A New Look for Barcamp

By Bill Kenney

We're at it again. Another branding project is in the books and we wanted to share the process.

Barcamp Blog 1

We were very excited to work on this project for the 1st annual Barcamp in Savannah, Georgia. Enjoy the read we’d love to hear your thoughts when you finish in the comments.

How it began

A few months age we were invited to attend a meeting led by our friend Kevin Lawver to talk over the idea of bringing a Barcamp to Savannah, Georgia. We were very eager to help in all aspects of the project, but most importantly we wanted to get our hands all over the design/branding for the event. To be honest, I had never heard of Barcamp before Kevin invited us, but after some quick research I was blown away by the scale of this event worldwide. After my initial research, I was even more excited to have the chance to create the visual identity for the local incarnation of this event, especially in its inaugural year. After our first meeting with the Savannah Barcamp crew, our wish was granted and we were handed the reigns on all design work. (Nothing like a little side project for your spare time.)

The Concept / Direction

Initial concept sketches

Let me first start by saying that Kevin was awesome to work with in that he gave us total creative freedom for the design.

As all of our projects start, I began the discovery phase with writing/doodling in my thought book, jotting random thoughts as they came to me. (As an aside: the value of a thought book can not be overstated. If like me, your mind is constantly overflowing with creative solutions, having a thought book by your side at all times is essential. Thanks to Roy Christopher for introducing me to the concept.) After about a week of ideas, I transitioned these thoughts into more in-depth sketches to be presented to the team.

“We were able to capture a local Savannah icon that is representative of the city…”

As a whole, the team was all agreeable on the concept, or I should say what the concept should not be. If you are familiar with Barcamp at all, then you know that each Barcamp logo usually contains two elements. There’s a flaming icon that appears in all versions, and usually there’s a visual representation of a local landmark for each specific location. We wanted to avoid the obvious landmarks in our design, to differentiate from the myriad bridges, fountains and live oaks usually used to represent Savannah. We also wanted to also be conscious of our target demographic and keep the design creative and fun. This wasn’t going to be a broad visual that was trying to reach the masses, but rather a design meant to resonate with our audience.

We also decided very early on that is was not important for every viewer to understand the nature of the event just from seeing the logo. We felt like the people we were targeting either already had an understanding of Barcamp or would do the requisite search, as I did, to find out more about it. We didn’t want to compromise the logo by trying to create a visual that expressed everything that Barcamp is, because likely, there is not a logo that can accomplish that.

The Mark

Our first couple versions were highly driven by the standard flame, building out from that signature Barcamp element. One idea worked around the concept of “people”. Since the nature of the event is a member driven un-conference, I thought using a face to signify that was an interesting idea.

We also worked through a funny idea of a flaming “to go” cup. For those of you who don’t know, Savannah has a very loose open container law that allows us to take a “to-go cup” of our favorite libation with us when leaving a bar. For our demographic this was an interesting approach, because it had nothing to do with the event but played off the word bar and resulted in a cool visual. Ultimately, we decided against this concept for concerns that Barcamp might be interpreted as a pub-crawl to the uninitiated.

The final concept that came out of the first round of conjuring was the idea of intelligent brains coming together, which led to an image of the proverbial “gears” turning. This had some initial appeal but quickly decided that gears are totally overused and such an execution didn’t achieve any of our goals.

Face and flame illustration ideasAnother face and flame illustrationFlaming to-go cup illustrationGear concept illustrated

The next iteration went in a completely different direction. The big concept this time focused on a style evocative of Russian Propaganda. We thought it would make for really interesting visuals for all of the print media. It would have definitely been appreciated by the designer demographic too, but at the end the day it was a stretch to naturally tie it back to the event we were trying to promote. But, this step was hugely important to the entire process, as it was when we were playing with the Russian style that the idea of a train first came up. That train concept wound up transitioning us into the final idea that became the design.

The final idea that stuck was old world typography paired with an historic steam engine. This represented both the age of our city and also touched on a key historic element of Savannah that is not widely used. To not completely step away from all things Barcamp, we used the signature flame icon at the rear of the train, which expresses that it’s a Barcamp event but does not over power the unique qualities of our look. We were slightly worried about stretching too far from the norm achieved in most Barcamp branding. But, we realized that Savannah’s Barcamp crew wants to be anything but normal, so this was perfect.

Final logo, train with flames off of kaboose

Typeface

This execution is a typeface extravaganza. Although the actual mark only contains two applications of Rockwell, the extended branding contains a plethora of old world typography. As was the practice in that time period, we used a wide variety of fonts to create visual hierarchy that is both pleasing and informative. The other typeface selections are Rosewood Fill, Saa Series AD, Oklahoma, Raleway Thin & Snell Roundhand.

Typography for Barcamp branding

Color

The color palette, or lack thereof, is key to the delivery of this look as well. We stuck with all black and the addition of textured vintage browns when necessary in the design.

Extending the Brand

The extension of this brand and execution across media will be very interesting. Thus far we have completed a couple like the poster and the t-shirt which we wanted to keep creative and playful. Using terms like “100 Nerd Limit” this brand will have a very appealing feel that should be received well by the community attending the event. The attendees are a group that values breaking the mold and keeping things fun, and we feel our executions represent that. We are currently working on the design of the site and will post on it once it is complete.

Barcamp tshirt ideaBarcamp poster concept

Final Product

We feel the final outcome reached, if not exceeded, our initial goals. We were able to capture a local Savannah icon that is representative of the city without being trite. We were able to still keep a small piece of the Barcamp brand, while creating a new look that is completely unique. We are very excited for playing a role in this first event, and hope to see you there.

* Actual Barcamp dates have yet to be determined.