Aspen Digital Services has undergone three identity re-designs since August, 2001 when the Aspen Digital Services logo was born. It started out as a simple leaf:
But why a leaf? Well, my business philosophy had always been centered around the idea of symbiotic relationships. Let me explain.
Early on in my trek toward becoming an independent graphic designer, I realized that the market was, and always would be, very competitive. Starting out, I would be just one more tiny fish in a vast sea. To boot, in spite of what I was learning in design school about copyright, I didn’t foresee that I would be able to profit from the same design over and over again. The printer would, but I likely wouldn’t. There simply were too many designers from which to choose, and chances were slim that folks would pick the one who wanted to charge them a royalty each time a design went to press.
So I concluded that the only viable way for me to survive as a designer was to establish relationships that would yield continuous design projects of one scope or another. Pando, the “Trembling Giant”—one of the oldest and most massive living organisms on the planet—then became my inspiration. It sounds ominous and maybe even threatening, but it is, in fact, peaceful and beautiful. Pando is a 107-acre grove of aspen trees in Fishlake National Forest, Utah. The remarkable thing about Pando is that the entire aspen grove is effectively one tree, owing to the fact that quaking aspens propagate by sending up shoots from their wide-spreading root systems, as opposed to propagation by flowering. All 107 acres and 6,600+ tons of Pando belong to one root system, and it is estimated that the tree is over 1 million years old.
I like the metaphorical application of Pando to business—one source; many relationships. So Pando is Aspen Digital Services’ namesake and inspiration. And the leaf was the starting point. The name and tagline were added next, and the Aspen Digital identity was born:
The logo remained more-or-less constant for several years, some of which were extremely tumultuous. The first significant re-examination of the brand occurred in 2002, when my family moved to Oregon. At that time in the design world, 3D was all the rage, and so I thought a little more depth might be an appropriate upgrade. The resulting new logo also featured a deeper green and dark, blood red:
I used this logo from 2002 to 2007, during which time Aspen was not my day job, but a moonlighting effort while I worked at, and later managed, Hudson Printing in Baker City, Oregon. Those were late nights then, doing freelance jobs for Aspen clients after the family had gone to bed, while running the printshop during the day.
In late 2007, I decided that my career as a designer needed a new challenge, so I left the printshop and hung up my own sign. It had taken almost ten years from the time I first decided that graphic design was the path I wanted to walk, to the time that I realized my dream of being an independent designer. The possibilities seemed limitless and it was both an exciting and stressful time. A re-examination of the Aspen brand seemed an appropriate way to mark this milestone, and as the 3D fad had settled down, and noting that designs were now trending toward ultra-minimalism, I took it that direction:
This new logo was fresh and clean. Abstract and bold. I loved it. I even went with an almost radioactive-looking green for the ink on the leaf icon (it doesn’t look that way on screen, only when printed in its Pantone color ). I was proud of my new business and my new identity. But no one could figure out the leaf. Even with the “Aspen” keyword, people said that the icon looked like a road. Or a crab pincer. Anything but a leaf. Some people got it, but a lot didn’t. I loved it nonetheless (designer’s bias!). I knew what it was, and since no one could ever figure out what a “graphic designer” was anyway, I figured that my logo was an appropriate representation of my supposedly enigmatic title, not to mention my entirely arbitrary/abstract business name.
The third version of the Aspen logo served me well until just recently, when I opened an office (again) in the Basche-Sage building in Baker City, Oregon. At that time I faced the necessity of creating signage (which I still haven’t done, pending the now-complete logo re-design), but I wasn’t sure I wanted to plaster my then-current logo—which had always been difficult for people “get”—all over the office. So I was again infected with the re-branding bug. And I am so pleased with the result, which actually comes in three flavors…
W/ tagline, v1:
W/ tagline, v2:
As with previous versions of the Aspen brand, I love this new identity. It remains minimalist and keeps the colors of the previous logo, but offers (hopefully) a more intuitive leaf (it’s a leaf!). How long will this logo last? Who knows? Who cares!? It’s the designing that is enjoyable. The re-creation of an idea. The re-envisioning of what a business can be. Along with a new logo seems to always come a renewed sense of purpose and hope for the future. I highly recommend it.