This week on a crisp sunny day, I found myself in Chesterfield, the site of my old college from 1996-1999, on a visit to the current graphic design pupils. I’d left enough time to potter about the town in pilgrimage to the old haunts, many of which had of course disappeared or changed.
If you don’t know Chesterfield at all, it is famous for one thing. The crooked spire sits twisted atop the local parish church of St Mary and All Saints. Tales abound of why the spire is so bent, the devil fleeing from the church bells twisted it as he lept away, his tail tangled around the steeple. It was unseasoned wood loaded with too many heavy lead tiles in truth.
Like many crooked siblings such as Pisa’s Leaning Tower, the fault becomes the attraction and something a place is known for. n Chesterfield, you can’t escape the twisting shadow of the spire, organisations take its name to show their local credentials, Spire Vets, Spire Lodge, Spire Radio, Mobiles, Pizza, Developments, News, Spin, Windows, Doors & Conservatoires. There’s Spire Flooring, Spire Innovations and Spire School.
As a bonus, when you grab the name of the local landmark, you also get a free idea for a logo design. Crooked spire, leaning tower, golden bridge, liberty statue, the list goes on.
There was one such landmark that stood out when I was undertaking a project based in Hammersmith, London. A suspension bridge built in the 1880s and designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, crossed the Thames replacing a previous bridge that was damaged by a passing vessel. It’s a pretty fancy iron construction painted in dark green with golden accents.
Thames crossings are a rare enough thing in London (though there are many more to the West of the city, like Hammersmith than the East) that they become pretty important pieces of everyday life for those that live around and use them. With its somewhat exciting history of being a target for repeated Irish terrorism and 2019 closure due to safety concerns (no longer from bombings, but strength) Hammersmith Bridge is something of a beacon to locals.
Grace Church Hammersmith was set up by a bunch of Hammersmith locals who are proud of their little slice of London and the community around it. They were after a contemporary brand that placed them in Hammersmith but avoided both church and landmark cliches.
I had to explore the bridge within the design somewhat, creating a flexible logo with the playful use of the capital letter H, splitting and stretching to form a bridge-like mark. This bridge grows and spans forming lines and separators for additional assets. (see the Grace Church portfolio piece)
Using a well-known and important local landmark is a great way to shortcut the idea that your business, charity or organisation is local, but it might just be a trap to unoriginality when it comes to branding.