Monthly Focus on a Featured Expert: Brian Clark
By Deborah Goeken
Brian Clark, our manager of creative services, is the subject of my inaugural monthly column introducing you to a member of the Colorado Health Institute team.
It’s not because Brian and I both worked at the Rocky Mountain News together. It’s not because Brian is so incredibly creative that it’s just fun to watch him come up with an idea, sketching away with a pencil on a piece of scrap paper. It’s not even because he writes maybe the greatest Facebook series ever on being a single dad to their three kids when his wife, Sally, is away.
It’s mostly because Brian has been the driving force behind CHI’s strong visual identity. He designs beautiful publications. He helps us tell clear stories with data. He is always searching for a better way to communicate our work. He is a true collaborator. And he does it all with grace and humor, even under the tightest deadlines.
I’m excited to hear from Brian about how he went about creating our new logo, which debuts today. He also chose our new font, Mr. Eaves, and updated and modernized our color scheme.
Question: Tell me how you ended up at CHI, including your career path before this.
Answer: Looking back, it’s obvious I was destined to end up in some kind of creative field.
As a kid, anything that involved cutting and pasting was right up my alley. Posters, mobiles and collages were my favorite school projects, and I for years I maintained my own scrapbook of pictures of Philadelphia Phillies players that I cut out of newspapers and magazines. Eventually I found my way into the newspaper industry and worked as a designer and editor for 14 years, including the last nine at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. I’ve now been at CHI for six years and I am pleased to report that nearly all the skills I’ve developed as a journalist and a creative apply to the work I do here.
Q: What’s the best thing about working at CHI?
A: Without question, it’s being part of the incredibly talented and close-knit CHI family. In a lot of ways, it’s like being back in the newsroom. The level of excellence in this office is astonishing. Plus, unlike with my own family, I never have to yell at anyone to hurry up and find their shoes because we’re already running 20 minutes late.
Q: What have you learned since arriving at CHI?
A: Health policy acronyms. So many health policy acronyms.
But seriously, I’ve learned that people in the health policy world love their data and they love it presented visually. I can make things look pretty (everyone here calls it Brian-izing) but our researchers and analysts truly are the heart and soul of our work. The enthusiastic collaboration between design and data is one of the best qualities we bring to the table.
Q: How did you go about designing the new logo? I seem to remember it involved a day out of the office.
A: Logo design is four parts caffeine, three parts staring into space waiting for inspiration to strike, two parts randomly drawing shapes on the computer until something finally looks good and one part talent.
I wasn’t happy with anything I came up with during the first few rounds (see below), and I was starting to question how in the world I’d ever been hired as a graphic designer. To steer into that slide before it became a full-on crisis, I decided to ditch the office and head into the great outdoors. I left all my technology behind and spent an entire day just meandering around a park with my sketch pad.
Being outside helped me focus on why health and health care are such important topics for many Coloradans. Being active and healthy makes living in our magnificent state that much sweeter. Eventually the fresh air helped clear out the cobwebs and I came up with several ideas, one of which eventually developed into our new logo.
Q: What do you want people to take away from the logo about CHI?
A: Our new logo is actually quite simple, but if you look closely, it provides a fairly comprehensive picture of who we are and what we do. Now obviously, the main icon, a mountain peak, is not exactly groundbreaking when it comes to Colorado-based logos. However, while developing the concept I began to see a way to use the peak as both a nod to our Colorado roots and our passion for all things data. The peak is set slightly off center because while we provide balanced and impartial information, we also bring our own unique perspective and analysis to our work.
The right line of the peak ends on an upward trajectory for two reasons. First, our work focuses primarily on Colorado, but we are also interested in how health issues in our state spread out to the world beyond our borders and vice versa. Second, the rising line signifies unfinished business. There is still plenty of work to do to make Colorado the healthiest state it can be.
As far as typography, we moved from almost no capital letters to all capital letters. A redesign just seemed like a good time to grow up a little. We’ve also included a bold emphasis on the word Health. We are Colorado and we are an institute, but health will always be at the core of what we do.
Q: What did you like about the new font? How did you choose it?
A: Our new font is called Mr. Eaves and it gives us a more modern look and a lot of versatility, both in print and online. The font itself is fairly compact, but the spacing is light and airy and I expect people will find it extremely legible and easy on the eyes.
Q: What is different about our new color scheme? How do you intend to use it?
A: We’ve done a great job over the past six years of creating a strong and easily recognizable CHI brand identity. We frequently hear from people who come across our publications in various places out in the real world and they immediately recognize it and know they can trust the information because it comes from us. For that reason, I wanted to build on our brand rather than start from scratch. Blue is still our primary color and yellow our main accent. However, I adjusted the yellow to make it more yellow and less orange. That was constantly an issue with our old shade, especially the time we ended up with a Bronco-themed lobby wall after the logo signage printed way too orange.
Sticking with the nature theme, I drew inspiration for our secondary palette from Colorado's own colors as they change throughout the seasons. We will still use light blue, purple and green, but I lightened them up across the board. And I introduced a red and orange (because Broncos, obviously). The colors should add a lot of pop to our publications and website.
Q: What do you do when you’re not at work?
A: If I’m not in the office, I’m most likely at home torturing my family with an endless barrage of puns and dad jokes.
Q: Your best advice for a young designer?
A: I have a sign in my office that says, “Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.” I know that sounds simplistic, but I try to live by that philosophy. Keep going, keep experimenting, keep learning, keep looking. Keep trying to be better than you were the day before.