The Ombudsman’s Office of Samoa announced recently a logo competition with an ultra short development period (less than a week) – whew! The prize is WST$1,000.00 which for any art or graphics student would be a big momma windfall.
I took on the challenge and here’s the story behind my contribution ‘to the cause’.
Their brief was to use the plaited fond mat based on the Malietoa story in which he chose to abandon cannibalism, following an experience with his son being ‘dished’ up on the eating plate. Effectively abandoning cannibalism then and there, he chose then to eat fish. The words “Ombudsman/NHRI Samoa” must be located at the bottom of the logo.
The Public Notice
OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN LOGO COMPETITION
Closes: Friday 27 September 2013, 5 p.m
Recently the Ombudsman (Komesina o Sulufaiga) Act 2013 expanded the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman to include human rights. Now the Office of the Ombudsman operates under two mandates; to promote good governance, and for the protection and promotion of human rights. As such we are seeking a logo to reflect these changes.
Specifically a logo depicting the legend of King Malietoa Uilamatutu Faiga is what is being sought. King Malietoa would feast on victims daily from various villages. One day, his son Polualeuligana asked that he be plaited in the coconut frond and taken before the King. When the plaited coconut was undone a shocked King Malietoa cried out loud and said to his son “How can you be so cruel to me! However, let this be an end to our exactions. In future men should be spared and our Day should consist of fish”. King Malietoa kept his word and this signified the end of cannibalism in Samoa.
The foregoing legend was chosen as it reflects human rights namely:
Human rights are about respect, dignity, equality, and security for everyone, everywhere, everyday.
1. The entry must be your own work.
2. Each entry must include the name of the entrant and contact number.
3. All entrants must write at the bottom of their entry “I have read and understood the Competition rules and agree to the rules stated” and have this signed.
4. Entries must be submitted to: Office of the Ombudsman, Level 5, Central Bank Building, Apia
5. The logo design must include the following wording “Ombudsman/NHRI, Samoa” along its lower perimeter.
6. The plaited frond motif must be incorporated into the design.
7. Winners will be selected on the merits of their entries and no discussion will be entered into with judges.
8. Winners agree to their logo being exclusively used by the Office of the Ombudsman for their purposes.
9. No late entries will be accepted aft er Friday 27 September 2013 at 5 p.m.
10. The Office of the Ombudsman, reserves the right not to choose from the competition entries if they are deemed inappropriate or unsuitable.
I’ve designed three commercial logos in the last week so I was in the designing mood. I thought I’d send these guys an idea too. It took one hour in one evening to work up the basic concept and another hour or so to polish it into something that looked like it at least had some effort put into it. The third hour the next day finalised the entire thing and confirmed the initial concepts. It took another couple of hours (probably a bit more actually) to write up this post.
If they do actually choose this logo I’ll ask them to share the bounty equally between all those who contributed a design and put on a feed for us all somewhere in town. I’m more interested in lifting others than benefiting personally for if I wanted money from logo design then I certainly wouldn’t be in Samoa!
I think as a concept it has legs and is a pretty good effort. Their current logo is quite busy, rather stuffy and pretty formal – like with most government things. Something this stylish would be a big step up for a government department in ultra conservative Samoa, but hey . . . it is now actually 2013, so who knows!
They’ve got a bit of an issue if they want the logo because for them to give the nod to a Palagi over a local would NOT go down well here, especially with SWAP having something to do with it, but hey, that’s the challenge for a Human Rights organisation to deal with!
The Key Concepts
Since earlier this year there are now two aspects to the Ombudsman’s Office – Good governance and Human Rights (HR is a recent addition to their responsibilities).
The Office has more of an oversight and investigative role than a legislative or prescriptive one.
There are two aspects to the mat story – the early practices including cannibalism and the new practices that chooses to eat fish.
The country is an overtly religious country and claims to be based upon God (the Christian God).
The Design Process
Even before I start work with anything new, I pray. This is NOT the clasp your hands and speak special magic words in a sombre voice thing I can tell you! It’s more just a split second “OK Lord what are we going to do with this one?” thought.Nine times out of ten an idea of sorts will pop into my head, sort of my mind’s eye thing, not a verbal word, not a clear vision, but more a general concept, sometimes just a seed of an idea that I start working with. Quite often I will combine two or three ideas together, especially when structuring a business, but also in design work.
In this case I knew that the two lines/strokes of the well recognised fish symbol of Christianity would be appropriate and could be used somehow as a mat. That was it.
Incidentally I’m told that in the market place in persecuted times Christians would identify their underground faith with one person scratching a curve in the dust with their toe or foot and the other completing the first to signify that they too shared faith in Christ. A nice story that could be true.
So I started off on the design journey, massaging the core ideas into an ultra-modern stylised logo, a combination of multiple concepts:
A. Form (shape)
1. The fish symbol, representing Samoan’s Christian traditions
2. An eye, representing the oversight role of the Office
3. The mat, referring back to the Malietoa story
4. The two uses of the mat (practices before and after Malietoa’s epiphany)
5. A sprout or shoot that represents new growth and
6. The two roles of the Office in that growth
The three colours I used (blood-red, a light sea-blue and two shades of ‘living’ green) accentuate the core concepts so that we have the finished product described thus:
A two-stranded shoot (green representing both ‘good’ and ‘healthy growth’) in turn represents the two aspects of the Ombudsman’s Office (Good Governance and Human Rights). We have the two ovals of the plaited mat (horizontal oval) and the new shoots (the vertical oval). There are two stories on the plaited mat (red & blue), two stories on the shoots (the two shades of green) and the central eye of oversight – which is a neutral grey, not an overbearing black pupil but a softer less ‘demanding’ one, which is more the Samoan style and of the Office itself.
The two ovals are also both subtle versions of the Christian fish symbol. They represent the old story (horizontal) and the new story (vertical). I based the ovals on not only the Christian fish but the roughly oval shape of a mat. Google again came up with something resembling what I think they were after.
Balancing the various components was tricky. I had to incorporate the historical story (very important to Samoans) with the future and likely usage of the logo. The logo has much more symbolism than I normally put into a design, but they seemed to want this. This task had a similarity to the logo I did combining a question mark with a light bulb and a koru – my favourite design of all time – in that there were multiple concepts inter-twined!
I felt that it was more important to focus on and work with the various sets of twins rather than to put the focus on the mat per se. I’ve stylised the plaited mat enormously so that it has just a hint of plaiting, but I think that it seems to have come out quite well. In my experience the busy-ness of a full plait distracts from the core design message in other logos. Culturally though the busy weaving look fits well with carving and other art. I’ve leaned more towards the design side rather than the normal cultural design side of things here.
In the end I like all the doubles – the red/blue (cannibalism/fish), the mat oval and the shoot oval (the oval of old / and that of the new) and the two greens (good governance/human rights). The gentle shading from darker on the left to lighter on the rigth wasn’t designed – it was an accident noticed after the logo was pretty much finished. Sometimes that happens when you are so busy working on one thing another pops up incidentally!
In this regard, I’m sure that in time others can and will read things into the design that fit, but they will be bonuses, not by deliberate design.
It was a challenge to get the eye looking right and to get the religious factor included without it being too much in-your-face. I think it’s subtle enough to pass for a government department.
Understanding that a logo is likely to be used for print and digital in a range of applications, meant that I kept all the colouring flat, not using drop-shadows, 3D, shading or images, which is what we would normally use for Internet-only work.
I first started with the basic Christian fish. Googling Christian fish images located a hundred or so possibilities and I settled on this one for the basic curves. H/T to GospelGifs, but others would have been fine as well.
From there I played with multiples of the curves to try and get the plaited feeling to the mat. The colours were just randomly chosen at this stage. The main focus was on getting the nestled curves looking nice.
The eye came up well, but the whole thing still didn’t have the ‘zing’ or the X-Factor that I was seeking.
Getting the blood-red and sea-blue into the design was a breakthrough that settled things down nicely. I took the focus away from the plaiting for ease of designing, knowing that once I had the basics sorted in form and colour, that I could come back and tweak the ‘tail’ of the mat.
I played with the sprouts, thinking that I could get a stylised coconut tree, but eventually settled on a living look with the greens. I got them growing out of the pupil of the eye by bringing the pupil forward. At this stage the design was looking pretty solid, just to play with the tail and weaving and it’s ready for distribution . . .
For those interested in the finer details of design everything in the logo is symetrical except for two components that had to be deliberately knocked off-centre. Can you see them? I’ve revealed them in a design graphic if you give up searching and want the answers.
The Development Environment
When developing in a commercial environment I would normally work with a client testing the various concepts and playing with possibilities. Getting feedback as I go also gives the client a chance to think things through and develop their ideas into something that.
In a guesswork situation like this with very little guidance it’s pretty hard to measure what they like and are seeking, so it’s a poor commercial gamble to enter competitions like this, but it was fun and the project tickled my fancy for some reason, probably because I’ve been working with them on another matter recently so I knew the work that they did.
The logo that I developed certainly has my personal style in it in as much as I like using simple shapes, for it gives me opportunity to later develop ‘design elements’ for multiple uses (Favicons, bullets, Heading and text enhancements and so on). I think that I use colour well in most of my designs too without getting too gaudy.
For the record, I’ve personally developed almost 600 websites for commercial and charity uses and probably half of them would have required some new design work. Here are a few more logos in a similar theme for comparison, all done relatively recently, of course with a Samoan bent:
So now you know!
Just a short note on the ethics of publishing an entry to a competition online . . . I’ve searched high and low for guidelines of the competition regarding publishing an entry online, after all I wouldn’t want to cause offense by breaking any rules. Their website is down though and nothing is said, either about multiple logo submissions OR private blogging in their promotional material so hopefully others will be motivated to submit theirs too. You know the really funny thing? I would have done all this for them for nothing anyway if they’d just asked me for help! They would haved saved themselves a grand! Still it’s fun for all and it’s the way that they like to do things here – lots of pizazz and show – no doubt there will be a prize-giving for the lucky winner and a story in the local rag!