“Designing a product is designing a relationship.” – Steve Rogers
From a public relations visual communication perspective, Rogers’ quote is particularly compelling – the word “product” can easily be replaced with “tactic.”
With this in mind, a team of students from Alpha PRoductions, the student-run public relations firm at the University of Florida, recently embarked upon a logo design project for an upcoming panel on diversity in public relations hosted by the College of Journalism and Communications’ Department of Public Relations.
“Diversity is an evolving issue in public relations because the variety of communities and their interests are expanding, placing our education and research mission front and center,” said Juan-Carlos Molleda, chair and professor of the UF Department of Public Relations.
“The richness of perspectives and voices make relationship cultivation between organizations and publics dynamic and our goal is to actively involve our students and partners in this conversation,” he said.
The Alpha PRoductions team, led by students Josh Ferrari and Sydney Dixon, wanted to visually represent these varied communities and interests in the logo design for the event. Authenticity in public relations is imperative, and the team wanted to avoid the common clichés that all too often pervade representations of diversity (think: multi-colored hands or people stretched skyward or interlocking). Three important steps yielded the final result.
Modified “Black Ink Fingerprint Mark Vector Graphic” from Freepik by Xoo, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license
“Steal like an artist” is an oft-repeated mantra by creatives. While it is clearly unethical to swipe another’s design, identifying appealing and relevant visuals to serve as inspiration is a useful step in the creative process. The students used a logo by Luna & Kit as a starting point: The interlocking circles are evocative of a Venn diagram, each circle its own entity, yet overlapping areas represent those things we have in common.
Consider Visual Theory
With a general idea of where the logo layout was headed, Dixon began to look for objects and a color scheme that would represent the richness of perspectives mentioned by Molleda.
“It just immediately popped into my head,” Dixon said of the thumbprint idea.
Dixon’s gut reaction resulted in the perfect metaphor: a thumbprint is an immediately recognizable symbol of humanity, yet it is common knowledge that each individual has a unique set of fingerprints.
Dixon used the Adobe Color CC tool to arrive at the colors for the logo. She considered various shades of beige and tan for an ombre effect, but also entered “diversity” into the Color CC search tool, which yielded a triadic color scheme. This scheme, which features a navy blue, red and tan, appealed to Dixon because each color is bold in its own right but becomes more vibrant when combined with others, again serving as a powerful metaphor for diversity.
Finally, Dixon passed on the style guide she created, which included the original logo inspiration, three different color scheme options and an illustration of a tree composed of overlapping thumbprints, to Ferrari, who arrived at the final logo design. The choice of four thumbprints was an obvious one; the event includes four panelists.
When tasked with designing the final logo, Ferrari knew he wanted to make the end result simple, but impactful. “I wanted to offset the organic shapes of the thumbprints with clean, modern lines in the typography,” he said. “The event is about diversity, and therefore contrast was a high priority for me when designing the final piece.”
Ferrari used the font Avenir Next in two different weights, demi bold and regular, to show contrast between the event name and the slogan, while still maintaining a cohesive feel.
Typically with design, symmetry should be avoided because it can be overwhelming to the eye and make it hard for the viewer to find a focal point. With four panelists, and four thumbprints, Ferrari had to make the thumbprints appear less symmetrical. He flipped and rotated the different colored thumbprints to make them slightly imperfect looking. To help draw the eyes of the viewer from one side of the logo to the other, the thumbprints were tilted toward each other and overlaid, to make a connecting point between each print.
The title and slogan, contrasted enough by the linear font, were displayed in navy blue to tie into the color of the last thumbprint. The navy blue color choice also gave the title and slogan a weightiness that would draw the eye to it.
All involved were happy with the results of the final design, including Molleda. And while a solid logo does not a successful event make, the creative process undertaken by the students is indicative in many ways of the value of diversity: incorporating multiple perspectives, talents and efforts is key to reaching more meaningful and authentic results.
Diversity in Public Relations is sponsored by the Hispanic Marketing and Communication Association. Panelists include Barbara Bermudez, Account Coordinator, Ketchum; Deborah Bowie, CCE, IOM, President and CEO, United Way of North Central Florida; Bill Imada, Chairman and Chief Collaboration Officer, IW Group; and Cheryl Procter-Rogers, APR, Fellow PRSA, PR Strategist and Executive Coach, A Step Ahead PR Consulting and Coaching.
The event will be live streamed on the Department of Public Relations web page at 6:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 22 at http://www.jou.ufl.edu/diversityinpr/. Viewers are encouraged to join the conversation by Tweeting @AlphaPRoduction and using the hashtag #DiversityUF.
Kay Tappan is a faculty member in the Department of Public Relations at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. She serves as the faculty adviser for PRSSA and Alpha PRoductions. Her passion and the focus of her teaching is visual communication.
Sydney Dixon is currently a senior public relations student at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. She serves as an account executive for Alpha PRoductions, the student-run public relations firm associated with the University of Florida chapter of PRSSA, working with the client the University of Florida Department of Public Relations.
Josh Ferrari is currently a junior public relations student at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He serves as the assistant managing director for Alpha PRoductions, the student-run public relations firm associated with the University of Florida chapter of PRSSA.