Signalnoise identity revision

Here is something that has been inevitable and has been on my mind for about a year or so. When I launched my t-shirt line a year ago it was my first big attempt at printing in a new medium, more specifically, paying for each color when screen printing. If you’re not laughing now, you should be, as it’s clear that wasn’t taken into account when I designed my full-spectrum logo in 2008. So as I went about designing things for the t-shirt line I realized how inflexible my rainbow sun was.

Not only did it involve 6 colors, but all those colors overlapped creating an additional 6 colors, 12 in total. In screen print land this is a nightmare to deal with as the t-shirt company needed to overlap the 6 colors manually to create the full 12. While it looked okay, this created inconsistencies with my brand colors which I always had a problem with. I started looking at brands such as Johnny Cupcakes, Coudal Partners and Draplin Design Co. to see how their identities worked and it was obvious that I needed to make some adjustments in order to get the Signalnoise identity more flexible. Something that will still look cool with the spectrum, maintain the overall shape that has been mine for a few years now, yet be more usable in different product areas.

Also, the 1-color version of my logo. I’ve been wanting to get into producing other Signalnoise products (such as pens, key-chains and other cool swag) but a big factor is printing in 1 to 3 colors to reduce cost. When I flattened my logo it looked like a flower. Lame. Can’t deny that. All the circles blended together into one big flat, uninteresting shape. I never liked that 1-color version of my logo, to the point where I was reluctant to use it anywhere on the web and printing. It had to change, and that was that.

And lastly, my Signalnoise wordmark. I’ve been using the Agostina wordmark for just over a year now and I still love it. The nice swooshes look pretty ’70s while maintaining that cool modern vibe. It’s a fun typeface to work with for sure and I still really dig it. But I started to reconsider recently when going over the new product ideas. Would it look good printed really small, like on a pen? Does it center well on a shirt? Does it work properly as a title with additional content below? The answer to those questions was mostly “no”. The stylized Signalnoise wordmark was always a bit awkward to work with on stickers, shirts and other stuff which is why you rarely saw it outside of the website masthead. It all comes down to function, man.

Over the last 3 years I’ve been adjusting the typefaces used across my brand, starting with the website. I used Egyptienne for quite a while because I always liked that face, but slowly moved over to a san serif, standardized design. When I felt the need to redesign my Signalnoise wordmark, the selection was clear. My beloved Akzidenz-Grotesk. Sturdy, reliable, practical and readable. Also, this was the first time I spent a considerable amount of time kerning the wordmark to have it flow properly. I was taught what kerning was in school, but never HOW to do it. Huge thanks to all the kind folks on Twitter who helped me out and gave advice as I tweaked it up, specifically to those who referred me to this article. Mega help, thanks gang.

The one thing I never like to standardize is how the logo and wordmark play together. I like having the flexibility to move each element independently in consideration of where it’s being displayed. Here are just a couple of combinations and I’m sure others will present itself as I continue:

In conclusion, I need to make one point clear. I love my rainbow sun. I love the colors, how they blended, and it’s basically the only logo I ever designed for myself that I liked. Feeling the need to adjust it was painful. I knew it was coming, I knew it was necessary, and I thought long and hard before moving in any direction. I did it delicately, and stared at the final for a week and a half before making a decision. This was a sensitive process. In the end, I feel I hit that elusive middle ground of new flexibility while maintaining the elements and form I loved most about it. And all it took was shifting the circles. Weird how the simplest approach is sometimes the best, huh?

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.

38 Comments

  1. At first I wasn’t a fan, probably because I was such a fan of the original sun, but after reading through the article and just staring at it I think it works well.

    Well done. Happy rebranding, Mr. White.

  2. Cameron

    dude, they’re just one colour versions. no sweat. remember to pull out the retro agostina every now and then too. i get your change, but the old one certainly has a place every now and then.

  3. So sad my stickers from the OFFF are already outdated ;-)
    Nice work James.

  4. Greg

    James, the identity revisions look great! Really interesting read on your logic behind the change. Kudos to you for placing function first, surely the sign of a mature designer. You set a good example re: substance over style. Also, excellent choice on the Aksidenz. Noticed you use it few times before and it’s become my fav sans. Really powerful and diverse typeface. Well done dude

  5. It’s an interesting thought and certainly one I’ve been thinking about recently as I try to improve my online presence.

