Have you ever wondered what a chef eats at home?
Imagined what the inside of a decorator’s house
looks like? Been curious about your doctor’s cholesterol
level? People have a natural inquisitiveness
about whether the professionals they do business
with “walk their talk.” In the design world, everyone
knows when you’re talking out of both sides of your
mouth—they see your identity every time you hand
out a card or send a bill.
It’s not unusual for a communication or
design firm to start out on a shoestring … as a result,
fledgling identities are often influenced by the need
to control production costs. With initial business
expenses like equipment purchases, utility deposits,
and legal fees, many startup principals justifiably take
a frugal approach to things like letterhead and business
And given today’s employment market, many
startups begin without a lot of advance planning.
Consider typical launch scenarios: A seasoned
designer falls prey to a round of corporate layoffs;
a new graduate finds herself entering a constricted
job market; a spouse’s relocation turns a career path
upside down. In these cases, there may not be a lot of
time for thoughtful development of an identity once
the decision is made to strike out on one’s own.
In short, many times initial conditions leave a
freelancer or small studio with an identity that may
not wear well as the business evolves over time.
Getting over the hump
The decision to undertake an identity makeover
can be fraught with anxiety for a creative pro.
Legitimate worries include fears about possible loss
of brand equity, costs associated with a new look,
and even political concerns over who within the
organization should be responsible for overseeing the
development of the new identity.
Other apprehensions—perhaps emotional, but
no less real—can creep in and undermine the creative
process during such an intimate project. Reluctant
self-promoters will usually present a believable alibi
such as “I’m just too busy,” or “We can’t afford it
right now.” But a concurrent, unspoken thought is,
“Can I pull out all the stops and do something that’s
There is an undeniable fear factor for designers
who are in the process of creating or updating their
own identities. Not everyone has “The Fear,” but
some have it so bad they’re frozen, justifying their
inaction with assertions like “I don’t need an identity—
my work speaks for itself.”
Hornall Anderson Design Works
Founded in 1982 by John Hornall and Jack
Anderson, the first logo of Hornall Anderson Design
Works (HADW) was in use for nearly a decade and
a half. The hand-drawn monogram H and A evoked
the image of a detailed study—almost a dissection—
of the letters, complete with graph-like lines
and circle templates.
As HADW neared its 15th anniversary, it was
decided to mark the milestone with an identity system
update. Retaining the interconnecting H and
A concept, in the second generation of the logo the
two letters are presented in a 3D format using essential
design shapes: a circle, triangle, and square. The
“glow” or “energy” rings emanating from the logo
were said to illustrate the process of gradual steps
necessary to create a successful design. As part of the
revised identity, a new earth-toned color palette was
chosen, including olive green, clay, mustard yellow,
slate blue, and sea green.
By 2003, designers at Hornall Anderson were so
tired of the firm’s second-generation logo that they
ripped down the sign in the lobby, opting instead for
a simple glass plaque.
Eventually, the firm found time to fine-tune the
identity, making it cleaner and more contemporary.
They wanted a new look that would transition better
from something that would eventually become dated.
The redesigned identity had wit to it, with its design
of a capital A with the top chopped off to also form an
H when looked at differently. Even the color palette
changed, shifting to gray, orange, and blue hues.
The real personality of the new identity lies in
The firm’s envelopes, for example, now
feature humorous checkboxes next to statements like
not a bill and may save your life someday. Business
cards have a fill-in-the-blank element on the back, I
am ___. Creative director Jack Anderson has written
everything from thirsty—for a Brita presentation—to
not as stupid as I look. It’s all about approachability.
For the corresponding HADW website, a concept
titled The Space Between is carried throughout. A
visit to www.hadw.com reveals that the space between
is the place where combined energy forces meet and