The logo for the 2018 Midwest Asian American Students Union Spring Conference went through several stages of development to the final product. This piece of design work was crucial as it would lay the groundwork for the comprehensive overall visual identity. After testing several different symbolic approaches, I settled on the concept of using an abstracted lotus to represent the theme of the conference: Overcome | Self, Strength, Survival.
So, What is the Logo?
The sacred lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, is an aquatic plant native to tropics in Asia and Oceania. It is such a widely prevalent and revered symbol across Asia that it is the national flower emblem of both India and Vietnam. Quite spectacularly, the plants' entirety is essentially edible and has become a staple in the daily dishes of millions alongside medicinal and decorative applications. The lotus also has large spiritual and symbolic importance to followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Similar to the rose as a symbol in the West, the lotus is a symbol in the East.
So, why the lotus?
It is significant to the livelihood and beliefs of more than a billion people across Pan-Asia.
The buds emerge from muddy ponds untouched by the muck and stagnant water. There the petals gracefully expand by day and contract by night for several days before passing away and leaving behind its central seed pod.
SELF | Beautiful growth in the midst of a toxic, stagnant environment. A transformation and legacy rising above the mud. What do you offer to the environment from which you grew out of? Do you feed back into its original negativity or do you contribute something positive, beautiful and fragrant.
STRENGTH | At first, lotuses starting from seeds will be slow-growing and likely will not bloom in the first year. However, with space and time they will begin to flourish generation after generation. Similarly, while many of our immigrant relatives or uprooted selves encounter the troubles of adjusting to a new place, we begin to thrive. In the midst of societal pressures and new environments, it ultimately is us who define home.
SURVIVAL | Lotus seeds are very hardy and have been found to be able to germinate far beyond its contemporaries (the third oldest viable seed recorded was a lotus seed found sitting in a dry lakebed for over 1,300 years). Likewise, characterizing the spirit of endurance and perseverance, the stems of a lotus are easily bendable but hard to break.
The Ideation Process: The Initial Wave
Comments and critiques included the lack of potential on non-white surfaces (would not work on darker merchandise), unintentional appropriation of characteristic Black Lives Matter elements, and the potential of a white fist and white "skin tones" being misinterpreted. This last point was particularly interesting as it was not my intention to feature white power but rather make efficient use of negative space.
The team in general liked the colors and bold shapes, though there were differing opinions in regard to the use of either pointed or smoother shapes.
Feedback: The Second Wave of Generating
This stage proved to be a hard wall to cross. While I continued to generate prototypes and tweak the designs made based on the constructive feedback given, something did not settle right as the design progressively became more and more complex. The lack of translation into a simple one-color-tone design was frustrating. It was at this point that I had to pause and consider deeply the symbolism and meaning that I and the team sought to convey. Ultimately, simplicity should not have to be sacrificed for the sake of substance. The next wave rather than mimicking a progressive step forward was a step back to the drawing boards to produce a logo with visual purpose uncluttered by distraction.
Simplify & Dig Deep: The Third Wave
I knew I had finally done something right, when team members immediately latched on to the simpler lotus idea in a plain red and white. Without needing to expound, the group could recognize the floral and radiant nature of the lotus and from there the praise and concern alike gave me the green light to continue fleshing out the flower motif.
Minute Differences: The Fourth Wave
While the original flower mockups were created on a 45-90° grid, I instead chose to switch to a 30-60-90° radials in reflection of the 3 subtopics: self, strength, and survival. The feedback at this point was more intricate involving the choices between a more true to the actual flower or an abstracted depiction, and a design that featured more lines and overlap or one with relatively none at all.
Finishing Touches: Tweaking Here and There
The final product went through a couple iterations and one-on-one response gauging sessions on various minor details. Most times the team members deemed these changes inconsequential but the more time focused on development and further differentiation - the better I felt about the design, the more the team bought into owning a part of the process, and the better it translated overall. Some of these minor changes include a small color shift to add a sense of depth, a more tactile brush stroke, the difference between a fully enveloping circle and a slightly battered incomplete ring.
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Overcome Logo
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Overcome Logo

Logo Development for the Midwest Asian-American Students Union's 2018 Spring Conference.
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Published:

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