New Logo

Well, with the new dojo moving (slowly) forwards, we thought we could apply ourselves to other elements of our group, like our branding.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we are not a company but we want to be professional in every aspect of our practice – plus, we like club tshirts and that kind of thing – so we thought it was time for a new logo to go with the new building as the old logo was knocked up with the minimum of thought, based on a tsuba design I liked.  Yeah, definitely time for a new logo – especially so when you consider I am an illustrator and John is a professional graphic designer.

The question is – what do we do?  Something with a sword?  A tsuba?  A sword and a bokuto to reflect our arts?  A pic of Musashi because we all secretly want to be him?  Hehe.

Actually, I have an idea.  I print it, get the markers out and have a scribble – hmmm, it has possibilities.

Due to our study of Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu kenjutsu, I chose Miyamoto Musashi’s mangum opus painting – his jolly fine ‘Koboku Meigekizu – Shrike on a Dead Branch‘ (or ‘…in a Dead Tree’) done in sumi-e style.  Now, I love sumi-e anyway, but this is just something else.  How he captured such character in so few brush strokes is beyond me, even with an art appreciation background.  Amazing stuff from someone many people consider just a thug.  For readers who are unaware of this work of brilliance, here it is:

(for those interested, the original is in the Shimada Gallery, Kumamoto – I offered them a few quid for it but they said no and chucked me out)

This painting is pretty much priceless, and is instantly recognisable to martial artists worldwide who are aware of Musashi.  For those unaware, Musashi is as much revered for his painting and sculpture as he is for his swordsmanship – and yet people seem to picture Musashi the fighter more than Musashi the artist.  Funny that, in that the Shrike is pictured in the same way.  Many people ignore the Shrike’s beautiful looks, it’s very striking call or its ritual dance when attracting a mate – and instead remember it for being a bit of a killer as it’s modus operandi is to catch insects and smaller birds and impale them on thorns, earning it the nickname butcher-bird.

I’m sure Musashi, being a nature buff, sat and watched the shrike and saw both sides of this beautiful creature.

Quite a flowery, inspirational moment I just had there.  Better not do that again in public.  Anyway, back to the logo.

As I have zero sumi-e skill, and nor did I want to just nick The Big M’s artwork, I decided to stylise the aggressive little chap instead.  While I set John’s creative mind in motion to create something off the top of his head (I didn’t tell him I was using the original artwork), I cheated and started with Musashi’s Shrike itself, taking his outline and sharpened it up:

The original:

and the stylised and simplified version:

While I was working on this, John was creating his own shrike logo:

When we bought the two designs together, it was quite funny that we had a similar layout in mind, but it was apparent that both were wide of the mark – mine had too much of a cartoony feel, and John’s was quite cool but too much like a generic bird of prey and not so recognisable as a Shrike.  No probs, we say – lets take the best of each and weave the two together.  I asked John to take my design and give it more character and less comedy, retaining the shape of the shrike from Musashi’s painting but stylising it to match his concept.  The result was this:

Mmmmmm, now it is starting to look pretty good.  Still not great though.  So, print it out, grab a drink and sit and think about it.  You know, do the Musashi thing – “you should meditate on this” type of deal.  So we did, and John and I chatted about it – and we came to the opinion that it lacked detail, style.  So, back to researching the Shrike, looking at the various species, the Loggerhead Shrike, the Great Grey Shrike, the Mountain Shrike.  We picked up a few pointers from the photos, added more feather details and John applied a more striking mask.  It’s starting to come together.

So, over the following few days, we adjusted, tidied, scrapped, redrew and generally went through the process that this kind of design work warrants – and we eventually came out with two designs, one in full colour (our quite appropriate corporate colours of black and blue, hehe) which will be our official logo, and one simplified and further stylised version that will be used where a single colour only is available:

…and with our HEIJOSHIN title?  Click on ‘em for full size images…

To say I am chuffed is an understatement.  I love this design, and now after mucho reading up on them, love the Shrike.  I can see why Musashi felt the urge to spend time painting such a creature.

So, thanks to John for his hard work, and once again, all contact details can be found on the links page under ‘corporate links’.

– Scott

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