What's in a Logo

Leah Etling, Running USA
No Source
December 4, 2017

A lot, it turns out. Graphic branding isn’t always for endurance companies. CEM shares how they got to their new design


CHICAGO - For endurance sports companies, branding can be a challenge. At its heart, branding is about identity, and for companies that are responsible for organizing and executing some of the largest endurance events in the world, it can be easy to disappear behind the brand of their marquee race.

That was part of the reason that Chicago Event Management (CEM), which produces the Bank of American Chicago Marathon and Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K, felt that it was time for a rebrand this year after nearly a decade using its previous logo and colors.

“In the last couple of years, CEM has really taken on an identity of its own, and now has its own audience to speak to. In talking with (CEM owners) Carey Pinkowski and Mike Nishi, we determined it was time to figure out what CEM is all about today,” said Janet Raugust, creative director for CEM. Raugust had designed the company’s old logo when she joined the organization, but she knew that the best way to create an effective new logo was to start from scratch.

That meant sitting down with Nishi, Pinkowski and other important players on the CEM team to talk about what the organization had become and what values it exemplified. In addition to being known for its operational prowess, CEM has become an education leader in the industry, welcoming race organizers from other events, industries and countries to see how things are done at the Chicago Marathon in October.

Values like “responsive,” “trustworthy,” “stable,” and “relationship focused” were among those that came out of the conversations. After collecting much input, Raugust went to the drawing board – literally. “I sketch stuff out by hand still,” she told us. “I know a lot of people don’t do that anymore.”

Once moved from paper to Adobe Illustrator and had several mock ups to share, a review committee convened to take a look at the designs. The first few versions didn’t really hit. Raugust was attempting to convey fairly complicated concepts with a simple design that would work not only in digital format but on soft wearable goods like hats and staff shirts.

Ultimately, she created an early version of the logo that would eventually be adopted, which is pictured at upper right. It was next presented in varying color options for a final verdict.

The process of creating a new logo was a great opportunity for our team to get together and create a look and feel that represents who we are and that they could truly get behind," Nishi said.

"It was also  perfect opportunity to refresh our company’s Mission, Vision and Values and have them reflected in our new identify, not just the logo itself, but in the font that was selected, as well as the colors used. When you have your team behind and part of the process, they truly get behind what the brand stands for and our values.

Some see a puzzle in the interlocking letters of the design, which speaks to the many collaborative pieces it takes to make any endurance event successful.
“The final design is very geometric, perfectly put together, which symbolizes our operational excellence,” explained Raugust. “It is also friendly and modern, which is the voice we want to express to our members.”

Final color choice for the logo was a blue hue that Raugust felt connected well with Chicago’s adjacent Lake Michigan, but has a slightly richer hue. Blue is a color associated with trust, dependability and strength, which are all values applicable to CEM’s mission.

The new logo has already launched on CEM’s Facebook page and wearable goods, and will roll out on the company’s website in Q1 2018.

Here are a few best practice tips offered by Raugust for endurance companies considering a rebranding effort:

  • Create a timeline for your rebrand, and then add six months. “Make a schedule and allow for it to be flexible,” she advised.
  • When interviewing your staff team, make sure to include everyone, not just in-office personnel. Operations staff may not work in company headquarters and their input and opinions are valuable.
  • If hiring a third-party agency for the rebrand, tell them who you are as an organization, not what kind of design you want to create. “You’re not telling them what it should look like. They’re getting good information about where it should come from,” Raugust said.
  • Don’t rush the process – let it unfold organically and you’ll be more likely to get the desired results.
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