    What you’ve done here makes perfect sense to be honest. Simplify while keeping your brand identity and I think you’ve done that pretty successfully.

    The logo still looks great and captures the colour scheme you originally designed. It’s a shame about the font as I thought that Agostina really lent itself to your retro style but I can understand for print reasons why this had to be done. Neither of these changes dramatically detract from the brand but enable you to advertise yourself easily and without those printing issues.

    Another way to look at it. Your logo is expanding and evolving itself reflecting that same process you’re going through with your work as a designer. :)

  6. i have nothing much to say about this, but yes one thing is for sure, your article opened up some new ways and ideas for serious and practical branding :)

  7. Ted Nugent

    at a glance it looks kinda like a tilted star of david

  8. While I understand your reasons for doing this and your reasoning is certainly sound I can’t help but lament the lack of personality of the wordmark.
    You did a good job of customizing the Agostina font before so the plain implementation of Akzidenz Grotesk feels a bit dry. it just isn’t you if you know what I mean.
    And yes, the logo does resemble a religious symbol a bit. it might be because I live close to the Jewish Quarter in Krakow but it definitely reminds me of some Jewish festival artwork.
    Also a revolver, which is much more metal :-)

  9. This is something I’ve struggled with on my own brand on an ongoing basis. You’ve got clear, mechanical reasons to do it so which you’ve explained really well. Kerning on the type looks good!

  10. I like it James, it’s clean and will work better for web and printing. Good job.

  11. Nice pick on the Akzidenz font – I was a fan of the previous font work, but if you’re going for branding that one has some killer readability, esp. at small sizes. Also kind of sad to see the original sun go, but the new one looks great, and you get to maintain its look in one colour. Great work, as per usual.

  12. This is great! The power and versatility of a one-color logo mark is unrivaled in the graphic world. I’m happy you worked out a solution that you’re happy with. You are always your toughest client. Go rule the world with that thing man :)

  13. Dude, I love that you’ve decided to make your brand work on a variety of mediums. The updated sun mark looks tight. And in really small sizes (the footer of your site) it still has that colours blending together vibe. Actually, this newer version definitely has a more old school 70s/80s network branding vibe that you love so much.

    You can get this logo printed onto a wax seal now or on a leather stamp and do some sweet embossed goods. Or a cool rubber stamp. Or you can get it engraved onto a ring at Shapeways and have your very own badass Green Lantern Corps ring. ;)

    As much as I love Agostina I’m glad you moved on. You can’t do much with it. But, I can’t stand Akzidenz Grotesk (mostly because I had to use it for a client project) and would rather have seen a more utilitarian typeface like Gill Sans. But that’s just personal preference.

    Still, the new identity works well. And it’s miles better from all those newly redressed DC super heroes that are getting a big relaunch this September. ;)

  14. James, I really think you hit it out of the park with the logomark. It is a perfect evolution of the mark. It especially works better at small sizes than the original and, as you said, much nicer in 1-color applications. One thing I’ve always believed in is that, when combining a a wordmark with a logomark, only one should be the dominant element so that there is no competing effect. Both examples you have shown do just that, each having their turn. Well done, my friend.

  15. james (Author)

    I seriously appreciate all of this feedback, everyone, both positive and negative. It’s really interesting to read how people are interpreting this revision in terms of form and function. Like I said, it was a tough call to make things more usable from a print perspective. Serious challenge and I value your input and dissections.

  16. At first moment, I wasn’t sure… But I think you made some good decisions there. It looks great and flexible.

  17. i really like the new logo, much cleaner than the previous. It reminds me of a fusion of emusic and nbc. I approve!

  18. Hey bud,

    I think you really nailed it. The type and mark was very illustrative, it was recognizable, but it seemed not to echo the refinement in your work. You really distilled what your mark, and type was at the core. I really dig the new brand, I think its clear, concise, I think one thing that would be nice to see is application, through it on some stickers, tshirts, something tangible.

    All in all, rockin it! I love it, I think it can be placed in any medium and is much more clear of a clear brand! Keep rocking the awesomeness.

  19. Please interchange was with were = still getting my first cup of coffee down

  20. I often wondered how you got away with so many colors in your logo, except that I’ve only ever seen full color designs from you. Now that you’re looking at doing 1-color processes for your branded product, I think your change was a necessary one. You’ve done a great job keeping the spirit of your logo (and its color-rich qualities) in a more versatile layout.

    Bravo!

