September 4, 2008

Designing a Logo

I am on the committee of Across the Aisle that is responsible for the event we are calling “A Hopeful Future for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh: An Alternative Solution.” (See my post “Across the Aisle Sponsors Unity Event.”) The publicity for this event represents Across the Aisle’s first use of a logo. In fact, it also represents the first “official” publicity that AtA even exists. (I have written about AtA, as has Harold Lewis on the Calvary Church Web site and Jim Simons on his new blog Three Rivers Episcopal, but AtA has hitherto issued no public statements of any kind.)

For a time, AtA had every reason to want to fly below the radar, as moderates and liberals who had long fought against an increasingly intolerant diocese began tentative discussions with conservatives who had come late to the campaign. Moreover, it was clear that some players in AtA are deeply suspicious of the media. One cannot hold an event intended to attract people from multiple counties without telling them about it, however. Publicity was essential for the September 13 event.

No one in AtA actually asked for a logo, and the group even seemed to get its name rather by default. Those in the predecessor group resolutely declined to take on an official name, much less a logo. This was rather an inconvenience when it decided to sponsor “A Pittsburgh Episcopal Voice” and tried to explain that it wasn’t really Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, even though few participants were not PEP members. “Across the aisle” was first used as an informal designation for the initial contacts between the original group and the 12 mostly conservative priests who announced their intention to stay in The Episcopal Church in a letter last January. As discussion expanded, the larger group began to look more like an actual organization, and it came rather naturally to be called “Across the Aisle.” I don’t know that there was ever any explicit agreement to call it that, but no one seemed to want to negotiate a replacement name. I rather liked “United Episcopalians of Pittsburgh” as a name, but my proposal for a name change did not get any traction.

One day recently, I had an inspiration. The cross of the Episcopal Shield could be linked to the horizontal bars of two capital As to form “AtA,” with the shield sitting in the middle. In just a few minutes, I had created a basic logo:

Basic Across the Aisle logo
This was a perfectly adequate design, but it could hardly stand alone, so I began thinking about adding lettering to it. The outcome of this process was either wonderfully fortuitous or too clever by half. I identified a promising font in which to render “ACROSS THE AISLE” and discovered that it could be sized and placed to sit nicely over the sans-serif As. The first A of the legend creates a point atop the otherwise flat-topped left A, and the final E sits comfortably atop the right A. The text reinforced the spanning-the-divide motif of the horizontal bar through the center of the shield. This is the result:

Across the Aisle logo with name
That the eye tends to associate the large red A at the left with the A of “ACROSS” has the effect of making “CROSS” stand out as though it were a separate word. This emphasizes the fact that there actually is a cross in the Episcopal shield. Interestingly, when I first sent out the logo for comment, some people indicated that they liked it, even though I learned later that they did not recognize the cross as acting as the T in “AtA.” (The failure to see the T in this logo is even more remarkable than the failure, by most people, to see the arrow in the Federal Express logo. See “Deconstructing an Icon.”) Anyway, this logo is the one we used for most of the publicity for “A Hopeful Future,” but the original logo was used for posters, on which we paired “Across the Aisle” to the right of the logo with a tagline.

Here are two other rejected designs:

Across the Aisle logo with embedded name

Across the Aisle logo with name and diocese name
The first design simply did not work at all unless the logo was big. The addition of “DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH,” which I thought brought a certain balance to the design and provided more context for the group that it was to represent proved controversial. Some argued that the words suggested that AtA was an official initiative of the diocese or that they implied that we would soon be the Diocese of Pittsburgh. I argued that we were merely saying that AtA was within the diocese. A suggested solution was to delete “DIOCESE OF,” but I thought this was offensive to the many people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh who do not actually live in the city of Pittsburgh. In the end, we dropped the legend at the bottom completely, perhaps for the best.

I am rather fond of the logo, but it may have a very short shelf life. If convention votes to “realign,” the people of AtA will be actively involved in reorganizing the diocese. That diocese should be one that includes all Episcopalians without prejudice, and there will be no need for AtA as an organization. What the future of AtA will be if the vote goes the other way, however, is unclear. Perhaps it will have an orgoing role.

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