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What’s in a Logo?

A logo is “a graphic representation of a company’s identity”, but if done right it will have value far beyond simple recognition. A good logo should be distinctive, attractive, practical and most importantly, meaningful — which, not coincidentally I believe, are the qualities of a good company. When designing the logo for Amai it was critical to me that it had personal meaning and that I could look to it for inspiration. It is easy to loose focus while building a new company, and I wanted something I could turn to as a constant reminder of what matters. I also wanted everyone else, who may not know what Amai is about, to feel something when they saw it.

To begin our logo design process we had to identify what our company was about, and what inspired us personally. This was not easy to do when we barely had our concept down, but we worked with what we had. Kathryn and I want our company to be adventurous and have products that are interesting and innovative. We also want our creations to look beautiful and bring joy to anyone who comes in contact with them. When it came down to what personally inspires me, I thought of my favorite thing from when I was a kid, a hot air balloon. I spent my preschool years in Arizona where hot air balloons are always in the sky. Unless you’ve seen one overhead yourself it’s hard to imagine their beauty, but I always loved seeing the colorful designs in the sky. Of course, as a preschooler I couldn’t really articulate this love, and I would simply shout out “habaloon” when I saw one. (I even considered naming the company “habaloon” for a day or two, but thankfully I regained my sanity.) Hot air balloons also symbolize adventure, so I thought it might work for the logo.

To develop the logo we chose a great designer I have known for a long time through my work in web design, Trina. I met Trina at a coffee shop, told her about my love of hot air balloons, and then sent her on her way to create the perfect logo for Amai. I thought I could just let her work her design magic and something brilliant would come out. For the first design she certainly did create something beautiful, but for some reason it didn’t seem to fit what I had in mind for the company. I realized I hadn’t given her enough information about the company, and we spent more time reviewing inspirational products and images that we had collected over the last few months. She went away, revised the shape of the balloon, added a leaf element to represent the tea and natural ingredients used in our products, and developed a beautiful logo. We gave it the stamp of approval and thought we were done, until we began to look at packaging design.

Andrew, a wonderful graphic designer who also happened to design Lovescool, was working on a few packaging ideas for us and began developing patterns with our logo. He duplicated and rotated the original logo and created several new shapes from it to be used as part of the packaging design. The shapes were beautifully symmetrical and inherently interesting, and we realized each shape could work as a logo, not just part of a pattern. Andrew narrowed the shapes down to three favorites, and we evaluated each one to see if they better represented what Amai was about. Option 1 is our original logo, and Option 2 – 4 use the original logo in a new form.

In the end we decided to go bold, and picked a more complex design that made the impact we were looking for. Thanks to Trina and Andrew, and a better understanding between Kathryn and I about what Amai stands for, we now have a logo that I love and look to for inspiration. I hope one day someone will see it and instantly recognize it’s us, just like Nike or Starbucks.


mger says on March 16th, 2006 at 2:00 pm:

it’s a beautiful logo, and still looks like a hot air balloon, though a top-down view now. best of luck!

Clarice says on March 16th, 2006 at 2:25 pm:

Beautiful new logo – kudos to Andrew and Trina! Funny, I originally thought your initial logo had its origins in a lightbulb. Toast to Amai and future worldwide brand recognition! BTW: Never understood Starbucks’ logo….

Kelli says on March 16th, 2006 at 4:36 pm:

It does look like top view of a balloon! What a good point, I never thought of that before you pointed it out. How cool :) Thanks Clarice and mger.

cheryl says on March 16th, 2006 at 7:20 pm:

I love your new logo Kelli! Starting a new venture is such a creative process. It is so much fun to see how it all evolves.

Jessica "Su Good Eats" says on March 16th, 2006 at 10:27 pm:

I like the new logo much better, even though I also like #2 and 3. The new logo also looks like the top of a hot air balloon from a bird’s eye view. Oh, if you need help packing your products, I will work for cookies!

fanny says on March 17th, 2006 at 7:15 am:

Hi Kelli, this logo is wonderful.
I actually didn’t remember the old one and immediately thought of a air balloon seen from the earth when i spotted the new logo. Then i noticed it wasn’t supposed to be an air balloon. But anyway. I love both the old one (would be great on boxes) and the new one (when you’ll open a bakery).

Nic says on March 17th, 2006 at 9:29 pm:

I think you really went with the perfect logo, Kelli. It was so interesting to hear about the design process, as well!

Ray says on March 17th, 2006 at 11:50 pm:

I love the new logo! I am beginning to think this venture is not only a business, but your destiny. By the way, my favorite part of the logo is that it reminds me of the wonderful daughter I love & miss so much. She too loved Haballoons as a kid (and still does):) Your Dad is one lucky guy!!

Laurie says on March 18th, 2006 at 7:07 pm:

I love the new logo too & how cool that it does look like a hot air balloon from the top. I remember, & still have pics of when I was in Arizona & a hot air balloon came right down in the yard next door to where I was visiting! I just looked at that pic this week…who knew I would be reminded of it in such an inspirational way as I read about the creation of your logo today? I wish you the best & hey, your are really off & running now! Or should I say “UP, UP & AWAY?!?”

Kristin says on March 19th, 2006 at 10:17 pm:

Well from what my dad wrote, I agree, I love and miss my sister too! Aside from that, the logo really turned out excellent. As a fellow graphic design major, I give props to Trina and Andrew for a wonderful design!

Julie says on March 20th, 2006 at 3:09 pm:

It’s such a beautiful logo — and this whole creative process has been fascinating to read about. (Oh, and I will also work for cookies!)

Lindsay says on March 22nd, 2006 at 5:03 pm:

Wow. we are going through the process of choosing a company logo…so this was helpful to me. Thanks!

shuna fish lydon says on March 24th, 2006 at 3:00 am:

Yes, thank you or sharing the process with all of us. It’s such a magical one. How do we translate ideas and emotion into the visual as well as the edible?

I’ll be one of the many people coming here to read more. It’s not only inspiring but also very educational to more people than you might ever even know or realize!

jc says on March 29th, 2006 at 5:37 am:

amai is Japanese for “sweet”

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Lovescool is the documentation of a journey to discover what sweet things are out there, why people love them so much, and perhaps what it takes to start something new.

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An interest, that turned into a blog, that turned into a career. Kelli Bernard is now the owner and baker of Amai Tea & Bake House.

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