NewSpring Church Rebranding Process Part 1: The Logo

This post is the first of a few detailing the 7-month process we went through at NewSpring Church to rework our identity for modernization, scaling at multiple locations and, most importantly, play visual catch-up with who we actually are. I was on staff at NewSpring from ’02-05ish and the “before” logo was designed and implemented just after my departure. That logo served the church well in the season of transition into permanent facilities and represented the 4-part vision statement of Engage, Enlarge, Endure and Enable, but it was no longer representative of the vibe, culture and personality of NewSpring. This process was an effort to find out who we are and then best represent that visually.

The set-up: I always start out branding work by asking the client for a list of words they think describes them (and then I try to get them to get the same list from their customers, but they hate that because they never see themselves the way others do. See my article on logo/brand perceptions for more on that topic.) Since I was technically both the client and the designer on this project, the key words I started out with were fresh, open, growing, friendly, modern, tight and bold. My direct supervisor Tony Morgan is on our senior management team and handled all the presenting of logo concepts to that team.

As a first phase of exploration (in January I think), I wanted to see if there was something to the 4-E logo that we could simply take and modernize. I started on the icon, with the strategy to move on to typographic updates later if the mark had traction. It didn’t. Fairly early in the process, the senior management began hinting that the 4-E vision statement may change eventually and I didn’t want to go through this process all over again when it did. 4-E icons? Killed. Next?

During my first tenure at NewSpring I tried to establish solid branding based on an “N” icon. In retrospect, it was both too corporate-feeling and not well carried out in all applications. I didn’t know enough about branding to think through what would and wouldn’t work in applications like signage, wayfinding systems, collateral, etc. With a little more experience under my belt, I gave the “N” another go before I tried moving on to completely new concepts. I like both directions shown here, but ultimately, a key desire of the senior management came out after presenting these options: “we don’t want an icon at all.” So, we were going with a wordmark only. The typophile in me rejoiced.

Options 1 and 2 were concepts I felt like could be fully-realized in a large-scale branding effort. The simplicity and repetitive device of the slanted box/line could have uses in print and on screen, especially in regards to cropping photographic and video imagery in the confines of the rigidly-defined box slant. Option 3 was one of a multitude of “clever type” variations of the wordmark that, ultimately, didn’t serve any purpose other than cleverness (and decreased legibility.) Options 4 and 5 just… died. Option 6 was an effort to create a custom typeface, but our relatively short timeline for brand launch (the opening of our second campus in July) didn’t provide enough tweak time and honestly, there are so many fantastically talented typographers far more skilled than me, why even bother trying to create from scratch?

After a presentation of these concepts (and a few others), the other key desire of the decision-makers came to the surface: “we don’t want an icon, but we want something more than just text.” Maddening, right? Less than an icon/wordmark lockup, more than just a wordmark. Somewhere right in the middle was the logo that would stick.

These two logos rose to the top after a number of other presentations of “in-between” concepts. Both had traction with the decision-makers and both had typographic choices I felt like we could work with on a corporate identity/standards level (Whitney for Option 1 and Neutraface for Option 2).

The problem was they were both completely dependent on gradients in order to “read” right. One of the issues with our previous mark was that it turned every print job into a 5-color piece (4-color plus a metallic silver) and increased costs; a gradient logo would do the same, with the added headache of infinite press checks to see if the gradient was getting printed correctly. And even when tightly-managed, gradients can work well for web, on-screen applications and 4-color print jobs but they completely fall apart for branding applications on the outskirts of an organization. What happens to fax cover sheets? Internal documents printed b&w? Nametags printed by our check-in system that only allow for small bitmap images? That didn’t seem tenable or scalable for a church whose budget for graphics isn’t bottomless. I set to work to find another solution and our deadline with signage vendors for outdoors signs was closing in for the Greenville campus. Constraints are inspiring. Mostly.

I was starting to (rightly) fear and loathe the gradient. I hated that I hadn’t found a simple, more timeless, less-trendy solution in keeping with the logomakers I admire. I tried a two-color version of Option 1, with a clear break between the lowercase “g” and the tail, but it made the logo feel harsh and, in all honestly, looked like crap. I loved the typography feel of Option 1 (a heavily-tweaked version of the aforementioned Whitney), so I cut off the tail and started fresh with that wordmark as a base. I quickly landed on the 7 circles that dot the “i.” Utilizing the lowercase “i” dot to make a logo of some variety is clearly an oft-used device and I’m under no allusion that it is in any way original. This new option also ditched the “Church” tagline set in Whitney in favor of Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk Extended — a decision that would eventually set the tone for all our typography and signage. 

An early version of this logo was presented at some point, and promptly rejected. Sad.

With deadlines encroaching and the knowledge that “if we were going to rebrand, we had to do it now” or waste thousands of dollars in signage and print collateral at new campuses, a final meeting was set to determine the logo. Options 1 and 2 were presented, in color for the first time (orange-y red, bright blue and light green options.) Also presented was the previously shot-down dotted “i” option. Tony and I decided to include the third option and press hard to sell it, feeling strongly it was the best solution (and that eventually the rest of the senior management would see that as well in the context of the rest of the identity.) That’s what I call back-up and employee cover, managers.

Option 2 was (rightly) deemed too corporate and cold (not too mention too “Welcome to the ancient pyramids of the 4th dynasty, tourists.” I got caught up in exploring the complementary angles of the “w” and the “n” and somehow made a monster.) Option 1 was the front-runner, but a hard sell landed us where we are today. In retrospect, I would have hated life if Option 1 would have won out. The identity options I’ve had with the final logo in terms of wayfinding, typography, a simple color palette for print/screen have been numerous and cohesive. Gradients wouldn’t have allowed that.

Posts will follow on the fallout of that logo decision, including typography, signage, standards guides, copywriting and the relaunch of Thanks for playing along.