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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New Salem Theatre Logo

One of my regular clients for the past 5 years has been the Salem Theatre Company I was first brought into the company by Executive Director Gary LaParl, whom I had met when I was a member of the Salem Arts Association and Matteo Pangallo, the original founder of the company, and a co-worker at the Peabody Essex Museum. They brought me in to design a print brochure (the first) for the milestone sixth season and develop a branding system for their promotional materials.

The Salem Theatre Company (STC) was founded in 2002 by Artistic Director, Matteo Pangallo. To implement his vision of a semi-professional local theater for Salem and the North Shore, he established a Board of Directors (BOD) and a Board of Advisors (BOA), and led the first several seasons. During his tenure, and under the original BOD, STC was incorporated as 501(c)(3 ) Salem Arts Center, Inc.

Matteo had designed the original STC logo, unfortunately it was created in Microsoft Word, and had very limited applicability. It looked like this:

The print materials for the first few seasons were sometimes striking, but were also uneven in execution. There was no STC "look". One of my jobs was to refine the existing logo, create a standard framework for the posters, business cards, postcards, ads, signage and other materials for the theatre, all on a very tight, non-profit budget.

I streamlined the STC logo, and recreated it as a vector-based graphic, selected a color palette, and set up a template for show posters, event posters, and the season brochure. I also developed identities for the shows in the Season 6 and the Season 7 brochures. Here is the revised logo:

When John Fogle became artistic director of the STC in 2009, he took over developing the show identities. (He had an extensive background in photography and design). I continued to produce the show posters and special event posters. That continued until this year, when John stepped down as artistic director. A new artistic director, Matthew Gray, was appointed in the spring of 2014. He brought a tremendous amount of energy and new ideas to the Salem Theatre and immediately went in a new direction, including completely revamping the existing logo.

Apparently on Matthew's first visit to Salem with his wife Kelly, they had visited one of the old cemeteries that crowd the center of Salem. The trees there are particularly old and impressive. This struck Matthew as a powerful symbol, not only of Salem, but also what he wanted the theatre to be and stand for. An active and inter-active part of the community.

Matthew and Gary LaParl, had developed a prototype of what they wanted:

Although I liked the look of it. I saw some immediate problems. The tree component had been grabbed from  a website and was not available for licensing. Also, there was no tie-in with the existing logo's colors or typefaces. Complicating the identity was the fact that they had decided to drop "company" from the logo.The Salem Theatre Company (STC) would be henceforth known as simply as the Salem Theatre.Matthew

Once again, there was a good-looking logo that was basically unusable. My job became creating a version of this logo idea that was workable, legal, and bridged the jump from the old logo to the new.
First I had to find the right tree. I actually maintain a file of tree photos called "Sexy Trees". I like trees and find them to be visually fascinating. Using one of my tree photos as reference, I redrew the existing tree by hand. It needed to be similar to the one in the prototype, without being a copy.
I came up with this:

Although still somewhat stylized, it was less symmetrical and therefore a bit more realistic. Matthew and Gary had already selected Trebuchet as one of the typefaces for the new logo. In order to make some connection with the old system, I used Myriad Pro Regular for the "Salem" face. I also used the original "STC yellow" (Pantone122) as the background color. I developed both a vertically-oriented and horizontally-oriented version of the logo.

After review, Gary and Matthew both wanted a version of the logo where the tree branches broke the border of the frame. So I made a version with the tree inside the box was one object, and the branches outside the box were another. That way if the logo appears on a black background, the extending branches would stand out.

The new logo was approved and is currently being rolled out on various materials including a 12th Season brochure, but more about that later.

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