Anatomy of a Logo: RICTA
This past weekend I completed work on a new logo for Ricta, a skateboard wheel company. Ricta is one of the JFI skate companies that include Mob Grip and Flip Skateboards. I worked with Jeremy Fox at JFI on the Ricta redesign.
Side note – for any skaters reading this post, yes, this blog is named Bones. And yes, I know that there is a rival skate wheel company called Bones. But this is mere coincidence– just two different companies using the same word to name two very different things– skateboard wheels and things to chew on. But if you other Bones types want a new logo, we should talk.
Prior to designing I didn’t investigate what Ricta had been using– the logo seen here. This wasn’t some big budget job that could afford things like an extensive brand assessment or competitive analysis. I chose to dive right in.
From the start Jeremy was quite specific about the goal. He asked me to create an iconic, heroic profile of a god or superhero character with a helmet adorned with lightning bolts. Jeremy is a Brit expat, and he referenced the logo for National, a UK-based power utility. The National icon was extremely simple image of the god Mercury, so I began with that in mind. My first attempt was to simplify the iconic profile to something stripped of detail or ornament. I was looking for a shape that did the job simply and cleanly. These sketches show some of the earliest work creating a simple, geometric profile.
I soon settled on a particular shape. I shared it with Jeremy during that refining period.
Jeremy expressed dissatisfaction with the linear approach and the lack of a heroic profile.
I went back to the sketchbook to attempt a drawing of a warrior god head. This time I set aside my pens and returned to my old friend the 2B pencil. Even though I knew the final would require a level of simplification, I figured that I should first define the facial structure, helmet, pose and shape of this hero image. Pencil for me is a great medium because it can be forceful or soft depending on density and pressure. Pencil allows for mistakes and erasures that can help shape those mistakes into successes. This drawing was heading in the right direction.
I did a trace and tried a simplified outline that would define the face. I shared this one with Jeremy. We agreed that this one wasn’t working. There is too much cartoonish detail and the figure resembled those stone-skin engineer aliens in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Another negative was that this figure looks as though he might vomit.
In the midst of the icon work, I developed type solution ideas to accompany the icon. An early sketch (left) was an attempt at a somewhat nostalgic lightning bolt lettering. I recognized that this seemed derivative of the Milwaukee power tools logo. Later, I worked on a logo object that began to resemble a belt buckle. I liked the lightning bolt as the negative space in the C, but I came to realize that the brand identity didn’t require two illustrations that wouldn’t play well together. Jeremy and I agreed that it made sense to decide on the icon first and then work on the type solution.
This time I worked to simplify the lines and shapes so that the image did not require outlines. We agreed that the profile should be comprised of shapes with just enough detail to define a strong masculine profile. At this point I referenced the artwork of illustrator Douglas Fraser, specifically his commercial illustration from the 1990s. Fraser’s work from that period had a heroic DNA, seemingly inspired by painters like Diego Rivera, Fernand Leger and WPA sculpture, poster, and mural artists. There is a sculptural quality in Fraser’s figures. I attempted to capture some of that sculptural essence as I refined the icon.
These two images are the before and after versions of my third icon attempt. In the refinement, I sought to eliminate any unnecessary detail and to make the line weight of the details more consistent. I still wanted to retain the tapered shapes and hard angles that echoed the energy and sharpness of the lightning bolt.
Once I had resolved the icon, it was time to address the type solution. There were a few typefaces I liked but none that were a comfortable fit. I liked the typeface Snag by designer Robbie Smith with its boldness finished with tapered ends that Smith calls embryo serifs. I also toyed with the bold modern script HT Maison by Ryoichi Tsunekawa. I may have been drawn to Maison because of its similarity to the Ricola logo.
I had drawn more rectangular sans serif letters which were beginning to relate well with the icon. The typeface Sullivan has angled terminals on the C that offered a nice complement to the icon. But I felt the other letters needed to share some of that character. I decided to edit the R and A – I made the crossbars in those characters match the angle of the negative space in the C. I lowered the crossbar on the R. Voila!
I decided in the development of the icon to work in grays. The icon seems to work in a monochrome or two-tone solution. I explored these color variations and shared them with Jeremy.
My relationship with Jeremy and Ricta is not ongoing– not yet, at least. I enjoyed this project and working with a pop culture brand like Ricta, but my employment ended with the delivery of the logo elements. Logo and type designers know the feeling of handing over your progeny and hoping it’s treated well. Once your creative product is handed over, it’s at the mercy of those other users and the client who hired you. I wish them and this brand identity well. But I told Jeremy that if I see any Ricta abominations in the world I will hunt the perpetrators down.
I gave the icon the t-shirt test. I think it passed.
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