  21. I love it!
    K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) never goes wrong!

    I like the new, calm feel it gives. It will make clients feel secure, safe. As if they should feel any different with you…

    Great work!
    -Reilly Newman

  22. Hi James, I have been following you as a designer for quite some time. I never felt your logo matched up with your level of work and personality, even with the new rebrand. I know you are a very hard working and talented designer, I think you can find something more expressive of your personality and the brand you bring to the design community. -T

  23. I love both of the versions, granted I like the original a bit better cause I like the overlap effect, but i can understand where you are coming from when you talk about it being expensive to print 12 colours. I liked it so much, I even based my own logo for Pentaura on the Signalnoise rainbow sun (mine should be my avatar). Also, i think the text is too plain for my liking, it just looks too “Arial-like”, maybe do/use a more cursive one like the Agostina font. But apart from that, AWSOME!

  24. Also, i just noticed this … you need a new favicon for the website as it is the old logo design now =]

  25. james (Author)

    Once again, big thanks for all the feedback everyone. Regarding the color blending of the previous version, I completely agree. I really enjoyed that spectrum with all it’s nice colors bleeding one to the other. If everything were printed digitally I’d have zero problems, but unfortunately it just wouldn’t work and was really hindering how it could be used. Total jam and I’m sad to see it go. Hard decision to make.

    But greener pastures, you know? The new version will open up a lot of doors with new products, which is where I want to be. Pros and cons, man.

  26. I really liked the Agostia font!

    Is there a chance any of you could send it to me please? Im too poor to buy it for just messing around with it. I feel like that fonts are the hardest thing to steal on internet!

  27. Ben den Hartog

    I think this a good revision, the looks much more proffesional and it’s indeed much easier to print. But don’t really know about the font.. Agostina was truly unique, representing you as an unique person, which you certainly are! ;) Truth is that the Agostina is not suitable for body text.. I know you like the Akzidenz Grotesk but it doesn’t have much flair in my opinion. Though taking a font with flair means less serious, depends how you want to look from the outside. (The flair will come when they meet you :P)

    All together I like this new logo, it means business and kicks ass! Good revision! I can see this logo on your future shirts/posters and other stuff to come! Great!!

  28. Love the new mark — I cringed a little when you brought out the original sun mark because of its inability to really print in a single color. This new one solves that problem and actually creates a pretty cool negative space, lending to recognizability.

    On the other hand, I am totally saddened to see the wordmark disappear in favor of something as bland as Akzindenz. I love Akzidenz for minimal, international-style designs (and most designs in general), but really can’t support its use in a logo where personality is key. This is particularly true when the treatment is so standard.

    If this were on Brand New:
    On Logo: Great.
    On Wordmark: Fine.
    On Execution: Great.

  29. James, I think it works and feels much more balanced. The extra negitive space along with the typeface work great together. Nice job and I think this will work much better in the long run at any size and color. Great work, thanks for sharing.

  30. The Agostina type does go very well! And the other new type face does look a little ‘plain’ if you get me… But it still works well and the new logo works wonders ! Its great ;)

  31. Michał

    Well, Mike Scott (Apple’s first CEO) called the rainbow-striped apple logo “the most expensive bloody logo ever designed”.

    Guess why.

  32. hey james. I think Self branding it’s one of the hardest disciplines inside graphic design. i think you handled great. although, in my perspective, one thing i’ve noticed: the symbol’s circular motion and dynamics are somewhat lost in this redesign. by departing the circles, they lose their attraction and the whole shape gets a square feeling. I hope you do not take this opinion the wrong way!

  33. Ben den Hartog

    It’s a bit of getting used to but I’m already getting used to the new logo, good stuff!

  34. I think it’s a really nice change James! I’ve been a fan of your work for years now and I will always love the old logo, but this new version is still very good. Although I can’t change my mind about the font, I prefer the Agostina.

  35. jason

    your solution was a perfect extension of the original design. it now looks better designed, and that’s not always easy to do. often, changing something that was “complete” takes away from it. not in this case. (except 6 colours of ink.) good work as always.

  36. You know, it’s only after I saw this article that I noticed that the logo had changed.

    Well done Mr White. Simplicity wins once again!

  37. Totally get the change in the sun logo, quite honestly I always wondered how you were able to get away with that. Bit bummed about the font change though. It’s just SO generic, which is retro in it’s own way, but it’s a really boring sort of retro.

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