Corporations jealously protect and defend their image and identity. They make sure their logo is clean and meticulously handled by vendors who will render it in various media, whether it's signage, an Internet banner ad or t-shirts.
Why should camps approach their image any differently? After all, the image is a reflection of the mission, and the mission is something that camps work diligently at developing.
Besides, think of all the items that receive the simplest form of graphic communication -- the camp logo. It goes on stationary, t-shirts, hats, water bottles, backpacks, flashlights, key chains… Basically anything sold at the camp store.
The message is being duplicated untold hundreds of times and should be communicated consistently. If Camp A's camper is wearing a camp t-shirt at school that fall, Camp A would rather the camper's friends knew exactly which camp they went to that summer.
This attention to logo/image detail happens internally. As Ray Guzman, owner of BrainWaze Studios, Hoboken, N.J., says, "You need to be the guardian of your image."
What that means is really quite simple, and is neither expensive nor time-consuming. You should have your logo stored on your hard drive and on several disks in a high-resolution format, both color and black and white. A folder with multiple print-outs -- again in color and black and white -- should also be filed.
Make no mistake, what you supply the printing company -- whether they're printing pens or brochures -- will reflect the quality of the original.
If you hand them a business card that's 10 generations removed from the original you might get that quality. Blow that image up for a t-shirt or banner and you'll really see the flaws. And if you don't consciously see the flaws, it will happen on a subconscious level with anyone who sees it.
Have you ever been on the lookout for a restaurant and rejected it because the sign was poorly executed? You may not have recognized it as what specifically drove you away, but it probably was the primary impetus for your retreat.
Often times, vendors who receive your 10th generation business card logo will gladly clean it up for you. Here's your chance to get that logo back that was so painstakingly edited for reproduction in tip-top condition, ready to be multiplied on disk and paper in a clean, high-resolution format for future use.
When you're working with a designer, keep in mind that when they design they think print, as in magazines and brochures, which generally means Quark Xpress. They also prefer to design on a Macintosh.
So, make sure to request the source file (usually Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop) and in a format that's readable by both you and other potential graphics reproducers.
Chances are that you don't have Photoshop or Illustrator, so you'll also want a file that you can read and use. Typically, these files can be saved with more general file extensions, like TIFF and EPS. The point is to let your designer know that you want a logo file that is flexible and as universal as possible.
"I would also attach a personal note on hard copies and disks when you send them to a printer… Something like Property of Camp X, Please Return This -- a personal message that puts the vendor in the same sphere with you so they feel like they're a partner, rather than just a customer they're getting money from," says Guzman.
In the Beginning
Guzman says that you should re-visit your logo and visual identity every three years or so to ensure that it still effectively conveys your mission and has kept up with any changes at the camp.
"Either by yourself or with a group, start brainstorming. Identify all the possible uses for the logo," says Guzman. "Will those skinny letters that look so good on paper translate legibly to those applications? Sketch, free-list ideas and phrases, and even listen to music -- it's open to your interpretations and creative style."
You may find that the logo is fine as is, but if it's not, take the ideas to your designer and re-work the concept. Then, double-check your designer's work. Was his interpretation of your interpretation right on, or did it miss somewhere?
Also, keep some simple and basic design rules in mind as you critically dissect your logo. How does the lettering flow? Is there a huge space between two letters that looks unnatural? Is there a spot where the letters tend to scrunch up?
For lettering, if you squint your eyes so that it blurs a bit, you'll see the general shape and form of the lettering. Is it pleasing and balanced, or not?
Does the image -- like a clip-art or cartoon-like graphic (always think coloring book outline art with logos) -- flow with the text and provide a balance, rather than an overwhelming image?
Remember, the logo should work in its most basic form -- black and white. As Guzman says, "It should be a concise graphic image that tells the world about your camp in about three seconds. More than half of a logo's success lies in its simplicity. Think Coca-Cola, IBM and Disney. When you hear or read these words you see their logos immediately in your mind's eye."
Once you have the strong black-and-white image, apply color, but apply it sparingly. Guzman says it's not a good idea to include too many colors -- especially a photographic image -- to a logo.
The colors themselves can provide subtle messages to those who view them. For example, greens and blues are good camp colors. Green gives an outdoor feeling, while blue connotes responsibility, knowledge, caring and trustworthiness. Yellow, on the other hand, implies sudden action. Want to remind people that they better register for camp today? Put your blue logo on a yellow flyer!