm in Andora, a nonprofit organization in Scotland, a Chinese real estate representative, a website in China and an insurance company in British Columbia.

• Images including those for a "design contest" in China (with the contributor being called out on the site for not submitting an original design), a business selling Turkish products in Russia, a window manufacturer in the Ukraine, a Pakistani student organization, a health care program in Michigan and an architecture firm in the Czech Republic.

• Identities for a Canadian community grants program, a Chinese job placement firm, a real estate broker concern in Brazil, a Russian news-related website and an in-home health care business.

I also found the image being used as an illustrative element on many websites, the cover graphic for a National Household Education Survey Report book in China and in many other applications.

With the image found in use all over the world, I wonder how many of the owners of these businesses, and organization administrators, think they are represented by a truly original design - and how many designers represented their work as such.

© 2015 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Three paperback design book releases highlight the identity work of Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

The logo design efforts of Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for the Portland-based firm Jeff Fisher LogoMotives are featured in three recent paperback book releases from major industry publishers. The examples are featured in the books The Best of Letterhead and Logo Design and Letterhead and Logo Design 11 from Rockport Publishers, and The Big Book of Logos 5 from Harper Design.

The Best of Letterhead and Logo Design contains Jeff Fisher's identities for Black Dog Furniture Design and the triangle productions! theatre company shows The Food Chain and Girls' Night Out. Logos for writer Kimberly Webster, retail establishment Peggy Sundays, and the 100-year-old W.C. Winks Hardware were also selected. All of the businesses are in the Portland metropolitan area. The volume is a collection of the best designs from the previous four Letterhead and Logo Design books released by the company between the years 1999 and 2007.

Compiled by the firm Design Army, the book Letterhead and Logo Design 11 features the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives design concept for the Cat Adoption Team.

The Big Book of Logos 5, a nearly 400-page volume from authors David E. Carter and Suzanna MW Stephens, showcases designs for the Benicia Historical Museum (Benicia, CA), Four Rivers Community School (Ontario, OR), the annual golf tournament and auction events for Residence XII (Kirkland, WA), Twisted Elegance Interactive (Seattle, WA), The Parenting Alliance, and the Young Native Writer's Essay Contest sponsored by the Holland+Knight Charitable Foundation (Tampa, FL). An icon produced as part of the international Fluerons of Hope - Font Aid III effort, benefiting those impacted by the tsunami of 2004, was also selected.

Portland clients highlighted in the volume include interiors firm NoBox Design, the VanderVeer Center anti-aging clinic, the City of Portland's Neighborhood Service Center program, Bella Terra Landscape Designs, the AIDS residential care facility Our House of Portland, and architect Thomas Fallon.

Logos for the community activist organization Association for Responsible Inner Eastside Neighborhood Development (AFriend), the Reed College Fall Thesis programs for 2004 and 2005, The Spring Showcase presented by the Philoptochos of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, and the now closed Balaboosta Delicatessen were also recognized.

Identities honored for North Portland individuals, organizations or events included those for community organizer Mike Verbout, St. Johns Window Project, Portsmouth Neighborhood Association, North Portland Business Association and University Park United Methodist Church's annual North Portland Pride BBQ and Festival.

Selected designs include images created for George Fox University's Tilikum Center for Retreats & Outdoor Ministries (Newberg, OR) and the Emerge Medical Spa at Bridgeport (Tigard, OR).

Gay/Lesbian community logo images to be in the book include designs for Just Out newsmagazine (Portland, OR) and the Diversity Training program of DiversityBuilder.com (Brentwood, TN). In addition, my "I DO!" image, in support of same-sex marriage, and the logo for the designer's own marriage to partner Ed Cunningham are celebrated.

An identity created for a presentation at the 2004 HOW Design Conference was also published.

Fisher, a 35 year design industry veteran, is the author of Identity Crisis!: 50 redesigns that transformed stale identities into successful brands and The Savvy Designer's Guide to Success: Ideas and tactics for a killer career. Other book projects are currently in the works.

The designer has received over 600 design awards and his work has been published in more than 160 books on identity design, self-promotion and the marketing of small businesses. He often travels – nationally and internationally – to present courses, seminars and workshops on design, branding, marketing and social networking. In addition, Fisher is a nationally-recognized speaker, making numerous presentations each year to design organizations, design schools, universities and business groups.

More information about Jeff Fisher, and his design and writing efforts, may be found on the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives blogfolio.

© 2015 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives