Alisha Lee Jeffers, LoCo Think Tank Marketing Manager
Season’s Greetings to the LoCommunity! Curt has invited me to introduce myself and share a little of my background and the thought process that went into re-designing the LoCo branding in the last few months since I joined the team. So I’m going to go ahead and share in LoCo fashion (a.k.a authentically, and perhaps a little long-form). I’ll invite you to share with us as well…see details at the end!
A brief background
I’m so grateful to have found my way to LoCo Think Tank, and for the opportunities it provides me to get to know my community better, starting with Curt and my teammates at LoCo HQ. I come with a passion for making authentic connections with others and expressively reflecting their purpose through visual art and design and, more recently, the written word. I’ve done this for over 20 years in various capacities, and I’m continually seeking new challenges as opportunities to grow. This is a perfect place for me to continue that work!
My background combines a commitment to the path of a true artist with the pragmatism of customer service and administration. I went from earning a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art and selling paintings full-time to working an administrative position for the Larimer County Commissioners & County Manager’s office. I’m all about becoming a well-rounded individual!
The continuity for me has always been the intersection of community and creativity. Whether I was slinging beans as a Seattle barista to support my painting career, moving to Colorado and getting to know fellow artists and my natural environment with the Plein Air Painters of Northern Colorado, or traveling with commissioners to document all of their community meetings with photography and Spotlight articles on larimer.org, I have always positioned myself at this juncture. And my creativity has always found expression, sharing visually what I find fascinating and worthy of knowing about.
Years ago in community college, I met an exchange student from Japan who became a good friend. She shared with me the translation of my name to Kanji: “Reflecting Reasons for Existence.” It has stuck with me as my best mission statement ever since.
Finding LoCo, and the Impetus for the Logo Rebrand
LoCo does so many things for so many people, and I often hear Curt saying he’s an “inch deep and a mile wide.” I became aware of the company through my husband Drew who runs a small business with his folks. While he isn’t a member, he’s been on the email list for awhile and occasionally forwards them to me for community business info. So LoCo has been on the fringes of my attention for some time, but always with some ambiguity. LoCo? What does that stand for? What exactly do they do?
This internship provided the perfect opportunity to find out. I knew enough to know that they were essentially doing what I wanted to be doing – connecting to entrepreneurs, small business owners and the local community. And I was curious to find out more.
“Ask of your needs and share of your abundance.”
This phrase is one of the guiding principles here at LoCo. It resonates with me because I believe in resilience and resourcefulness in the face of adversity, and asking for help when needed. When I was laid off from a department restructure at the county last year and receiving unemployment benefits, I had the opportunity to work with the Larimer County Economic and Workforce Development Center and their career transition and training program. I asked for financial assistance to attend the Fort Collins Digital Workshop Center’s certificate programs for Advanced Graphic Design and Digital Marketing, and in response, I received full compensation to complete both (as of October). The program included a paid internship as I finished up my classes, and I chose LoCo Think Tank from a list of over 400 employers that were connected with LCEWD.
How could I share of my abundance with this opportunity? The first thing that came to mind was to address the visual organization of how LoCo presents itself to the community. I could bring a visual cohesiveness that clearly expresses the breadth of offerings here.
One of Curt’s first requests of me was to consider how to brand his podcast, the LoCo Experience, in a way that would allow for future growth. He wanted to make it clear that the podcast was an offshoot of the core business of LoCo Think Tank, but distinct in its tone and delivery.
My instinct is to consider the big picture when I’m presented with a design challenge like this. I reflected on the common element to both enterprises: the word LoCo. LoCo with a capital “C” in the middle. What is important about this word to the business? Why LoCo? How affiliated is Curt with the spanish translation to crazy? Does he embrace this or skirt it? When asked, he shared how it’s there as a playful double-entendre (as in: “we’re crazy about small businesses,” or: “make you crazy if you don’t talk to someone about your small business challenges”). But more than that is the Local Community part of the name, the commitment to small businesses in this region and the belief that we are better, stronger and wiser together. Everything LoCo does is to strengthen this community. And we do that by being human, not by pretending there isn’t a little crazy in there! I love it, how do I show all that in a logo??
Well, the short answer is that I can’t, but I can create a distinctive mark that is flexible enough to hold all of this meaning. I went through many iterations and many conversations with the team in this process. I might have made myself a little “loco” for the number of versions I explored! But I knew this was worth taking time on. Once you have a well-defined brand platform, including harmonious colors and fonts, you have a distinctive visual voice with which to communicate. Not just communicate, but to resonate.
Now, I saw how well-established the original logo had become. And I really liked the distinctive trademark already in place. The challenge was a bit intimidating. I asked myself several times throughout the process: “Why change this?” The original request was for a related brand for the podcast, not a re-working of the original brand!
But as I talked further with Curt, I could hear how his company is at a pivotal moment in its growth to go beyond the original container and possibly expand into other regions and offerings. And as I got to know the team better, I felt that there was something missing from this original brand mark. The way LoCo is discussed is shorthand, you rarely hear “LoCo ThinkTank” or “The LoCo Experience Podcast” in conversation, you hear “LoCo.” That word is what unites the two. And when you think about it, when we’re honest to admit our own personal brand of loco (crazy) and accept it, we’re better for it. So LoCo is the thing, and I knew it needed to grow bigger and break out of the circle it was confined to. I needed to separate it to make it more flexible.
Another thing that tugged at my attention was that there was nothing in the original logo indicating the thought process behind the “think tank” part of the name, or the innovation or ideas that members bring to either a Think Tank chapter or a LoCo Experience podcast interview. I went through many doodles and designs around thought bubbles, talk bubbles, bubbles in general, bubbles gathering in the sink, the fringes of the sea, making community, gathering or floating through the air… Ideas, ideas, ideas flowed through the brainstorm.
From the early stages, the letters became more open and inviting, not narrow and confined. This is to suggest a welcoming to the table of membership and community. And the “O’s” in the word had the potential to communicate thoughts. The first iterations of my design were admittedly rather whimsical. I’ve learned over the years not to get too attached to any creative work you’re doing for a client. And I’ve learned that this isn’t an attitude to take grudgingly – I become a better artist and designer when I welcome feedback and really take time to process and integrate it. (My challenge now is to not be embarrassed by those early versions!)
Hunter Wylie joined in on a few of our marketing meetings in the process and made the excellent suggestion to put my first version of the redesign out to the community for feedback. We shared it on social media and in our newsletter:
Feedback was sparse, but valuable. The response was largely positive, but had an “almost-there” quality. Not quite “nailed it” yet, and I could feel that myself. A critique that was echoed a few times was that the thought-bubble/ word bubble of the last “O” wasn’t clear enough. It looked a bit like a “Q.” Huh, I was so deep into it that I didn’t realize. One person commented that they liked the simple symbol of the original logo. Then in our next marketing meeting, Alma spoke up: she said that the LoCo was a little too disjointed to be quickly recognizable. The look was unsettling to her, and her comment was unsettling to me because I knew she had a point.
All was informative feedback, so I went back to the drawing board for a significant re-work. Here’s the next version that I came up with, and in it you’ll see my breakthrough to the final logomark in the last “O”:
This version was very satisfying to Alma’s sensibilities, and I admit that it felt more grounded to me too. But Curt missed some of the playfulness of the first version. He thought it might be a little, well, boring. Here is where another common challenge of the designer is illustrated. Curt and Alma both had very valuable input, but very different tastes! How to strike a balance?
This is where the fine-tuning comes in. Minor tweaks to nudge the design to the final iteration. Along the way, and through several more discussions, I learned what to keep and what to let go from the designs. I realized that the two did not need separate logomarks. The message communicated in the icon we’re calling the “Bright Idea” was relevant to both sides of the business. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the strongest, and this one is deceptively simple. It contains the formula of three essential elements to the core values of LoCo:
To bridge the gap between Alma and Curt’s preferences, I kept the alignment of the letters, but brought back the varying sizes of the earlier version. Including the “Bright Idea” in the last “O” gave it that final touch of distinction.
So here they are, the final logos.
Another quote I’ve picked up from Curt, who in turn was quoting Blaise Pascal:
“I’d have written a shorter letter but I didn’t have the time!”
That applies to both this blog post and to my final design. In the case of the final design, I had ample time to simplify it down to the most essential elements, and for that I’m quite pleased. I don’t have as much time to whittle down this blog post, so I hope you’ve stuck with me this far and found some value from it. At least I have the confirmation, when Googling the ideal length of a blog post in 2022, is that I’m only slightly over the target of 2045 words (clocking in at 2132).
Now it’s your turn! Introducing guest blogging to locothinktank.com! Where can we go together next?
Now I encourage you to share your abundance of knowledge as we enter a new chapter together. We’re inspired by the members of this community and want you to be heard and seen, so we’re opening up space in the LoCo Think Tank blog for guest posts from our members. Just as the LoCo Experience podcast shares business journeys that inspire and entertain, we’d like our blog and social media channels to be another avenue for the same.
What would you like to share that would help elevate fellow business owners as they strive to build and grow the things they’re passionate about? Email me your ideas for blog posts, social media shares and podcast interviews: email@example.com. And I would love to hear what you think about the new brand! (Bearing in mind, however, that the revision period has closed. Lol!)
You can check out Curt’s video introducing the rebrand here.
I look forward to getting to know you and hopefully meeting you in person soon. In the meantime, Happy Holidays and Cheers to the New Year ahead!