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:
Above and Beyond
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So that is the story behind the buckle. Thanks!.
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