Name Game

9 January 1998

Portland graphic designer helps companies develop image-building logos that catch customers’ attention.

Name Game
By Barry Finnemore

Portland graphic designer Jeff Fisher takes a less-is-more approach to his trade.

When hired to create a logo for a hair stylist his design consisted of the client’s name – Jeff Maul – and an image of a pair of scissors pointing down, using the "a" and the "u" as handles.

It was a simple solution that, to Fisher, said it all.

A native Oregonian who has practiced his trade for nearly two decades, Fisher has collected a pile of awards for his work with such diverse clients as the Portland Trail Blazers, the Rose City theater company triangle productions!, Bridgetown Realty and Reed College.

If his designs have one thing in common, it is their simplicity.

"The simplest images are the most powerful.’ Fisher said.

But simplicity doesn’t keep him from taking creative license. He’ll transform a letter within a name into a graphic image associated with a business, or "hide" a graphic element within a logo – all in an effort to prompt double takes and make a lasting impression on viewers.

"It’s doing fun and unique things that people might not pick up on right away, " Fisher said, relaxing in his North Portland home that doubles as his office. " A lot of these things are happy accidents that occur as you are playing with letters or graphic forms."

In his logo for Glo’s Broiler, for instance, the words art stacked. The "o" represents a steaming coffee cup. The "o " in the bottom word doubles as a plate of breakfast. Together, they form a lowercase "g."

STRONG IDENTITY: Though he has been in the graphic design business for nearly two decades, it wasn’t until three of four years ago that Fisher began placing a heavy emphasis on logo design work. He would complete a project, and more requests for his services would come in. Today, his business comes entirely through referrals.

"That shows how powerful logos can be," Fisher said. "Business people are starting to realize the importance of a good, strong identity."

About 70 percent of his clients are small businesses and entrepreneurs, many of whom have one thing in common: the need for a recognizable, corporate identity that "not only conveys what they do, but their personality," Fisher said.

He enjoys working with small firms because they are open to new ideas and taking risks. He does a lot of projects for non-profit organizations, too, which give him lots of creative freedom. For the past three years, for instance, he has handled all the creative work – much of it pro bono – for Our House of Portland, a residential care facility for people with AIDS.

LOGOMOTIVES: A University of Oregon graduate, Fisher has been a freelance graphic design for 16 of the 18 years in the professional ranks. He likes the diversity that working on his own affords.

"I really prefer it," he said. "There’s a lot more opportunity for creativity and you don’t get in a rut of doing the same type of product over and over again. When someone seeks out a designer, it is an acknowledgment that they are open to new ideas."

Clients generally fall into two categories. Some don’t know what they want in the way of a logo until they see it. Other’s don’t know exactly what they want the final image to be but they know what they want it to convey, Fisher said.

Some 80 percent of the time, the design that the clients choose are minor variations of Fisher’s first drafts. A case in point is a logo developed for Portland law firm Samuels Yoelin Kantor Seymour and Spinrad. Two law books stacked on top of each other form an "s." Though the image went through 16 iterations, the basic concept remained the same.

The logo is featured in the 1997 PRINT Magazine Regional Design Annual, marking the third consecutive year Fisher’s work has been included in the national publication.

Fisher, in fact, has been honored with more than 40 international, national and regional awards for his logo designs. He does his creative work using a computer, saying he can draw better using machines than freehand. Many of his ideas are hatched not when he is wielding a mouse, but when he is behind the wheel, taking a shower or laying awake in bed.

Ironically, Fisher not long ago finally crafted a logo for his own firm. His company is known as Jeff Fisher LogoMotives; its logo incorporates a train engine.

Fisher said he came up with the LogoMotives name 10 years ago and until recently simply "never did anything with it."

Article reprinted courtesy of Daily Journal of Commerce and Barry Finnemore

© 2015 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives