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January 2002

Delphi Question: The New NCAR logo

Delphi Question #485 (received 20 November):

NCAR spent a great deal of money on the new official logo. Did management ever consider having the logo created internally? There are many graphic artists here that could have designed a professional logo. A contest would have promoted esprit de corps while allowing staff input.

While the main part of the logo does portray an Earth-system environment, there are several aspects of the logo that make it difficult to use. This is not an isolated opinion, but the consensus of many users. Because of the nontransparent background of the logo, you cannot blend it seamlessly into a Web or PowerPoint or poster banner application. Additionally, the "NCAR" is so much larger and so much lower than the main image that shrinking the logo down so it fits into a standard banner makes the image portion of the logo very small. Finally, the consensus of users is that they usually spell out "National Center for Atmospheric Research" to avoid confusion.

NCAR badly needed a logo. I expected greater usability from such a pricey product.

Response (18 December):

This initiative began with the NCAR Director’s Office asking the Imaging and Design Center (IDC) to develop an approach to selecting the logo/identity design. We initially discussed the option of conducting an internal competition but concluded that this route was unlikely to succeed in developing the full suite of products needed. Identity design is a complicated and highly specialized area of graphic design, and we felt it was important to work with professionals who are tops in their field. The process of selecting a designer and creating a logo was subsequently managed by an internal committee with leadership from the IDC. Through a competitive bidding process, the committee reviewed portfolios from a number of logo designers and selected Robert Taylor Design, respected throughout the region. The firm does nothing but identity design and has produced the Denver International Airport logo as well as logos for many other organizations along the Front Range.

Robert Taylor began by conducting a number of focus group meetings and interviews and then created and refined several possible logo designs for the committee to consider. Management concurred with all the recommendations of the committee as the project went forward. A clear consensus in favor of the new NCAR logo emerged from this process.

An important part of the commission was to create guidelines for effective use of the logo in many situations. We have recently completed a brochure of identity guidelines that spells out how to use the logo in various applications. The guideline brochures have been distributed to all the NCAR divisions. Electronic files are also available from the IDC for

• Four-color logo (spot and process)
• Transparent white logo (placing over photos)
• Two-color logo (blue and black)
• One-color logo (grayscale)
• Solid logo (when gradations can’t be used)

Janet Killeen, manager of the IDC (ext. 2304), will be happy not only to ship the files but to walk new users through how to use them. She also has the suggested typefaces and styles for both PC and Macintosh applications. Samples of applications such as letterheads, envelopes, and business cards show how the logo can be used with the spellout of NCAR as well as the name of the division. We have worked with users on Web and PowerPoint applications, and our experience is that the logo works well. We encourage the questioner to call the IDC to get the appropriate file or to have us tailor a version for a particular need.

A more extensive binder of production standards is being constructed that gives details on how to apply the logo to everything from embroidered hats to vehicles. This binder will also be distributed to all the NCAR divisions. We are currently designing new PowerPoint templates and welcome input to make them as flexible and functional as possible.

The goal of these detailed guidelines and standards is to make the logo as professional and usable as possible in the many settings where it will be seen.

—Lucy Warner, director
UCAR Communications

Questions and suggestions from the staff to management may be submitted in confidence to the coordinator, Janet Evans (ext. 1114, ML room 517). They should be submitted in written form, preferably via interoffice mail in a sealed envelope marked confidential; they must be signed. Detailed procedures for submitting questions are given in the UCAR Policies and Procedures Manual, section 4-1-2. Questions and answers of general interest to staff are submitted to Staff Notes Monthly by Janet. They may be edited for publication. For more information, including links to questions and answers published in Staff Notes Monthly and a log of all questions submitted since 1995, see the Delphi Service Web page.

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Last revised: Thu Dec 20 17:08:40 MST 2001