Creative Process Study 08

04.26.2010 / Project: Media Access

Future in Bold


Future in Bold is a showcase of graphic design and art direction work by Graeme Stephenson. Graeme has over five years’ industry experience, working with a wide range of professionals for a client base spanning the US, UK and the Middle East. Graeme specialises in (but is not restricted to) brand development, on-screen design and printed collateral. He is committed to working with agencies and businesses, with a tenacity to produce communication-led design solutions tailored to answer the client’s specific criteria.

Background and Market Position

Media Access is a fully integrated media solutions company whose services include sponsorship, TV production, TV content creation, on-line and mobile content creation as well as event management and marketing.

The companies’ roots lie in sports/entertainment media, but focus predominantly in finding the right “fit” for their clients. Properties can range from on the ground grassroots football tournament to a motor sport reality TV program.

The company is still in it’s infancy, having just started at the beginning of the year. As well as having strong contacts in the Dubai/GCC region the company will be looking to increase their client base in the coming months.

The Brief

Based on the above, a brand identity was required for Media Access to depict the core offering, as a large focus of the next twelve months will be to aggressively seek and pitch to prospective clients. The identity would be needed to be applied initially across the full stationery range, as well as the further development of a separate website, press advertisements, PowerPoint templates and brand guidelines.

Design Process/Approach

In the initial meeting the client stated the core of the identity (the logo) needed to encapsulate the following attributes: dynamic, innovative and professional. It wasn’t until as a result of the design process beginning to take shape, that we would mutually discover specifically how these key attributes could be reinforced and visually communicated through the identity, as I will explain later in the process.

It’s worth mentioning that the allocated budget for this exercise didn’t necessarily warrant a full-blown, quantitative research process and investigation into the correct brand positioning and so on, in order to determine the visual execution.

In fact, most of the companies and individuals I have produced identities for fall into the same category concerning budget. For me the task has always been about turning a small job on it’s head and investing a bit of extra time and ‘zest’ into creating something that is robust for the client, in order to enable them to appear established and be competitive.

So went the initial meeting. The client had some thoughts of his own, bringing to the table his own set of influences and preferences in the form of logos he’d found on the web, which we both felt would be a good starting point — making reference to particular preferences in colour, typography, composition and overall look and feel. I find this is always helpful, but not all clients will be willing to go to this extent. This simple request to bring something to the table does however, save so much time and avoid any misunderstandings in the long run. Here are a few examples:

Media Access 4

This became the first important step in determining the creative direction of the logo, so it became my role of advising and convincing the client to distinguish which ones and why were aesthetically ‘incorrect’ for his business, taking into consideration the companies’ market position and future aspirations, and to immediately tap into the look and feel which based on my design sensibilities, I instinctively felt were correct. This is a professional judgment, based on years of experience and it is important that the client takes this on board.

Time, it’s worth noting, was also of the essence as the client was already behind schedule with the brand identity due to various reasons, hence following a review of the initial direction I started pursuing some ideas. The one specific demand which remained cemented from the outset however, was that the logo should be derived from the initials ‘MA’ (Media Access) in some form, so I jotted my first flash of ideas roughly on paper. Here are a couple, which on reflection don’t seem very cohesive, but felt important to do at the time as a means of recording my visual response:

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The first challenge was to counter act what felt like the restriction of being somewhat limited to basing everything around ‘MA’. The challenge soon became a case of striking the perfect balance of trying to do something visually creative, and more so original, with the letters MA — whilst still answering the original brief. So then I began filtering some of these ideas from paper to screen, whilst simultaneously experimenting with various fonts, in order to see which held the most promise in the ‘M’ and the ‘A’ typographically, but also felt right for the brand idea. Some I began to build on; incorporating basic shapes and iconography with hints of possible colours. Others were left by the conceptual wayside:

