Wow. I went back through all the sketches and variations we did for this logo for the Canadian Arabian Horse Registry, and I must say, it was a bit like herding cats to try and put them all into some semblance of order for a blog post.
Basically, we ended up with three different “prototype families” all being revised and worked on at the same time. All of these options fed into each other during the entire process, but for the sake of brevity, I’ve followed each stream separately until we ended up at the final solution. Hope you enjoy!
To recap – the objectives outlined at the beginning were that we needed a new CAHR logo to be:
- a strong identifier for the breed and its particular characteristics
- attractive, easy to use on promotional items, and a representation that members would be proud to display.
We also narrowed down a few other requirements. The ideal logo would be a) immediately recognizable as an Arabian horse, b) immediately recognizable as Canadian, and c) distinct enough from related logos that it would be unique and memorable.
Before starting with any research or brainstorming, I had dashed off this quick sketch:
This was used as a starting point for further exploration. In terms of process, I like to start working towards a solution using only black and white (and shades of grey, if need be, although that often means the shape isn’t resolved enough), as I feel that I’m forcing myself to have a shape that works, first and foremost. According to Alina Wheeler’s fabulous book Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team, shape is the first thing that the human eye recognizes, followed by color. Details come last.
Stream #1 – Circle Logos
Once we got into the process, I did a number of mock-ups for this configuration, and we used the logo on the bottom right as one of the possible ‘final’ solutions. This may be a comment on my (lack of) drawing skills, but I often find that shapes that look intriguing in a sketch look much less enchanting when done with flat fields of color and definite outlines. One of the ideas that we dropped from the circle image was the idea of working a maple leaf into the horse’s mane, however, as you’ll see, we came back to that idea in other revisions.
While I was working on this set of logos, Guto Penteado was putting together some ideas as well. Guto is a local designer who does all the design for Murray Popplewell’s RaeDawn Arabians (and is also the in-house designer at Popplewell’s Prairie Machine Parts) and we have collaborated on a number of projects in the past. Guto came up with two rough solutions. The first (top left logo, above) incorporated two horse heads and a maple leaf, representing the purebred and half-Arabian streams that the Registry encompasses. We knew that the second head could pose problems down the road in terms of fitting the logo into certain spaces, so we worked to see if the head(s) could be repositioned in a different way.
At this point, we had two potential directions and decided to drop both of them.
We decided that anything contained in a circle looked too much like the AHA logo. Not as critical, but also undesirable, a horse head cut-out within a maple leaf looked similar to the Canadian Nationals show logo. The AHA and the Canadian Nationals show were probably the two logos it was most important to stay distinct from, so we decided to pursue the third stream, a merging of the mane and maple leaf.
I felt very strongly about the two solutions on the bottom right (with and without the cut-out maple leaf), but they received negative feedback from everyone involved – from Tex and Nicole, our touchpoints at the Registry, and from Guto as well. With feedback in hand, I went back to the drawing board. Part of the reason I felt the maple leaf in the mane was a strong image was because it captured some of the excitement that the Arabian breed is known for; I felt that this was still important, however, the visual details needed to be handled differently.
Final round of edits.
The above set of comps was the final round of the design. It was decided that the maple leaf is complex enough on its own, so it was cleaned up and simplified, as was the horse’s head. The strokes suggesting the mane were dropped, as they contributed to confusion in the shape.
At this point, the client was okay with the top set of logos, but it was decided to drop the front maple leaf, and to use an angled line along the bottom instead of a straight line, for a cleaner look. The final solution worked well in both one and two colors.
Final Logo Solution
Perpetua Titling MT was chosen for the typeface, with Myriad chosen as an alternate for use at small sizes.
Throughout the process, we worked closely with Tex and Nicole at the Registry. Each has a vision for the breed’s future and their feedback was invaluable. Tex is a professional photographer and current Registrar President; Nicole is an artist, designer, and also works at the Registry. Both show Arabian horses and are life-long breed aficionados. This posed some unique challenges as well; everyone involved also has a vision of what the ‘ideal’ Arabian head looks like. As part of the process, we did some tracings of Arabian head photos. We didn’t want a stylized artist’s vision of what the head should look like; however, at the same time, we did have to show some of the extreme ‘type’ that the breed is known for.
In the end, we used Guto’s silhouette from his first design with only a few small modifications. It’s a modern silhouette, in terms of breed trends, but the simplicity works as viewers are able to ‘fill in’ their own details.
More importantly… it looks good on a t-shirt!
High Fashion Branding Example
Read more about the Arabian in Canada in the Canadian Arabian Horse News, the official magazine of the Canadian Arabian Horse Registry. New issues are available online for your browsing pleasure.