My personal background is in design; through high school and college I had a singular goal: to work in pre-press for a printing company. Like many of my esteemed colleagues, I came into the Association Management realm by fortunate happenstance, but my love for color and design elements never left me. Every time a client went through refreshing their logo or creating a theme for an event, it was exciting for me to be involved. When purchasing my company, I had the opportunity of a lifetime: to create my own logo, my own brand; I had the chance to create absolutely anything I wanted! So, of course, I hit a creative brick wall.
I have no qualms about judging the company’s previous logo – because I created it! Before the transition, the name of the company had the former owner’s name in it, within the acronym. Jane A. Svinicki, CAE, created the company 34 years ago and named it clearly: Svinicki Association Services, Inc. I began working with the company in 2000, and even then giggled a bit when I heard the acronym referred to as the word ‘Sassy’.
Time passed, and the services offered evolved into a more comprehensive, managerial level. In 2002, the company updated the name to Svinicki Association Management, Inc. (SAMI). At that time we wanted a more professional look to our image, so I researched professional service-based firms and designed the logo/word-mark that carried us for eighteen years and through the recent changes. It was a decent, solid logo, but it was somewhat bland and obviously had to change as the company name certainly couldn’t continue to have the previous owner’s name in it!
Which brings our story to the terribly rainy day that I was stuck – both in my creative block and behind a work-truck on Highway 10 fretting about January 1st looming in the very near future. You never really know when inspiration is going to hit!
Then, I saw the word arc. I was so dumbstruck about the perfection of it that I was laughing aloud in my car. With that simple word, everything changed.
A simple definition of an arc is an incomplete part of a circle. To make a circle, multiple arcs are required. To me, that is precisely how my company exists, as only a part of something. Without the staff and clients, there is no company. The symbol of the arc is monumentally representative to me.
The Three-Part Circle
On that rainy road, the multiple arc thought, naturally formed into a three-part circle. I place virtually equal weight on what comprises my company:
Company: In itself the company must hold priority. As a business owner I’ve taken the responsibility of putting foods on the tables of fourteen families. The company must remain profitable and reputable enough to stay solvent so I can continue to do so.
Staff: I am only one person, and all people have limitations and time-constraints. I’ve not opted to be a sole-proprietor, to “go off on my own” and start a company from scratch. I’ve taken on the responsibility of leading a team, developing other professionals, and from that be able to continue to be a relevant and evolving force over the years. It is ONLY with incredible staff involved can this company exist to provide extraordinary services to clients.
Clients: The talents of these amazing staff would be wasted if I weren’t able to provide them meaningful ways to exercise what they learn about managing associations. It’s critically important that I assess and seek-out clients so that they that fit well into our mission and core value structure. For as hard as our staff members work, they need to feel appreciated and valued by the clients they serve. As it is those clients who pay the company to continue developing the staff, to continue providing those services…thus completing the circle.
The Logo Style
Once the arc and circle concepts were solidified in my mind, the colorful and creative side kicked into high gear. I drew from my background and a few different concepts to create the meaning behind look:
Primary Colors: As the logo had three elements, it was an easy, natural fit for me as I’ve always been strongly drawn to the three bold, primary colors: Red; Yellow; Blue. My fascination stems from my background in print design. These three colors cannot be recreated by mixing any other colors, yet these three colors are the foundation of every other color combination! Akin to Association Management and my new logo, with these three “colors”, these three elements, the right blend of company-staff-client, anything is possible.
Brushstrokes: In the Zen/Buddhist culture, ensō is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two brushstrokes. I have three. I like that while every other element of this logo design is spot-on to the concept I designed it around – this one is just a little off. There’s meaning there too. While we strive daily for perfection, quite often our end product is not as “perfect” as we planned. That’s healthy, that’s reality. When we set-out to achieve expectations we set in our mind, in a vacuum, without factoring in other people (i.e.: staff, clients, etc.), we can too easily stifle and limit ourselves. We need to have the flexibility to change and adapt in order to succeed in this profession.
Circle: Rounded shapes instill a naturally positive emotional message that gives a sense of harmony and protection, often represent unity and community. Curves in general are also viewed as more “feminine”, and being a woman-owned business is representative of who I am. Circles also have no beginning or end, they represent a cycle, which is exactly how our clients operate, on a continual cycle.
Incomplete Circle: The only concern I had in designing the shape of a circle, was that it’s often viewed as the “perfect” shape. There is no such thing as perfect, and I didn’t want the logo to come across as arrogant or absolute. Nothing in our business is so rigid as “a perfect circle”. Referencing again ensō, the incomplete nature of the logo signifies movement, evolution, development – a constant progress. As in the Association Management world, nothing we do is ever finished.
The new logo is meant to both represent me as a person and the company as a whole. To find meaning in what I do to better myself, this company, the people and clients surrounding me and the industry as a whole, I needed something visual to continue to inspire me on a day-to-day basis. We all look for meaning in what we do. I feel truly blessed that I had the opportunity to create that meaning.
While rebranding was a daunting task, being able to tap into my design background is what really brought it all together – at the end of the day, Association Management is as much of an art as it is a process.
Jennifer Rzepka, CAE is President of Association Resource Center, Inc. (ARC). She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Management from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and the Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential since 2010. She is an active member of the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE), the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and has been with ARC for twenty years. ARC has fourteen staff members and manages nineteen associations.