Media Access 6

As some of the designs began to evolve, we decided the core visual clues (aside from the MA initials) would be something that echoed their key services, being ‘media’ (online, viral, social, outdoor and so on) but also it was decided that in order to remain aligned with the companies’ dynamism, that the logo would be above all adaptable: it could flex and morph whilst still reflecting the core essence of the brand. An interesting angle. So it was agreed that this would successfully communicate to a media-savvy audience from the outset that Media Access is an innovative and forward-thing company, which offers a comprehensive and versatile range of services. The basic visual components of the logo, and the connotational roles where the defined, tried and tested in various configurations, which would constitute the first phase of the presentation:

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After a considerable period of decision making, and subjecting to both friends and colleagues in and outside of the industry (often the case), the client chose the following logo from the selection, as the most likely candidate with scope to serve this newly uncovered, specific criteria:

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The client was drawn to the simple rounded bar shapes which made up the MA initials, which were inspired by the vernacular of display symbols and iconography used in modern technology (such as volume bars, power signs, peripheral connection symbols and so on). It was agreed that these basic shapes would form the signature of the brand identity, enabling it to be dynamic and work for different reasons. So again I reverted to recording these ideas on paper for later use, such as for print adverts and eventually the website:

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At this stage there were quite a few issues regarding the overall compositional lock-up and colour schemes that needed to be developed. After trying and testing various colour schemes, we came to the conclusion of PANTONE 186 C Red and a PANTONE 426 C Carbon Gray, based purely on the visual contrast and overall modern feel. I chose Gotham Rounded for the font because of it’s neutral and omnipresent qualities and because the rounded edges subtly reiterated the rounded bar shapes which formed the initials.

The Solution

Subsequent minor alterations followed in order to perfect the composition, due to a combination of both mine and the clients’ personal curiosity, as did some further experimentation with the positioning, size and weight variations of the type in relation to the initials:

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In the end we all agreed on the following as the final solution. The rounded bars would become recognized as being integral to the brand, eventually alternating in complexity and scale whilst running seamlessly through firstly the stationery and eventually all of their printed collateral and online media:

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A repository of grids where carried through the stationery range to begin with, followed by further extensions into advertisements — as stipulated in the brand guidelines.

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Media Access 2

Media Access

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4 comments, please join in the discussion

  1. 04.30.2010

    Great post! Very few people understand (or assume) the responsibility involved when creating a logo/mark/identity for a client. Budget or not, a designer needs to research, study and work at developing a functional logo with multiple applications in mind. Now that the internet has become the main media, many designers have overlooked the process and importance of legibility, size adaptations and color applications. I still believe that a logo has to fax well(bw), that’s the final test. Communication, longevity and image are combined to create a successful logo. A logo should not be too trendy or overcomplicated.

  2. Nick Greenwood

    This is a great idea. Really insightful, it’s always good to see the working out a well as the end product. Not that we should have to justify ourselves to clients but it doesn’t hurt to show the real value of our trade.

    It looks like you had a good/close relationship with your client there which shows in the final output. A really strong identity, in my opinion.

    The ‘MEDIA and ‘ACCESS’ definitely work better at one size.

  3. 05.14.2010

    Very well written walk through of your process grez. If I was the client, i’d feel at ease even if I was blind and couldn’t see any of your work. You sound, calm thoughtful, confident and I imagine you’d say the same stuff if you were in a board room which is awesome.

    The work itself is great too. The application of the rounded elements to a grid, posters and website was a really surprising use of the logo. The M and A was nicely handled too and Gotham rounded seems like the perfect choice. Well done.

    Your blocky red and tan MA with the triangles cut out (upper left in your second round of sketches) stands out to me. It would have been interesting to see what you’d have done with that direction. I don’t know the company well enough to know if it’s appropriate for them or not, but I certainly like it.

    Still, overall the project was resolved very well. The client has a role too in deciding and to me-If I was the client, I’d probably feel quite happy. (Maybe it would be nice to get a testamonial quote from them,
    ask about their fears going into the project and they’ll say how you helped them overcome those fears and delivered something great.)

  4. 05.21.2010

    Beautiful walkthrough and I think the final result is most excellent; there’s clearly been a lot of thought and discussion gone into the design and it has been beautifully executed.