03 December 2005

[logo_design] Unitus, Uniting Us

In 1937, the Oregon Telephone Employees Credit Union was chartered. With a name like that, it shouldn't be hard to guess who they considered thier core constituency.

That was 70 years ago. Tempus, as they say, fugit. Throughout the 1990's, the credit union sector grew mightily. Formerly industry-centric credit unions gradually grew thier membership until the names of many of them weren't quite such a close fit anymore. As it was known by the turn of the 21st Century, "Oregon Telco Community Credit Union" certainly was one of them. From a relatively select audience the non-profit had grown to serve many thousands of people in northwestern Oregon.

Clearly a change was in order. Also, the old logo (illustration, top), though well-done, seemed somewhat dated (my opinion).

Therefore it's apparent the company felt a complete identity makeover was the order of the day. The solution (illustration, bottom) is a study in clever and effective design with many strengths and few weaknesses.

First, the name: Unitus (pronounced unite us) is an obvious solution that I'll bet, by now, other people are wishing they'd thought of, but is as clever as it is obvious. Not only does it evoke one huge positive aspect of the credit union concept (bringing people together – credit union depositors are also member-owners) the word itself refers the word "union". The overall effect is one of community, of people helping people.

Second, and most important to me, the logotype design. This works on a great many levels. The letterforms are sans-serif, with a clean, modern sensitivity. The design makes brilliant use of pronouciation symbols (a/k/a diacritics) in the horizonal bar over the "U", indicating the "long" vowel voice (this symbol is called a macron, as I will refer to it ever more, so take notes).

Moreover, the macron extends by association into the yellow box around the initial letterform, which not only lives inside the logotype but allows the initial letter to be broken out of the logotype to form a logo all on its own. The boxing of the U also evokes unity, but since the macron and the rest of the box have necessary gaps, the U doesn't feel totally trapped.

The designer also tipped thier hat toward legacy in including a yellow color that is very similar to the yellow color of the spiral swooshes in the old logo, bringing a kernel of the past into a very dynamic present.

There are, as I mentioned, a couple of weaknesses. The box up front, while extremely insipired, promotes a crowded feel since there is room to breathe around all the other letterforms. The choice of a sunny yellow is also a potential stumbling block, but only because one then has to be quite careful about the backgrounds on which the mark gets exhibited. One application, the building sign, has the type in black with the yellow in the background and the macron and box reversed out in white, which works well.

These weakenesses, however, are easily worked around (as noted above) and do little if anything to harm the communicative power of a very well-done logo. Unitus is modern, friendly, and dynamic – and all you have to do to become a member now is to open an account.

Unitus' website is at the end of this link.

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