Happy new year campers!
One way or another, 2015 is it, the year this sumbitch gets finished and published. Hopefully I’ll be posting more frequently with updates and news regarding the editing and publication process of Camp Redblood and the Essential Revenge. In the meantime, here’s the latest installment of “Creating Camp Redblood”.
CREATING CAMP REDBLOOD PART III: FUN WITH LOGOS
When I set out to create my fictional summer camp, I knew it had to have a proper badass logo. The more I wrote, however, the more I realized just how many different logos would be required and what an important part of world-building they are. Just look at all the sigils and banners in George R.R. Matin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’m not sure how Martin and other writers go about creating stuff like this—do they design the logos themselves and then describe them in prose or do they work off a simple, less defined, but very basic and easy-to-describe idea? It varies, I’m sure, and I’ll bet some writers turn to others to help them conceive visual aspects of their stories, but I knew from the beginning I wanted to attempt all the logos and graphics myself.
I mentioned in a previous post my fascination with iconography. The interesting thing about iconography is that it comes in so many different forms. It can be a quote (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”), a photograph (sailor kisses nurse), a costume (when you think of Uma Thurman, is she wearing a yellow warm up suit with black piping?), or an album cover (pretty much any Beatles record). Often iconography is very simple, as with logos. Therein lies the challenge.
In creating Redblood’s logos, I first sought inspiration from the great Saul Bass. Google “Saul Bass logos” to get an idea how much of an influence this guy’s had on what you see every day. His second AT&T logo, created over thirty years ago, is still in use. Bass had a wonderful way of distilling a company or and idea down to its most simple form. I made many attempts to emulate that.
At some point I decided Redblood’s main logo had to contain two things: 1.) it had to be simple, and 2.) it had to have a skull. This was just the right amount of preconceived notion to have, but it still took me several years to arrive at a good working logo because I proceeded to attach several more preconceived notions to the process.
As you can see, I really thought I had it with the above logo. The idea came to me after I created rival Camp Eagle’s logo, featuring a child riding on the wings of the camp’s eponymous bird.
If Eagle’s logo evoked spoiled kids coasting through life, riding on the accomplishments of their elders, surely Redblood’s ought to convey someone who pulled themselves up by the bootstraps, who fought their way, both out of danger and through life. That’s how I arrived at the image of a camper pushing his way out of a death’s head. The reasoning behind the design was sound, but the logo had a fatal flaw: you had to stare at it for a few seconds to understand exactly what it was. Many people tried to explain their confusion to me, but for the longest time I would have none of it. It was too thematically cohesive to throw out, damn it!
Eventually I came back to my senses and returned to the drawing board. This time I set aside my nitwistic notions of symmetry and tried to shoot for Bass’ simplicity. Camping and skull, that’s what the Redblood logo had to be. Camping and skull, camping and skull. It took a few more tries, but before long I was onto something. I almost kicked myself when the idea dawned on me, it was so obvious.
From there it was a simple* matter of creating the final logo in Microsoft Paint (because what was I going to use, Photoshop or something? Please.). I will delve into that process in a later post, but the result is the logo you see at the top of this page. I’m happy with the final design and wear it on my baseball cap every day. It’s been mistaken for a real camp (usually military) and more than one person on the train has expressed their admiration for it, so that’s a good sign.
When I’m trying to solve a narrative problem in my book or designing things for it, I tend to have a conversation with myself on the page in the form of notes. These often seem like the ramblings of a mental patient, but they’ve come in handy. One of my rejected designs for Camp Redblood was later repurposed as the insignia for the Heavy Hittahs, a fictional small-town gang in my book’s world.
I really wanted to name them after West Roxbury’s own absurd gang, the Fruits and Vegetables (hailing from the hard-hitting aisles of Roche Bros.), but I thought readers would find such a pathetic excuse for a gang too lame to believe. Plus, I wasn’t going to break my ass trying to create a gang insignia out of fruits and vegetables.
Another great inspiration for logos and brand names is Pixar Studios. Their movie logos are usually perfect, with Monster’s Inc, Cars, and The Incredibles being the standouts, but the logo designs within the worlds of their stories (Pizza Planet, the Buy N’ Large Corporation) are often just as amazing. Part of my story takes place in the town near camp (It’s always fun to get away from camp, even if it’s just for an hour), which meant I’d have to think up some business names and signs. The first, pictured below, is a work in progress, but I tried to keep the Pixar designs in mind as I created it.
At the end of the day all of this stuff is secondary to the story and characters, but with world-building such a major part of popular fiction these days, it doesn’t hurt to devote some time to it. It’s definitely given me a better sense of the world of Camp Redblood, and it’s just plain fun to do besides.
*Not simple at all.