Logodotes: Stumptown Clowns

[Over the 30+ years I've worked professionally as a designer, interesting side stories have come up about my identity designs. This is one of an ongoing series of "Logodotes" - anecdotes about my logo designs.]

I often tend to be my own worst client. When designing for myself, I usually go into a very picky and hyper-critical mode. It did take me 10 years to create the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives identity.

With the image for Stumptown Clowns the process was surprisingly much different. Following attendance at Clown School, and a great experience as part of the Amtrak Cascades Character Clown Corps for the Portland Rose Festival, my clown pal Pippa suggested that those interested in clowning around a bit more participate in the 2009 Portland Pride Parade. As the event was not an official Rose Festival event we would need to march under a new clown troupe moniker. Pippa came up with the name "Stumptown Clowns."

In my odd logo designer mind, as soon as I was made aware of the name, I literally saw the words visually as a potential clown face. The "U" letterform in the word "Stumptown" could become a winking eye, with the "O" in the term creating another eye that was wide open. It only made sense that the "O" in "Clown" would become a big red clown nose.

There was no sketching or doodling of the concept. The design was so clearly defined in my mind that I went directly to the computer. The font Blue Plate Special, by Nick Curtis of Nick's Fonts, was the first and only choice for the logo. It seemed to convey the celebratory, circus-like quality I desired. The weight of the font, and the curves of some letterforms, complimented the graphic elements which were created first.

In a one-shot process the Stumptown Clowns logo was complete (top image). However, there was something that bugged me about the end result. It was an optical illusion, but the identity seemed to be tilting. I doubled-checked the horizontal allignment of the design. The lightness of the "winking eye" and the heaviness of the "open eye" element were causing the logo to look as if it had rotated clock-wise a bit.

Rotating the design a quarter of a degree, counter clock-wise, seemed to correct the visual issue for me (directly above).

Stumptown Clown pals Lou, Pippa, Trip and Toots Caboose preparing for the 2009 Pride Parade though downtown Portland

With our official Stumptown Clowns logo on an identifying sign for the parade (Thanks to Kathy at Signs Northwest!) the new clown troupe was ready for its parade debut.

This project did remind me of a previous identity design client with an incredible attention to detail - OK, the guy was anal retentive (Hmmm...am I more anal?). The logo project was finalized. Disks were prepared with all the necessary digital files for the client. The invoice had been sent off for payment. The the client called to request that I rotate the design - which did not have balance issues with its circular design - five degrees clockwise. It was one of the oddest, and most specific, requests I'd received in regards to a job. No explanation - just "please rotate the design five degrees."

I revisited the logo and rotated the image two and a half degrees. The client was perfectly happy.

The Stumptown Clowns logo was recognized with a 2010 American Graphic Design and Advertising Award, and Silver honors in the 2010 Summit Creative Awards. It appears in the books Logolicious, iheartlogos Vol. 1, Logo Nest 01 (Australia) and Logo Design Vol. 3 (Germany).

© 2011 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives