One of the tricky bits we’ve run into with the Evil Hat brand is that it’s an odd fit for our occasional flights of whimsy (so far largely by way of Daniel Solis) with things like Happy Birthday, Robot! and Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. It ends up being a little weird to grab hold of a copy of HBR, flip it over, and see an aggressive, shark-teeth-baring evil hat glaring at you from the back cover.
The name, we’re stuck with (though not the font) — once you build solid name recognition (and I think we have), changing that is a huge deal and risks severing your ties to the crowd built up around the older name.
But you can afford to evolve your logo a bit over time, staying careful to keep it recognizable as related to the prior versions. Soft drinks do this all the time (though arguably Sierra Mist tries and fails a lot — they’ve been through some nutty iterations, some of which made it look like a cleaning product), as do a number of other brands each time they decide to modernize their look and update their packaging.
The trick is to take the Evil Hat Productions logo away from the horror-movie, unfriendly-monster-is-going-to-bite-you aggressive stance, and make it more … sly. Co-conspiratorial. The villain you love to watch do the dastardly. That’s an evil that parents are usually perfectly fine to see shown in cartoons.
I brought this concern up with Daniel while we were discussing some of the production aspects of Do recently, specifically because I wanted the Evil Hat that showed up on the back cover of Do to feel like it was Do-compatible. Reviewing the concerns I had, the items to be addressed were essentially:
- Go for a font that was less dripping-blood horror-movie in its vibe
- Move away from sharp-toothed aggression
- Keep the hat recognizable, adjusting its attitude as much or more than its content
So naturally he “whipped up” a few “quick” versions of how he might see the thing change. The man is disgustingly talented. His thought, which I dig, was that if we lost the sharp-toothed maw (something I was already considering), the hat-band could be given a wider footprint and a curve adjustment to make it read, just a little, like a smile. With the maw gone, the eyes could be upsized (or just dropped from the design). He also streamlined the silhouette of the hat in a way I really liked. Here are a few of the iterations he offered up:
I think everyone will find something to like in one of those. There’s something I like about all of them. I dither on the serifed vs. sans-serifed font, but both of them have their, uh, head in the right place. The eye-free version of the hat is compelling, but I wonder if it loses too much of the “character” element of the hat. I get what Daniel is doing with the eyes in the second row — upsizing them significantly, but then giving them a bit of a round-cheeked “happiness squint” effect along the bottom; it doesn’t entirely work for me (I like the rounded-underside of the original version up top of this post). I’m also unsure about a white hat-band — while it does convey smiling teeth a little more, I feel like it overwhelms the red-toned eyes, so I’m inclined to keep the hat band red in all cases.
So, at that point I had Dan shoot me the file he was working with and get back to Do. Now that I’m tinkering with it (quite hamhandedly by comparison), I’ve tried out my tweaks: I got rid of the cheek-squint on the eyes and downsized them a little so they could have some space between them and the hat-band, and took the hat-band back to red. I find that keeping the hat band red also helps pull it together with the eyes to convey a cohesive expression (shown off to the side below). I’m toying with whether or not to make the eyebrows red too, so that the expression reads clearly through the whole hat-face, rather than using the white. For now I’m using the sans serif font, but that decision’s up in the air as well.
So there’s the work in progress. Not finalized, but further along. As with any change I imagine some folks are going to hate it, some love it, some indifferent, some dissatisfied. But I feel like it’s a good direction for a company that’s trying to build on its brand as it stands, to become the brand it wants to be, able to do kid-friendly and adult-oriented products alike under a common, recognizable stamp.
Please feel free to share your thoughts here, but keep ’em constructive and positive, please! (That’s not to say no critique or “I don’t like it”, just think about how to suggest new positive directions if that’s where you’re starting from.)
UPDATE: We may have a new front runner! Based on the various bits of feedback I’ve gotten below, it’s sounding like the white band is more of a winner than the red, for very good and well-explained reasons, so thanks for that, folks. That left me with the need to figure out how to reconcile some of my feelings about the white band being too forceful. Turns out, thinning it just a tad so that it suggested the smirk a bit more with a sharper taper does the trick.
Now I get to dither on the font for days^H^H^H^Hweeks on end.
UPDATE #2: Just to get an idea of the range of fonts which might be considered, I did this bit up. No “Productions” in it, yet — that could end up as its own infuriating exploration of options, if it ends up not being the same font as the big one — as I wanted to focus on what did Evil Hat up proper.
I light the heavy weight of the lower left corner. I’m thinking the bottom middle (which adds a distortion on top of a solid, pulpy font from BlamBot) is too much. I like the quirky vibe of the top middle and top right. The upper left and lower right are the ones you’ve seen above.
UPDATE #3: Someone suggested I use Sinzano (which I’m using experimentally for the headers on this site as a webfont — you’ll see it in some browsers). Here’s that version. I kinda dig it:
UPDATE #4: Yeah, Sinzano is really growing on me. It has a lot of interest to its ligatures, which helps give it a kind of off-kilter energy that I like for the brand. I added a white stroke around the hat and letters to make sure they’ll show up in good contrast against dark backgrounds as well as light — which also adds a touch of separation from the hat and the letters even when the hat is seen as “sitting on” them. That separation ends up doing double-duty for making things distinct when I make the logo strictly black and white for those printing applications. I think the result is pretty strong (this is the same logo in three contexts, not three different logos):
At this point, I’m going to sit on things for a while and let them brew while more comments (if any) come in. I have some travels coming up in the next few days, so that’s where my focus needs to be. But feel free to keep chiming in!