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November 2001

NCAR gains first official logo

NCAR's first official logo should give the center a visual identity for years to come.

The new NCAR logo is inspiring a number of interpretations. Some observers say it represents the windows of the Mesa Lab looking out upon the atmosphere; others see in it a solar eclipse or even the abstract process of the advancement of science.

But everybody agrees it will give NCAR a solid identity for years to come.

"We hope it will help to portray a coherent image to the outside world," says NCAR director Tim Killeen. "The logo doesn't portend any changes at NCAR, but it does coordinate the stylistic appearance of our communications."

The intriguing design is the first official logo in the center's 41-year history. Created over the past few months by Boulder-based Robert W. Taylor Design, it gradually will be added to NCAR Web sites, stationery, business cards, and other products.

The logo is winning strong reviews from NCAR employees who say that, like the sky itself, the design looks like different things to different people. "This will last at least 20 years," predicts Janet Killeen, manager of the Imaging and Design Center. Janet (no relation to Tim) adds: "People are really excited about this. We've never had a coordinated visual identity before."

The mostly blue logo features a curved orange line with an area of white above it—a pattern that resembles the limb of Earth (perhaps seen from space) or the limb of the Sun. The lines of the logo converge somewhat on the right, giving the appearance of greater distance. The acronym "NCAR" appears in large black letters just below and slightly to the right of the design.

Janet is producing a brief manual this month with guidelines on how the logo is to be used. She emphasizes that it should not be altered. "It's absolutely important that we keep the identity of the logo intact," she says. "If people begin editing it and changing it, that will start diluting our NCAR identity, which we've worked so hard to create."

(Staff who have questions about using the logo should call Janet at ext. 2304.)

NCAR began its active search for a logo at the beginning of this year, prompted by the desire of Tim and others to give the center a stronger identity. A committee that included Janet, director of UCAR Communications Lucy Warner, executive administrator Dale Kellogg, Dave Carlson (ATD), and Bob Harriss (ESIG) looked at the portfolios of several agencies. They chose Robert Taylor, in part because his company had created successful logos for other large organizations, including Denver International Airport.

The process began with Robert holding a series of meetings at NCAR to learn more about the center. Then he produced a series of preliminary pencil sketches and solicited feedback.

"Some of those we liked pieces of, so he'd go back and refine them," Janet recalls. "This one that we chose was a strong idea from the beginning that got changed during the process."

Robert recalls the process as challenging because of the ethereal nature of NCAR's mission. "Probably the biggest challenge for me was how in the world do you create a logo that really represents the atmosphere, which is very intangible," he says. "It's not literal and specific like a lot of logos we might do for corporations."

Some of the early sketches focused on the renowned architecture of the Mesa Lab. But Robert and the committee members quickly realized that the global nature of NCAR's work transcended the building.

As the sketches became more refined, the committee chose two or three of the strongest designs for review by Tim and the division directors. Tim, the committee, and most of the directors favored the logo that was ultimately chosen.

"I like the fact that it's quite distinctive," Tim says. "It's not a logo that you can imagine showing up in the corporate world. It has layers of meaning. Different people interpret it in different ways in different settings."

Asked about his interpretation of the logo, Tim says: "For me, it looks like a window looking out on the global atmosphere. The fact that it fades away on one side implies that we're in the process of building knowledge. The window for me also implies observational schemes."

He acknowledges that other people view the logo in different ways. But, whatever the interpretation, Tim believes: "It will be a memorable and lasting signature on everything we send out."

• David Hosansky

Notes on the design

Robert W. Taylor Design, which created the NCAR logo, provided these notes on the design:

The new logo for NCAR represents a window to the atmosphere. Through this distinctive window shape, much like the windows of the Mesa Lab, Earth's atmosphere is observed and reflected. The view through the window graphically captures the atmosphere, a section of Earth's surface, and a small piece of solar space.

This unique logo is designed with contrasts in mind. Sharp, precise edges are contrasted with soft, cloud-like gradations. Such contrasts are meant to reflect NCAR's scientific research and data gathering in understanding Earth's ever-changing weather and climatic conditions.

Another contrast is color. The deep blue logo is contrasted with a streak of bright color on the curved horizon. This highlight suggests the first luminous light of dawn or perhaps a solar eclipse. Either is appropriate for NCAR.

The acronym "NCAR" is also an integral part of the design and is meant to be used as one with the logo. The overhang of the logo over the name again echoes the architecture of the tower windows of I.M. Pei's building. Together these elements capture the spirit of NCAR and are intended to create a memorable and lasting signature on all NCAR communications.

A color issue

To introduce the new NCAR logo and showcase the work of some of the talented photographers around the institution, this issue of Staff Notes Monthly has been produced in color. Although production costs normally limit us to black and white, you can always get the color version at www.ucar.edu/communications/staffnotes.

If you have any comments or suggestions about the publication, please contact editor David Hosansky at hosansky@ucar.edu.

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UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes Monthly > November 2001 Search

Edited by David Hosansky, hosansky@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Thu Dec 20 16:57:22 MST 2001