A Logo to Represent “Built in Chicago”
Submitted by Jake Trussell on July 6, 2011, 11:08 am
Built in Chicago (BiC) is a connector for, and promoter of Chicago’s fast-growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the digital technology sector. Founded by Viewpoints Network CEO, Matt Moog in August last year, the site, which started as a seat-of-the-pants, spare-time effort, has also grown rapidly. In less than a year more than 100,000 people have used it and there are over 3,700 registered users. But Moog and BiC’s Executive Director, Maria Katris understood that in order to take it to the next level, BiC needed a stronger identity, so they formed a committee to begin the process by developing a logo. I’m honored to have been able to serve on that committee, and I’d like to share some insights into the process.
The committee began by laying out some criteria. The logo needs to represent Chicago and the digital tech scene, but it also has to work as an icon that can be read at all sizes and in different color variations so that it works across the web and in print. Once we had those criteria in place, we figured the best way to get a great logo was to run a contest.
Brad Gerstein's Built in Chicago logo design ideas
At first, the fearless leader of the Committee, Brad Gerstein, set up a “Logo/Badge Design” group on BiC where members could submit ideas. Members began posting concepts, including treatments by Brad (see above) and yours truly (see below). But we realized that we’d probably get many more to choose from if we were to partner with the Chicago-based web startup, CrowdSPRING; a marketplace for logos and designs. CrowdSpring allows clients to publish a call for designs and say what they’re willing to pay (in this case the award was $400). Designers from all over the world then submit ideas for the client to choose from. The client can ask designers for revisions and ultimately chooses a winner to receive the award.
Jake Trussell's Built in Chicago logo design ideas
We received nearly 100 logo concepts and sure enough, there were some real contenders. Once the contest was closed, the committee reconvened for some healthy debate to narrow them down to a group of finalists. My particular technique was to look at all of the logos as objectively as possible and choose some that connected with me most strongly on a gut level. Then I looked back at the criteria we had come up with and narrowed it down from there. Of course taste is a subjective thing which always plays a role when choosing designs, so it was helpful to debate the issues and achieve consensus about the best possible outcome.
Once we had narrowed our selections down to 5 finalists we presented them to the BiC community, and a few hundred votes later we had a winner (bottom right in the image below). But some of the committee members felt that a few tweaks were in order before the logo could be presented to the public.
Built in Chicago logo finalists
The design was nearly perfect. Its clean and elegant icon portrayed a globally recognizable Chicago attribute, the Willis Tower, and it was readable at many sizes and in various colors. But there was an important element missing; it didn't say “digital-tech.” We also felt that the choice of font, when paired with the icon, was too reminiscent of some designs for the Obama ’08 campaign. So we asked the designer to come up with a few variations incorporating web/software icons like “refresh,” “options” and “brightness” to replace the circular object in the design (which felt more representative of manufacturing than digi-tech) and to give us some other font options.
Later that day the designer sent us 4 new icon variations with 3 new font choices.
Built in Chicago logo final revisions
We came to a consensus on the version with the refresh icon. Not only is it recognizable as a standard visual indicator in the digital world, but the semi-circular arrow gave it a nice sense of motion and coincidentally looks like like a C for Chicago. After a couple more tiny tweaks, we had a winner to be presented at the BiC launch party the next day.
Final Built in Chicago logo
There are big things afoot in Chicago’s digi-tech ecosystem. From Groupon to Orbitz, GrubHub to CareerBuilder, SitterCity to Navteq, and so many more. The problem is that folks outside of Chicago don’t realize the scene is so vibrant. Heck, many folks inside the city don’t realize it. BuiltInChicago.org 2.0, which is currently in the works, will leverage the logo as a kind of badge for Chicago-based websites to proudly display, saying “we’re built in Chicago!” and point back to data about how vibrant this scene really is.
So far BiC has been doing great work as a connector. Now it’s time to kick into overdrive as a promoter. I’m looking forward to seeing the site and the ecosystem evolve over the coming months.