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Behind the Design: Ohio Travel Bag Logo

By Chad Gordon | April 19, 2017

Chad April Blog

Ohio Travel Bag (OTB): established in 1908 as a manufacturer of traveling bags and coin collection bags. The Industrial Revolution, with its locomotives and steamships and motorcars, had opened up travel to everyday Americans. Ohio Travel Bag outfitted those travelers with their luggage.

As larger manufacturers took over the market, OTB transitioned to sourcing and providing pretty much any and every piece of hardware a bag maker could want. Today OTB is a sizable national distributor, providing designers, manufacturers, and repair people with massive parts resources and super massive hardware expertise.

When new ownership came to town, though, it was quickly decided that a brand refresh was necessary.

Ohio Travel Bag — Meet designRoom. And Branding.

Our Brand Assessment always precedes the design work. It’s our phase one, during which we interview key stakeholders, staff, and customers. We also learn what we can about the company’s history and competitive environment. In the case of Ohio Travel Bag, a lot of that legwork had been completed by a research firm. So we held internal interviews and a roundtable discussion with key employees to fill in gaps and give us insight.

Once the assessment phase was complete we used the findings to create a list of key words. These key words function as a sort of a stripped down creative brief, and a keystone in the foundation for our creative work. Here’s our list:

Key Words

Above and Beyond
Real Deal

With Ohio Travel Bag’s help, we established design parameters. For example, they didn’t want a simple wordmark (type only), they wanted a logomark (symbol) to accompany their name. We agreed. The right solution required a unique, fresh symbol showing no visual ties to their old logo. They briefly contemplated a name change, but it was decided there was too much equity in their historical name.

Old Ohio Travel Bag Logo

Words Become Shapes and Colors

Beyond the key word list, the Ohio Travel Bag team gave us other direction; they wanted to feel fresh, bold, clean, and modern yet classic.

During assessment we were told that many OTB customers either called them “Ohio” or “OTB.” I kept thinking about a unique way to use the letterforms “OTB.” Simply using the OTB initials was ruled out, as was creating some overly abstract, high-concept shape. The letters needed to mean something, and I wanted to tie in their products while illuminating the key words. Multiple messages in a simple solution is always a big challenge. It’s also very effective.

Was there something inherent in the OTB letterforms that related to the products they offered? Can we tell more of their story visually than just representing the company with static letterforms?  I looked through their catalog for inspiration.

Page from Ohio Travel Bag Catalog

Hinges, Wheels, Handles, Rivets… and Buckles!

There were actually a lot of different shapes to work with and a lot of natural theme connections. But once I saw the buckles, I saw the “O”. When I turned the buckle on it’s side, there was the “T”. At that point, I didn’t really care about the “B” because they wanted to downplay the “Bag”. I also liked the inherent connotations a buckle holds: support, security, linkage. This was a solid idea, and I was excited about it.

The Buckle on its side.

That led me to do these sketches. I don’t normally like to share these, because sketching is not just a medium for developing good ideas, it’s also where I purge the bad ideas. The sketches below are one of the six pages of pencil sketches. As you can see, I kicked around the idea of bags, wheels and buckles.

Ohio Travel Bag Logo Sketches

The buckle intrigued me the most. But we presented multiple concepts in grayscale, so color did not influence the decision. The buckle concept was presented with this rationale: “The underlying circular form was chosen because it is a universal symbol for totality (directly relating to the “source” keyword). The O (Ohio) and T (Travel) are combined inside the circle to be both recognizable as letter forms, and to form a simplified buckle… abstractly representing the products OTB delivers without being too literal. The san serif typeface complements the forms in the symbol, creating an overall simple, refreshing, and friendly look.”

The Buckle Wins

Ohio Travel Bag quickly decided that the buckle concept was their favorite. Then we moved forward with color and font exploration. The darker, solid interpretation of the buckle was chosen because it had more contrast and presence.

Logo Font Exploration

Logo Color Exploration

The design also went perfectly with the new tagline we developed – Every Little Thing. A declarative statement, Every Little Thing speaks to Ohio Travel Bag’s approach to sourcing and delivering products and their unique, next-level kind of service. The message is a transitional take on their old tagline “We make a big deal out of little things”.

After some consternation between green and orange, a few other tweaks here and there and creating a lockup with the new tagline, we had final approval on the logo:



With final design approval in hand, it was time to create the usage guidelines. I wrote a set of simple rules governing logo orientations, colors, unique spatial contexts, and backgrounds. Logo files in commonly used formats (.jpg, .eps, etc.) were included, as well as primary and secondary color palettes and typefaces. These Brand Guidelines make it easy for Ohio Travel Bag to properly deploy their new logo in a variety of media.

Brand Guidelines and Business Cards

So that is the story behind the buckle. Thanks!.

– Chad







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Chad Gordon

Chad is the Creative Director, overseeing the development of virtually every original design. Chad studied photography in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has a degree in photo illustration from Ohio University. In 1991 he worked with Reuben and Company as a photo assistant before joining designRoom as a designer the following year. Chad has received numerous national awards, has shared in his team’s many Addy Awards, and has had his work published in several international design publications.Chad is experienced in all phases of creative design, including concept development, art direction, photography, typography, print production, and website design. Chad’s specialties are photo illustration and identity development. His unique infrared photography has been shown in numerous galleries around northeast Ohio. He is an avid baseball man, a crafty pitcher with speed and movement on his fastball, and played on championship teams in the Roy Hobbs League.

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