Apr 232011
 

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!

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  43 Responses to “Evolving the Look of the Brand”

  1. I like the last iteration. This is really good Fred.

    • Thanks. I think it’s worth pointing out that doing a small evolutionary change to the logo like this also means that older logo’d products can live alongside the newer-logo’d stuff and it won’t seem too jarring of a change. At least that’s the hope, since I’m unlikely to reprint all of the older title with the newer logo… 🙂

  2. Lookin’ good. I really like the new, streamlined look. (I’m a big fan of simple lines!)

  3. While I’ll personally miss the old shark toothed hat, I certainly understand the rationale behind making a more open toned logo; and I’m guessing there would be logistical or at least consistency concerns with having the “darker” games retain the old logo and font?

    Personally I like the serified font, it feels like it saves a little of the “toothy”-ness of the original logo, and of the last two logos posted I strongly prefer the white eyebrows. Making them red changes the whole logo from a three-color scheme to strictly black and red and I think it loses some needed contrast at that point.

  4. Instinctive response: serif font, white band, red eyes is the best.

    I definitely do not see the eyes as a “happiness squint” – that’s a menacing grin if I ever saw one. Ok, maybe it’s happy, but it’s not happy in a nice way. (i think those eyes look a little more menacing than the round-bottomed ones.) Keeping the hatband white ties together with the white crease/eyebrows as a face on a black background. Personally, it does not overwhelm the red eyes for me, it makes them stand out more.

    That said: serif font looks way better. It is not only fancier (the sans serif is kind of bland) but the exaggerated points are nicely suggestive of the teeth from the original hat without being blatant enough to look out of place on stuff like HBR or Do.

  5. I like the last iteration as well. Assuming the goal is a less scary looking logo, it is the least scary looking while being most obviously an evolution from the original. The rounded eye bottoms look less scary to me than the “squinty” ones, and sans-serif also looks less “scary” than the serif font.

    Eliminating white from the logo doesn’t affect the “scary”, but does add to the simplicity of the logo, which I also like.

  6. I really dig where you and Daniel are going here! I like the energy of the new hat shape and the integration of the band as a mouth.

    At first glance, I preferred the serifed font, but I’m warming to the non-serif version the more I look at it. I think the lastest version is starting to feel too overwhelmingly red, though. I like the balance provided by the white brows and band. The red eyes still pop because there’s less red in the logo to compete with, and all elements still gel together as a face, because the white brows and white smile balance each other. So I vote for Daniel’s fourth (or third) design, but with your version of the eyes.

  7. Honestly, I am the worst person to ask about this – however I have enough thoughts I want to share. Because I’m pushy like that.

    First off – my favourite design is the final one. It seems to preserve that evil grin of the last one really well, while making it a bit less aggressive. My main thing is the font. I don’t like either of them. They are both too clean in my mind. Often clean is nice, but I liked the character the old one showed, these feel too stiff.

  8. The original alternates nicely, white-red-white-red. But you don’t have four hat elements to alternate any more, so it’s hard to recapture that.

  9. My personal preferences are the serif font, white band with eyes version. It retains most of the essential character while being cleaner and simpler as a design.

  10. I find that my brain is trying to decide between hatband and mouth and has trouble accepting that element as both. I think that’s particularly a problem with the red band.

    The hat without any eyes is just a hat. It doesn’t connect with the name. Daniel’s eyes in that colour scheme reminded me of Batman Beyond! I think a black and white hat with red eyes is the way to go. Perhaps with your simpler eyes.

    When playing with typeface, do try Evil Hat in serif and Productions in sans, just to see if it works. The serif looks more evil.

  11. I think the white hatband adds additional contrast and is worth using. And it keeps your black, red, white colors. I think the eyes will be getting enough attention (since we’re wired to see them).

  12. The new design makes me think of a jack-o-lantern, which I think would strike just the right tone. I’d suggest giving the eyebrows a grey tint, so that they look more like part of the hat itself without the stark contrast of the white.

    Regarding the font; serif or not, I think it should have a little more character. The choices so far seem very… corporate. I wish I could suggest an actual font, but there are just so many out there I wouldn’t know where to begin.

  13. Thanks for all the feedback, folks! I’ve edited the post to include a new updated look based on some of the feedback.

  14. Is it too silly to suggest Mouth Breather as a font choice? Nothing labelled with that font could look too sinister!

  15. Edited version is great! Two evil thumbs up.

  16. The updated one is very good. I think the white hat band is important as it suggests a teeth-baring grin. However I think the serif font is much more effective than the sans-serif font. It suggests something more complicated (and yes, sharper and a bit pointed), which seems more in keeping for an evil hat. The sans-serif font is just too … clean.

  17. I’m warring between top right and bottom left, which are both fabulous, leaning towards bottom left. I definitely don’t like top middle, as the typeface feels less professional. I could see myself warming to the bottom middle, but I’m a little puzzled as to how “Productions” would fit. Feelings remain very positive on the two we saw before, though TR and BL are my new favorites.

  18. Top middle feels less professional, but it also keeps the quirky feel of the old one, which I miss.

  19. I have a lot to add to this, but this weekend isn’t gonna happen. Monday for sure though…

  20. I have to toss my own thoughts here regarding the font choice, I like the directions the serif fonts are pointing with the design, I have to agree that the sans-serifs don’t feel right, and they have that clean look that you seem to be going for while still keeping an element of style.

  21. White band-mouth for sure.
    The white suggests negative space… which is the “opening” of the mouth.
    Red band just looks like a band.

    Your current version is awesome 🙂

    Serif fonts for sure, especially chunky ones. Out of the six you have, bottom right is a clear winner.
    Bottom center is overblown.

