Q&A with North Star Senior Graphic Designer Rob McDorman and Development Manager Micah Fox (by Elizabeth Travers, Copywriter)
BURLINGTON, NC – (June 26, 2012) – Last week, we posted a link on our Facebook page to the newly designed website for the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association (NC Cotton). The link was fairly popular, so we’re following up this week with an article on the creation of the new brand for NC Cotton.
I sat down with Rob McDorman, the graphic designer who developed the new NC Cotton brand, and Micah Fox, the account manager for this project, to ask them a few questions about the design process for the branding project.
Elizabeth: Why did NC Cotton decide to rebrand?
Micah: Actually, NC Cotton didn’t come to North Star with a rebranding in mind. Their initial interest was in developing a new website. As we worked on their existing site, it became evident that they had no brand standardization, which is the starting point for a website. We discussed the importance of understanding what the brand should look like and keeping it consistent across all visual communications. They decided to pull over and address the need for a new logo design before moving forward with the web project. Now they have a standardized logo that looks great on the website and will serve them well as they develop future communications.
Elizabeth: How does the new brand reflect the culture and vision of NC Cotton?
Rob: During our client interviews, it became clear that they have a very conservative grower base, and they wanted to make sure their new brand reflected timeless themes like tradition and loyalty. At the same time, they’ve dedicated a lot of resources to progressive issues, like water conservation, the green movement and sustainability, so they wanted to make sure the brand reflected relevance and innovation.
We were able to achieve this balance by developing a new logo that shows “conservative” through earthy colors but “organic” through complementary textures and fonts.
Elizabeth: What visual elements did NC Cotton want to show in the logo?
Rob: They requested a cotton boll icon, which is easily recognizable and immediately implies that we use white as a centerpiece in the brand. They also requested the earthy color scheme, but asked for recommendations. We suggested greens, browns and blues – colors every cotton grower would relate to.
Elizabeth: How did you decide on each artistic element of the brand?
Rob: Wow. Let’s see. My overall vision for the brand was to reflect the hard work of cotton growing – not the soft, fluffy image of finished cotton fabrics. The texturing on the brand implies burlap, dirt, the rough, prickly feel of cotton in the field. I chose the colors to reflect what you would see if you were standing in a cotton field – brown and white for the brand, with blues and greens added for the web design. The font was chosen to evoke the nostalgia of an old country sign and the feel of rural North Carolina. I could imagine driving out in the country and seeing this logo mark hand-painted on an old country store.
Elizabeth: What design challenges did you encounter?
Rob: The biggest challenge was the number of recognizable cotton logos already in the marketplace. Everybody knows the “Cotton” fabric logo and can hear the jingle in their heads (“The Fabric of Our Lives”). The challenge was to make a cotton boll look unique – to put NC Cotton’s distinct design stamp onto the brand.
Another challenge involved the number of elements in the brand. If you have too few, you fail to communicate. If you have too many, the brand loses its punch. We had talked about incorporating the state outline of North Carolina into the brand. It became pretty clear, though, that it was really an unnecessary challenge. The name of the association already identifies it solely as a North Carolina enterprise, and we didn’t see the need to sell North Carolina to North Carolinians.
Elizabeth: In what ways does the web design integrate the primary brand elements?
Rob: The background is a stylized cotton field. I wanted the website to mimic standing in the cotton field. The color scheme – browns, greens, blues – accomplishes that feel while picking up the primary elements of the new logo. The texturing is similar and the brand is situated on a fabric label that appears “stitched” onto the background.
Micah: This project clearly demonstrates how the end result was shaped by working through the rebranding process. As we developed the visual elements of a new logo, we were also learning about what the website should look like. Had we just taken off on a website design project, we would have likely had a less cohesive finished result. But now, with a new logo and brand standards in place, NC Cotton has what they initially came to us for – a new website – but also the tools they need to develop communications that look professional and unified.
About North Star Marketing
Based in Burlington, North Carolina, North Star Marketing is a full-service marketing strategy and creative services firm, providing branding, website development, print collateral design, advertising, public relations and online marketing to businesses, non-profits and schools. For more information about our integrated-communications services, please contact us at 336-229-6610.