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Rebranding Kairos: One man’s slow descent into madness as he tried to come up with a new logo

Hello my dear reader, I’m Donovan Reynolds, the current Vice President of Media for Kairos. As you may have noticed, things look a little different on our website (if you haven’t observed a significant change, then I really suggest you get your vision checked out). This is because well, the entire website is completely different.

My goal at the beginning of this year was to provide Kairos with a unified identity, something it has been lacking since its inception. So, if you care to hear a bit about my design process, feel free to read on.

Before I go on my rant, let’s engage in a little exercise. Try to name the company based on the logo:

Pretty easy right? If you haven’t been living under a rock, you probably got all of them correct. That’s mostly because you’re constantly exposed to them, despite the fact they sell vastly different products. They’ve saturated everyday life and become household brands. This is why companies like Apple or Nike or Pepsi can use icons as their logo, without including their company name. Everyone already knows who they are.

Kairos did this too. With this thing here:

An intricate clock face

Here we run into the first problem with the logo, identity and recognizability. Any person looking at this logo would have no idea what it signifies unless it was explained to them. I hate to break it to y’all but Kairos isn’t very well known. We can’t just throw around an icon of a clock and expect everyone to know “Oh, that’s Kairos!” They should be able to at least deduce that it’s a clock, but even then, people can be silly geese. At least three members of Kairos that I talked to thought it was a compass…. and they’re in the program (looking at you, Matt).

The second problem is much more practical rather than conceptual. The clock is just far too complex. A logo should be scalable; it should be just as understandable on a 3.5”x2” business card as on a 5’x1’ banner.

The old clock worked fine as a large image, when the intricate details were clear, but the smaller it got, the more muddled the lines became until it looked like a web designed by spider hopped up on caffeine. (It's a real thing, look up the effect of drugs on spider web construction!)

With these two issues in mind, I set out to design a new logo. My journey was arduous and full of perils, like when I almost spilled chocolate milk on my laptop (don’t worry, I only got it all over my pants instead) or when my cat jumped on the keyboard and changed “Kairos” to “Kacjfdiwjiorvowrnif;fllrshl;erlkjfl;sjfkljros.”

First, I decided that I wanted to keep the name “Kairos” in the logo, to address the recognizability problem. I could write at least one (1) whole book on choosing typefaces, but I’ll try to spare you from the overly boring details and keep my explanation short and sweet. There are two basic forms of typefaces, serifs and sans serifs. Serifs are generally seen as more formal while sans serifs are usually more casual. Previously, Kairos used almost exclusively serifs, but I wanted the program to feel less elitist and more accessible and open. So, I settled on the happy medium of a slab serif. I chose Clarendon, which isn’t as casual as a lot of sans serifs, but retains a more fun feel than something like Times New Roman. With this in mind, I came up with two potential designs

I quickly realized both were crap. See, my problem was that I wanted to reinvent Kairos, get rid of the circular clock, and make something new and creative. And to quote Professor Jordan Holt, “What a terrible and incorrect way of thinking.” I was trying too hard. The imagery of a clock can be iconic and powerful, the only problem with the old logo was its complexity and lack of identity. Finally, I came up with this:

and hey, I think that's pretty neat.


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