It's a lonely life...that of the necromancer, er freelancer

A blog by a designer and illustrator, for designers and illustrators which may contain musings on art, movies and random weirdness.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rebel Shakespeare Company Logo

Just completed a new logo for the Rebel Shakespeare Company, a summer theater camp for kids and teens that is based on the North Shore. They have been around for 20 years and yet according to their founder Keri Cahill, have never had an official logo.
When we first met back in April, she told me that she wanted something that would reflect the outdoor and summertime nature of the group. She also wanted to avoid treatments of Shakespeare wearing sunglasses or a bandana, and favored a circular motif. So there are the essential items, Shakespeare, outdoors, kids, circular motif.
With those things in mind I set to work researching and sketching.
First I collected every Shakespeare-related logo I could find, everything from the Royal Shakespeare Company to Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Almost all of them had a stylized portrait of part or all of Shakespeare's face. Although I liked some of these logos very much, this new logo was going to require a different approach.
During my research, I came across several logos and images that caught my eye.
One was this photo of the Shakespeare statue in Central Park.

Another was the logo for the Ithaca Shakepseare Company.

The other was the logo for the Boston Athenaeum, which I ran across on a visit to the Edward Gorey show that was there this spring.

These all started to percolate in my mind. Keri really liked the idea of Shakespeare outdoors, under a tree, possibly reading to a group of children. I tried a couple of quick thumbnails.

Although I liked the basic idea, I could see that the figure of Shakespeare would be difficult to read, or hold together visually, and that this concept would make a better illustration than a logo. So I started looking for ways to render the idea in a way that would be clearer visually. Going back to the Ithica logo, I started looking at trees and tree shapes. Luckily there is tons of reference for trees nearby.

Then I started looking for reference for the figures of Shakespeare and the children.
I found two pieces of public-domain silhouette art by 19th-century German artist Paul Konewka that fit the bill. I liked the idea of using his artwork, as he had produced illustrations for a collected volume of Shakespeare's work in the 1870's, and I liked that historical connection. Plus his work is superb. If you are going to steal, steal from the best.
One piece was of the Pied Piper of Hamlin.

The other was of children dancing in a rural, pastoral scene.

I took the Pied Piper from the first, as I liked his prancing figure, and the dancing children from the second. I isolated them and re-drew them in Illustrator, adding "Shakespeare" details like a ruff collar and a quill to the piper, and eliminating the dog and the uneven ground from the children. I then created a couple of different tree silhouettes and tried various compositions combining all of these elements.

Now the question was, what to do with the type. It was clear that although I liked the non-symmetry of the right hand composition, it made it more difficult to incorporate the text into the image, or drop it into a circle. so I tried dropping knocked-out text into the negative areas above and below the main image.

The one with the text above seemed to work better, but after meeting with Keri, she re-iterated her preference for a circular logo. So I tried dropping the artwork into a circular format, similar to the Athenaeum logo. After trying half a dozen fonts for the text, I settled on AT Handle Oldstyle, a font that was very readable, but had a bit of the flavor of the old-fashioned typeface on the Athanaeum logo.

This seemed to be on the right track, however, there was concern expressed over the figures of the children, that they were so young that they may alienate the older kids and teens who join the group. So I developed the idea of removing the children and replacing their dancing figures with two figures from one of Shakespeare's most popular plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream; Titania and Bottom. Besides being one of my personal favorites, I thought that the figures of Bottom and Titania would be instantly recognizable, and would emphasize not only that the left figure was Shakespeare, but would also highlight both the outdoor setting and magical summertime nature of Rebel Shakespeare productions.
Again, I found more public-domain art by German silhouettist and illustrator, Paul Konewka.

I altered the image somewhat, removing much of Titania's wrapping and replacing it with fairy wings. I added them into the existing composition. I had to alter the foliage on the bottom of the tree to fit in the taller figures.

Now there were two competing logos. As a compromise, I tried some other variations that combined all of the figures, but none of them seemed to work as well.

So Keri did some rudimentary market research and showed both to a group of her former students and directors. They overwhelmingly chose the original composition with the figures of the children.
The next step was to introduce color into the logo. In keeping with the al fresco nature of the group, it was decided that green, would be most appropriate. I selected a dark green Pantone 336, which works well in both solid ink and in 4/C process, with an accent of light green, Pantone 376.
I also worked out several variations for use of the logo, including a version that could be used on a black or dark background, and versions with the type outside of the logo, that would be readable at a small size.

The final package of logos and variations as well as a simple guide to the components of the logo were delivered to the client. The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
If I get the time, I may try a version of the logo that is rendered in a style similar to the Athanaeum logo, just for fun.


  1. That is good, when I first glimpsed it I thought "Midsummer..." .

  2. I fall more in love with it every day. Thank you, George!