Houdini logo

Have no doubt. Designing your own identity can be one of the hardest things in the world. You have to be delighted with it because you’ll need to work with it every day. You have to create something that will make your fellow employees proud. You want them to be excited and inspired. And you want them showing it off to their friends. You also want your peers to envy it. No one wants to hear, “Yeah, it’s good, but it reminds me of something I saw…”

No pressure then.

The brief came about when Euro RSCG and The Furnace established an amalgamated creative services company. The change provided an ideal opportunity to expand our design department, and seek out our own clients. For which we needed our own brand.

The name was always going to be a hot issue. Pages of potential monikers were considered, and a shortlist was finally chosen for availability checking. At which point the extent of our misplaced optimism became clear (how dare so many businesses have similar names to our favourites!). Umpteen more names were considered until we arrived at ‘Houdini’.

Why? A gut (which I’m trying to lose) feel initially. But after reading up on the little guy we found many similarities between Houdini’s life and what we, an ambitious little company in North Sydney, were striving for.

Once the name was registered and URL purchased, we started designing with a blank canvas and bags of enthusiasm. First stop was vintage Houdini documents and posters. They were great stimulus, but ultimately we felt it important to tip our hat to the past whilst making a conscious effort not to go down the ‘white rabbit in a top hat’ look. Instead we aimed for something fresh — not too serious, but showcasing our broad range of talents.

We also came up with the tagline ‘Anything’s Possible’. So logo sketches and initial designs were developed to incorporate this thought.

Houdini sketches

When researching Harry Houdini we found examples of his signature. We really appreciated its typographical flow so we started playing around with this as a design feature. Then something ‘magic’ happened. We found the ‘H’ could be fashioned from the lower case ‘a’ and lower case ‘p’ — aptly reflecting our tagline and philosophy.

Houdini business card

With great fanfare and backslapping we decided to embrace it as a mark. We particularly enjoyed its subtlety, for unless it was pointed out you probably wouldn’t even know the methodology behind it. Just as a true magician would never volunteer the secrets of their amazing feats.

Since establishing the mark we’ve created stationery which incorporates our Houdini wallpaper pattern on the reverse, a holding page for our website and a growing library of ‘Anything’s Possible’ images, with many more elements in the pipeline.

Houdini stationery

Houdini wallpaper

Houdini Anything's Possible

We’re incredibly happy with the result. As challenging as it was, we really did enjoy answering our own brief and creating something fun that we can use tirelessly for years to come.

Houdini Anything's Possible

More from Houdini.

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June 13, 2011

Comments

Awesome stuff. Inspiring. Love the two colour, black-on-fawn stationery, and great to see and read about research and development behind it all.

I think the final version is nice but I reckon there is a problem with taking someone else’s identity and using it as the basis of your own (surly you want to stand out as unique?). It just doesn’t sit right with me and potentially a little confusing for new visitors to the site as it is done so well (to me it doesn’t say we are a design agency, I had to scroll down to get it).

I do admire the solid execution, the H logo-mark in particular embodies a very human imperfect form which is lovely, these guys are clearly great designers, I just think the ‘concept’ has been pushed too far.

I agree with Richard. It is a very nice identity but you are basing your business entirely off of Houdini’s work. Don’t get me wrong I like it a lot and you guys did a great job executing it, but won’t it be hard to build your own credibility when you are constantly referring back to Houdini?

I like your site a lot but one question, why don’t you show any of your work?

I’m a big form guy so I really like the “H” mark. I think the word Houdini is a bit too bold and almost fights with the “H” for dominance. Then the tagline is also in competition with the previous two. That aside, (I know, that’s being nitpicky, sorry) I think the mark and the AP tie in is nicely done. I noticed it was a AP in the more, squared off sketch, but I didn’t know why until it was explained. Then I had an “ah-ha” moment. Good job!

A very nice logo and identity.

The cross over and relationship between the man and the company along with a tag line that supports those ideas works well.
Then, a very nice recognition of the a & p that exist within the H.
And last but not least, great execution of that idea, since a great idea isn’t always followed by great execution.

I disagree with those suggesting the use of the man (Harry’s name) as a company name is necessarily a bad thing. And that the identity doesn’t suggest “design agency”, who said that a logo need to suggest what the company does? Further, using someone else’s identity in and of itself is in-fact quite unique, how many other companies have done that? Though to the point of those comments, if anything, the context of the website itself could be designed in a way to suggest design agency a bit more. but that issue lies more in the site design than it does the identity–more to come I’d assume

But there is no relationship between the man and the company? Of course a logo doesn’t have to be literal but it doesn’t need to be misleading, to me this says we love Houdini so my associations are magic shows, performance, distraction, slight of hand, escape (and possibly miss direction) are these the qualities of a design agency?

The other aspect is if they derive their business from word of mouth, past projects etc it’s probably less of a big thing. Referred clients are likely to see it after an introduction and in this instance they are likely to see the H/AP monogram and think yeah that’s pretty cool.

I hear what you are saying Richard, and in many ways agree.
But I do see the suggested association between the man and the company.
Such as the fact that a well designed work can “do the impossible.”
Or how many times have your colleagues asked you to “work your magic.”?

Although, still the design agency is a bit hidden on the website.
I’m just assuming that’s a temporary landing page solution.

Yeah I did kind of get that but felt that it wasn’t really a strong enough concept, the weight of the name over powers that second line of thought. I would be thinking is someone working at the company related to Houdini? Thanks for replying, it’s nice to have a bit of a debate on this one and can appreciate your point of view.

Overall it’s a nice mark, but I feel it could have benefited from better craftsmanship. I know it’s a bit ‘nit-picky’ and that that doesn’t seem to be the focus of this blog, but the ‘p’ feels blobby where the stem and bowl meet. I can see it was traced from the original sketch with a few tweaks, but it feels a little sloppy in that area to the right of the mark.

The application is beautiful.

I love the simplicity of the logo, and the use of the “H” as a link in the continuous pattern is amazing. I’m also a big fan of Gotham so that’s definitely a plus.

Clever. It’s a pretty good execution but needs too much explanation. This is not effective for branding a company.

(Honestly, I think you lucked out in “seeing something” in someone else’s work and you decided to appropriate it for your own use; possible that it’s in the public domain, so it’s “ok”)

Read this: http://www.andyrutledge.com/logo-misapplication.php

Anything’s possible, especially when you don’t use your brand to define what you do…

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