Identity for Letters Live

Photo of Benedict Cumberbatch  at Letters Live, 2015

Background

After we launched the Molly Moon’s World website, a delighted Georgia Byng (author of the Molly Moon books) generously invited Steve and his wife to watch David Gilmour at the Royal Albert Hall as an additional token of thanks. Also at the concert was Georgia’s brother Jamie Byng, MD of Canongate Books. Backstage after the show, Georgia accosted her brother, insisting ‘You must get Steve to do your new site!’

Not long after this auspicious meeting, The Space Between had been commissioned by Jamie and his partners to work on a project very close to their hearts: Letters Live.

Inspired by the best-selling book Letters of Note by Shaun Usher, Letters Live organises live events where remarkable letters are read by outstanding performers such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Ian McKellen, Olivia Colman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Kylie Minogue, Matt Berry (the list goes on).

Having outgrown its brand and website, Letters Live was looking for fresh ideas to bring its rich world, where letter-writing meets engaging performance, to a wider audience through a new identity and web presence.

Considering the brand

The original logo had a lot going for it. It was legible and distinctive; even at a distance, the marque could be recognised. However, Matt and Steve were convinced that there was another kind of distinctive logo for Letters Live – as simple as the original, but which said more about the subject. Thus the starting point of our journey was defined: how do we capture the spirit of Letters Live in a simple, memorable logo?

Lift-off

Letters Live logo ideas from Matt Rudd’s notebookThe perfect marque would clearly communicate the two key ideas: LETTERS and LIVE. These scribbles explored the words of a letter lifting off the page, gaining life and beginning to encircle us.

Matt wondered whether the curved lines at the top and bottom of the original logo could form the left and right edges of a letter, providing a bridge from the old marque to the new.

LL-etters

Another idea was that two L-shapes (the Letters Live initials) arrange themselves to form a letter. This was a nice idea but it felt corporate and unemotional. Above all, this logo failed to communicate half the message – that this was about LIVE events.
Letters Live logo idea #2 - 2 L-shapes

Letter as actor

Letters Live logo idea #3 - Letter as Actor
Some serious thinking about how to visualise both aspects of Letters Live led us to this concept: ‘Letter as actor’. There was something satisfying about the way this summed things up. By placing it on a theatrical stage, we made the letter feel poised and confident, also evoking the electric atmosphere of a theatrical performance.

However, a good concept does not necessarily mean a good logo. The ideal marque also needs to be a beautiful visual statement which somehow manages to say everything that needs to be said in a minimal way.

We found that the ‘Letter as actor’ logo was too complicated to work in some situations. Logos with perspective are often difficult since they get confused with the surroundings in which they are placed. We realised that the blurry light pool would cause problems when the logo was projected at the venues – it would be hard to tell what was logo and what was a real spotlight. It also felt a bit too literal in conveying the key ideas of LETTERS and LIVE.

Nearly. But not quite.

Letters Live logo idea #4 - Image window
Letters Live logo idea #5 - double letter shape

Yet another approach suggested LETTERS with a letter-shaped container and the use of handwriting. The logo could become an image window into which photography could be placed, clearly showing that this was a LIVE event.

This simple image-window logo had a forgettable silhouette which didn’t communicate LETTERS (plural), so we tried some arrangements with two letter shapes. We were getting a much more interesting and ownable logo shape. We also felt that this arrangement gently alluded to the comedy/tragedy theatrical masks.

Mysterious magic trick

We reached a point in the process where it felt like we had the jigsaw pieces of the perfect logo, but had not yet found the way to put them together. We looked back over everything we’d done so far. There was good thinking, but no single route that ticked all the boxes.

It felt like an arrangement of three letter shapes, forming an interesting silhouette, suggesting letters (plural), and subtley incorporating two L-shapes, was almost perfect, but it didn’t say LIVE. At last, Matt saw how to perform the ‘mysterious magic trick’ that would give us the logo we were looking for.

Letters Live logo - "The mysterious magic trick"

By chopping away sections top left and bottom right of the central letter, the left and right letter shapes became spotlights, illuminating the central letter. When Matt made this final breakthrough, we knew instantly ‘this was it’.

Letters Live logo - designed by The Space Between

The next day, we presented it to the client, and everyone got really excited. ​Letters Live ​had its new logo! We celebrated by going to watch James Rhodes play in Soho Theatre, just around the corner from our clients’ office.

Our final logo has three letters, two L-shapes, two overlapping spotlights, and one ‘hero’ letter bearing the ​Letters Live ​title. The logo shape also suggests comedy/tragedy theatrical masks.

The new Letters Live logo fits in a perfect square
The new Letters Live logo designed by The Space Between fits perfectly in a square, which is helpful when organising design layouts. Square logos also fare well on social media.
The new Letters Live logo designed by The Space Between can contain imagery
The logo can contain imagery. This version has a letter on the left, a stage performer on the right, and the words ‘Letters Live’ in the space where they overlap: a perfect visual explanation of Letters Live.

Letters Live has a big future. Foreseeing the need for sub-brands and themes, we designed the marque with customisability in mind. However, for launch, we have created a simple graphic version with a friendly colour palette which works on light and dark backgrounds. We have also developed a version for use over imagery, where the letters are white with three transparency levels. This technique allows background scenes to shine through the logo, tying the brand and content together. We used this version on the website.

Screenshot of the new  Letters Live website, designed by The Space Between

More to come...

We are still working on the website for a full launch in early 2016, but the new brand and ‘look and feel’ were launched today on letterslive.com. We are really enjoying this project. It’s great to be working on something where the subject matter is inspiring and the client relationship is creative. We’re hoping to get decent seats for one of the nights next March. Maybe we’ll see you there.