They’re on the minds of a few people around work lately. We’ve got some pretty significant changes coming over the horizon, many having to do with a multi-year rollout of an EMR system.
EMRs are basically there to store patient records digitally rather than on paper. This is a stupefyingly obvious concept, and it might be shocking to realize that a lot of med professionals don’t use EMRs at all, particularly those in rural areas.
The reason is because of HIPAA. The law makes it plain that any disclosure of privileged medical information to anyone not needing it will result in censure, fines, firing, facility decertification, the violation of Brownie Scouts by Satanic biker gangs, and Earth falling into the sun.
Since there are always security concerns, particularly dealing with digitally-stored and network-accessible data, there’s a lot of resistance to adopting the systems.
Anyway, the security group, communications group, systems group, etc. each want their own logos to internally brand their work, which does make sense in a facility that covers a fairly wide county, deals with about 130 or so physicians, and ten times that number of employees. The trick is to do up a design that actually meets those goals.
That’s a work in progress, though. More recently, I cranked out a design for a surgical practice with the initials MSS. The physician in charge there asked for a caduceus — hardly surprising — but one that incorporated the “MSS” into the design.
The thing about a logo is that it really needs to be a recognizable symbol, something that conveys a concept while at the same time branding a product or service. The term logo itself is rooted in the Greek for word, or possibly word-image. So even while it might not contain text, a logo has to convey something that could be put across in words as well.
Think of the Nike swoosh: You know what it is just by its being mentioned, and you know it conveys speed. (To my eye it’s always resembled a road; it could also be seen as finishing-line tape.) The McDonald’s arches are an iconic reference to the old design of their burger shops.
So I needed simple, and yet evocative, and recognizable and scalable. This is often overlooked by some designers; scalability basically means you can make the image wee teeny small or great big huge, and either way, it’s still recognizable. Usually this means doing it as vector art; however, it’s possible to make vector art that’s essentially not scalable. Draw a nice picture at a canvas size corresponding to a sheet of paper. Put some words in the image, then reduce its size to an inch across.
I was toying with the idea of putting the initials on a shield, mounted to the staff of the caduceus; or possibly on a ribbon floating above or below; but those would have led to something possibly baroque and definitely a little intricate to be iconic. Scalability would go out the window on that one.
As I noodled and doodled, I realized in a well duh sort of moment that M, S, and S could themselves be reworked to form a caduceus, if I was careful about it.
I scribbled a bit more and quickly saw that ornamentation, such as the staff or feathers, wasn’t going to work. It cluttered things up too much. So I boiled it down to the essentials. Got a workable sketch.
And knew I was not going to be able to scan and livetrace this one in AI. The results would have been a little too organic. I wanted something clean and crisp, but not entirely mechanical, a bit like a nicely-stroked, humanist sans serif typeface. An image that would reduce or expand well, be clean enough to not belong to a particular graphic style, but still have just enough warmth to it to feel less than totally clinical.
Well, after my Route 66 race shirt design, I was considerably less daunted by AI than before, so set to work drawing more or less freehand.
The first design was sort of there, but awkward. It felt a little too rounded and mushy, and I tried again — with results.
First, here’s the aborted attempt.
It really did not work. The em was heading along the right path, but it was too narrow; and the snakes, in addition to being oversized, were asymmetrical. And I really did not care for their tails nor lack of heads; they looked a little too much like nematodes. Not the kind of thing you’d want to associate with a medical practice.
Well hell. So I went back, more or less literally, to that there olé drawing board, and with a bit of time, effort and tweaking, came up with this.
After that the rest was easy.
What pleased both the physician and me was the way the em hinted at the look of the local dominant mountain range. That wasn’t entirely intentional, but when something works, you go with it.
Now, with the EMR integration design, I’ll probably be doing something like it again in terms of process — starting out with a concept that’s a bit overworked, but ending up with something that can do well on its own. Along the way I’ll get to juggle the needs of several intercommunicating groups, each of which wants to feel equally important.
Ah well. Beats the hell out of working for a living.
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