How I quit being too clever

3 min read
in Blog, Design, Marketing

A few months ago, a friend and I were discussing business images. Since visual branding is a big part of what we do, the question naturally gravitated to ThirdSide’s own image and logo. She asked me for a business card and pointed to the logo symbol next to the ThirdSide name.

“What is this?” she asked.

“It’s our logo symbol,” I answered.

“I know THAT,” she replied. “What is it supposed to be?”

“You don’t see it?” I replied, somewhat incredulously.

“No. What is it?” She looked at the card again, expecting to see something pop out at her.

“It’s a ‘3S’ in negative space.”

“It is?”

“Yes.” I proceeded to point it out to her.

In May of 2011, when I decided to start ThirdSide, I spent over 40 hours developing our logo symbol. I fell into the idea of using negative space early on. I had always loved the concept. It was clever, creative, and unique. Unfortunately I made the mistake of staying more focused on a clever idea instead of making a practical image. This illustration shows some of my almost-final concepts:

Number 6 (on the far left) was my first attempt at using the negative space idea. After playing around for a while, I ended up with a variation of 6_1c as the final symbol.
thirdside_logo_500x500Unfortunately, even though this became our logo for our first couple of years, it never really seemed to serve its purpose well. Let’s be honest here: If my close friends had no idea what it meant, how could anybody? And beyond that, who in their right mind would even take the time to ask? Maybe other designers, but that’s about it. Ironically, the logo I had Frankensteined for my own company was something I would have thrown out in phase one if I had been designing it for a client. It served us well for the past few years, but it was time to move on.

So the question arose: How should we go about creating our new logo?

Working closely with ThirdSide’s new design lead, Renner Larson, we decided one thing should stay: The logo’s typeface. It was clean, approachable, and had started to gain some recognizability within the Champaign/Urbana community. We also liked the circle component that had made its way into our image. That needed to stay even if it wasn’t part of the logo itself.

282So after examining (and playing) and examining some more (and playing some more) we decided to drop the logo symbol from our logo altogether and switch the visual focus to just the word “thirdside”. But we also took the opportunity to recreate the circle as something more than just a circle. We wanted it to appear to be in motion because our business is always in motion. Ultimately, we decided to emulate the animated “loading” icon you see in various places on the web. The offset tilt of 23.5 degrees is done to match the tilt of the Earth–which is also in constant motion.

The process wasn’t an easy one. Designing for yourself never is. We were constantly doubting our decisions and making too many new ones, but in the end we like what we’ve come up with. It’s clean, makes sense, and will carry us well into the future. These first few years have been great to us. There’s no reason to think the future won’t be just as great.


Meet the Author

Jason is a co-founder of ThirdSide. When he’s not building websites, making graphics, or meeting clients, he’s hanging out with his family doing family things or hanging out with performers doing performer things.

He has a Star Wars obsession that some consider to be…unnatural.

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