  22. Off the cuff, immediate non-thinking-about-it judgement… I find the bottom right most appealing, with the top right second most appealing. For the bottom right, I feel like the size and narrowness of the font fits best with the size of the hat. The top right, if it was stretched a bit taller would probably be tied with the bottom right for me for appeal.

    I definitely like the serifed approach better than the sans-serifed, but that said, I prefer the sans-serif left top and bottom vastly over the middle two options.

    For the bottom right, I think the amount of serif present is very appealing, whereas the more serifed upper right might actually be a smidge overwhelming (especially if the productions addition is in the same font). I still feel like if you could make the top right stretched a bit more like the bottom right that they’d be fairly equivalent in appeal to me.

    Not that any of this is particularly helpful, since it’s mostly just gut feeling with no actual skillset to back it up. 🙂

  23. Of the new slew, I like the lower left and the upper right, as they most clearly seem to be a combination of bold, distinctive typefaces and the vibe that the words are actually wearing the hat. If the hat’s just floating above the words, which could be fine, it should be spaced a little looser, in my opinion. If the hat’s being worn, it should settle over the words in a way that interacts pleasingly with them, and I think the lower left and the upper right do that the best.

    The earlier entries are sharp, too, of course. I imagine, though, that you’re looking for something with a distinctive typeface, yeah?

    This is exciting to see in action. Daniel does great work.

  24. I like both serif and sans versions, and I don’t like the more fantasy-ish typefaces. The reason being that the latter doesn’t work well together with the hat. They’re dissonant.
    Bottom left reminds me of Star Trek. Top right reads as Addams Family or something like that.

    Either the sans face (which I think is Univers) and the serif are already good enough in my opinion… They only need an adjustment in alignment.
    You may experiment a little more, though, trying to find the “rightest” font, but for me they’re the best options already. And I tend to like the serif better if only because it’s got a bit more character.
    I like that the hat covers a bit of the E and the H with that typeface. Not covering those bits makes it look a little timid to me, so either be bold and do it or just don’t.

    Have you guys tried changing the position of the text? You might need a version with the text on the right or left… maybe to the right of the hat.

    You’ll also need a 1-color version, which will leave the eyes white and both the hat and the text will be all black, so you might consider that you will not have any sort of separation between them if not by the shape of the brim, but it’s working now so I don’t think you’ll have any problems there. The 2-color might not be showing the eyes, though, if xeroxed, as red usually prints as black when photocopied. So you might be mindful of that when making character sheets for instance.

    But all the changes show a much needed improvement from the original brand. Cleaner, much more readable.

  25. Serif. Please.
    Bottom Right.

    PS

    Dresden’s Awesome.

  26. Hmm… what about something like the font you’re using for this site? Sinzano. Looks kinda pulpish to me.

  27. Is it too 60’s looking?
    Another idea: What about EVIL HAT in bold sans (univers/helvetica) and “Productions” in a cursive type?
    Kind of like this pulp magazine cover? Though a cursive may not look too good in smaller sizes, I’m not sure about that.
    Maybe something out of a late 40’s, early 50’s billboard.

  28. I am *really* liking update #3.

  29. Well-done! What about keeping “Productions” in the condensed Sans Serif you had going for while? I really like Sinzano Evil Hat but using it for Productions as well is a little too much and takes it back into the cartoony realm.

  30. I really dig the far left and middle versions of update 4. The pure black and white on the far right seems a little plain to me.

    • Like I was saying, the pure black and white is strictly for pure black and white needs, when color printing isn’t an option. 🙂 The far left and middle versions of update 4 are identical, just on different backgrounds.

  31. So I managed to completely miss the “This is how the logo looks w/different backgrounds/print applications.” Logo looks awesome, and just ignore my previous derp moment. 😀

  32. I think the all white in update #4 is my favorite, coming in right behind the no-face sans serif that you left behind a long time ago. It had a very gritty detective feel – not necessarily what you’re wanting to associate with Evil Hat, but a good logo.

    The only reservation I have with update #4 is that Sinzano, while very fun, doesn’t feel like Evil Hat. To me it feels less “pulp” and more “beach party.”

    Perhaps something built off of the idea of a rubber stamp/grit feel, with a transparent background? Since it will be on covers, the design will peek through and would give it, I think, a nice, cohesive feel.

    • Update #4 is the same logo in all three instances, just different use cases (dark background, light background, black ink only).

      I guess I don’t read Sinzano as beach party so much as just, party. And if I’m picking between “pulp” and “party”, I’d rather say party, because that = fun and doesn’t feel constraining like pulp does. If I said earlier that I wanted the logo to “say” pulp, then that’s a misstatement on my part. I’m not looking to genre-constrain my logo — really, avoiding such constraints is the point of such a rework.

  33. While I love the font on its own, and it makes a lovely logo, I’m not sure it fits the “evil” brand. It immediately puts me in the mindset of the opening credits of “Catch Me If You Can”–a low-key, playful, witty, 60’s-style game of cat and mouse. Mischievous, sure. Evil, not particularly.

  34. I think Priscellie above is correct. I know I was the one to suggest, but seeing it there now…
    Maybe it’s the ligatures, I’m not sure.
    Like I said before, maybe studying some pulp magazines. Something of the period you’re trying to sort of match.
    Besides that, the “V” get’s too much hidden beneath the hat and that bothers me.

    The first serif still looks the best to my eyes. You’d just need to make it look like Daniel’s, with the T not escaping from under the brim.

    Speaking of Daniel’s, have you asked his opinion on the font yet?

    The stroke you gave to it in the last update, may not look good either when printed small or in screens, so I’d ditch that. Also it doesn’t look as strong (or as good, imho).
    To print over dark colors, you might just invert the B&W version and it would do just fine.

    You don’t have to worry about separation there, because there’s more than enough contrast between the shapes of the brim and the letters.

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