A few months ago a handful of people had the idea for athensmade.com, an initiative to create an identity for products, companies, etc. hailing from the classic city. It's been a seed of an idea for some time now and it's finally picking up steam.

Here's an excerpt from the website:

Our city has long been known as a hub of creativity – music, art, food, film & theatre. We are also the home of the University of Georgia, college football, and a downtown renowned for its vibrant night life. Unfortunately, not many people can tell you about all of the amazing companies that have been built in Athens that provide jobs, stability and a growing local economy.

We can do better. And, in the process, make Athens better. The individuals who have chosen to make Athens home have created vibrant, innovative and game-changing companies that provide thousands of jobs for citizens, stimulate the local, regional and national economy and provide the underpinnings of what makes Athens great.

I've lived in Athens for over 10 years and think that "Athens Made" is a great idea. I've always loved Athens, but in 2013 with the launch of Transform Athens, I've really discovered my passion for the city.

However, I'm not big on logo competitions like Athens Made, because I believe design is leadership. And design leadership requires one person at the helm.

Design needs to be packaged and sold in a specific way with a huge regard to context. Designing for a project should be akin to a sniper rifle, not a shotgun.

But, despite all this, Athens is my city and I want to see it represented in the best possible way. So I'm tabling my competition woes for another time.

It's impossible to express the ins and outs of a brand, it's mark, and the possible usages in a simple image upload, jumbled with dozens of others. So here is a quick breakdown of the mark I submitted and the logic behind the design.

The Problem

Bringing attention and unity to the businesses and professionals in the city is the problem at hand. There are many success stories but there is much fragmentation among them, so the problem is a single unifying thread that ties each together, to create synergy. Yes, I just used that word.

The Challenge

Athens is a diverse city packed with UGA students, musicians, professionals, an eclectic downtown scene, an art-centric culture, and much more. There are lots of businesses in town - Jittery Joe's Coffee, 1000 Faces Coffee, Terrapin Beer, Fire and Flavor, Tifosi Optics, Your Pie, and many more.

The biggest challenge is to create an "Athens Made" mark that can be incorporated into each of these companies, as well as hundreds of others not listed. The mark needs to be recognizable but adaptable to existing brands. It needs to be strong but not overpowering. It needs to be easily incorporated into the footer of any of the Athens company websites without being distracting.

In other words, it needs to be a simple mark that business actually want to put on their business's product - be it a website, laser engraved on a product, or printed on a coffee cup. It must adapt well in any number of colors, sizes, etc.

The Solution

I began thinking through the problem and challenges behind the Athens Made initiative, and how it could best be solved. There's a big craft and hand-made culture here so I thought it could be nice to represent that with a hand-lettered logotype. I started, as always with some sketching.

sketches 1

sketches 2

Now I'm not great at hand-lettering so I didn't feel like these were going in a good direction, nor did I feel that yet another script-like logo was unique enough for a strong and simple mark. So I went back to the drawing board.

sketches 3

sketches 4

This felt like a better direction with a more simplistic approach. It's much harder to create a strong and simple mark than a busy and complex one. Plus this needed to be iconic and paired with other brands as a primary usage. A busy or illustrative design for the mark has huge potential to clash and or detract from the businesses that would incorporate the mark into their own brand's material.

vectorized marks

I started to vectorize the mark I felt worked best as a sketch. From there I created multiple versions quickly to test the weight and contrast. It's also important to keep in mind that this mark may end up being super tiny as an add-on, on the back of someone's packaging, so it's a must that it work at a very small size.

This is the final mark I settled on.

final mark

stacked grid


horizontal grid


These captured all of the attributes I felt necessary for this type of project. Strong and iconic, and works well when the size is drastically reduced. It's a type of chameleon brand that needs to be adaptive to its surroundings.

Proposed method for typesetting:
type Using Athensmade as a full and complete word, establishes the phrase as a singular reference for the initiative as a whole. In a way, unifying the words "Athens" and "made" symbolizes the unity between the entrepreneurs, business, artists, products, etc. I don't want to get too philosophical about it, but I do like the idea.

Here it is paired with other Athens-based company brands.

Jittery Joe's Coffee
jittery joes

1000 Faces Coffee
1000 faces

Terrapin Beer

Fire and Flavor
fire and flavor

Your Pie
your pie

Tifosi Optics

Ciamillo Components

Four Athens
four athens


Studio Mds
studio mds

Possible website footer implementation

dot com

The Results

The voting on the site is currently open until January 15, 2014. The information isn't super specific on whether or not the total number of votes will determine the winning logo, or one will be chosen.

It says:

"Voting goes through Jan 15th. The chosen logo will be awarded $1,000."

I care much more about the representation of our city than $1,000, and that is my motivation for writing this post. So hopefully this will help inform the logic behind the concept.

In the meantime, if what I've designed and pitched has resonated with you, go to Athens Made and vote for my logo, by first selecting the logo and then selecting the green check mark in the dark button.

how to vote


Voting is now closed, but there's a twist. Read here to see the results.