ArtisTree: Behind the Scenes

Sometimes, new projects come from the unlikeliest places. In this case, it came from a conversation at a Brownie (Girl Scout) camping trip. One of the mothers mentioned that she, her husband and a partner were planning to open an arts studio in Reston, Virginia with the aim of giving people of all ages and skill levels the opportunity to take classes and collaborate with others in dance, theater and the visual arts. Being a closet artist myself, I jumped at the chance to work on this project and be a part of this exciting concept. Here is a look at the process behind the artistry.

Concepting and Sketching
I'll be the first to admit that my sketching isn't the most beautiful and my process may not seem very neat. I don't spend hours at a time working on a logo, but chip away at it a little at a time, filling my notebook with words and phrases that lead to sketches which eventually find their way to the computer. My goal is to fill as many pages as possible, often drawing the same thing over and over again until it's worked its way out of my head and I can move on to another idea. Like I said, it's not always beautiful, but it's proven very effective for me. Here are a couple of pages from my sketchbook showing the initial ideas for the ArtisTree logo.

The Presentation
I typically show 4-6 logos, almost always in black and white (so that color doesn't distract from the ideas being presented), but I went a little overboard on this project and showed logos both in black and white (not shown) and color. I always try to show a range of concepts, from more conservative to a little out there, conceptually. In this case, the challenge was to represent the world of artistic expression — from dance to theater to the visual arts — in a dynamic, exciting way. I also tried a few that incorporated a tree to reflect that aspect of the name.

The client seemed thrilled with the ideas I presented and had a hard time deciding which they liked (one of the drawbacks of showing too many ideas). After some deliberation, they came back to me and asked to see a couple of the ideas refined a little more.

Round 2
The "splat" idea was inspired by the client's quote during a presentation where they said the end result of the art is less important than the process. I thought about what the tables at ArtisTree might look like after a work session and how this might convey the idea of art happening. The client liked this idea too so we refined the "tree/splat" to incorporate the text into the symbol and tried a new idea where there were more splats and one where the splats became part of the name.

Round 3
The tree/splat was one of my early favorites and I was pleased that the client seemed to be favoring that concept. They were still unsure of the typeface inside the symbol so I tried a few new faces to see how they looked. For simplicity's sake, I worked in black and white for this round.

They were focused on the stencil typeface at first, but later we tried a few other typefaces that I thought worked well with the symbol.

Round 4
Few logo projects require this many sets of revisions, but I felt we were close so it was worth the back and forth to bring it to fruition. If we could just get the final details resolved... At one point the client showed me the logo for their landscaper — a tree with the name inside it — that looked a little close to the tree/splat I had developed. To distance it further, we tried the logo with the name under the logo and linked the symbol and type by dotting the "i" with the bottom of the splat.

I really liked where this was going and felt we had finally nailed it, but the client was still unsure about the typeface. They really liked the idea of being outsiders, even a bit geeky. They showed me a few typefaces they liked that expressed this feeling and I added a few of my own.

After all the back-and-forth, the three partners just couldn't agree on the tree/splat and went back to an earlier version that they could all feel good about. The funky retro typeface was not my first choice, but I've learned over the years to sometimes just go with the flow and not over-analyze things too much. And shouldn't you take a few risks when it comes to art? I liked the way we could use the black background as a "window" with revolving art inside to better express the idea of individual expression. And it gave me the opportunity to use my extensive collection of scanned textures. So far, I've made 20+ versions of the logo and will keep adding more as the mood suits us. Pretty cool, huh?

Now that the logo is done, it will be applied to a variety of materials, from print to the web to signage and shirts. Here's what the business card looks like.

I'll post more as it's developed. Thanks to Margo and Greg Pryzby and Marco Rando for trusting me with their baby. I'm looking forward to taking classes and maybe teaching a few down the road. Check out to find out more about their terrific arts programs.

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