Visual Identities + AMP: An interview with Mike Medow

In October, The Work Department finished the new identity system for Allied Media Projects (AMP). Through the crucial research and ideation phases, we took a deep dive into what makes AMP unique and explored how to express these key values through a simple form. Download our initial presentation PDF and take a look at some of our research and sketches. We think the process went very well and we love the end result. We asked Mike Medow, Director of Finance and Communications at AMP, a few questions about visual identities and his thoughts on the project:

Work Department: Why do you think visual identities are important?

Mike Medow: We are a visual culture, and while we should be engaging the world with all our senses, I think most of us are trained to make our first impressions based upon a visual encounter. Nothing is faster than the speed of light.

A coherent visual identity is critical for making a good first impression and engaging an audience (or as we would say in AMP parlance, "engaging participants"). Once you have that engagement, the visual identity is a way of orienting your people, letting them know where they are, what they can expect.

Inspiration: Crass logo, Black Flag logo, and the Dead Kennedys logo

WD: Why did AMP need a new identity?

MM: We never really had an identity. At one point, a former designer made us a logo, which we used for a while, but we decided we were ready for a more coherent and intentional visual identity that expressed our mission and values.

We do a lot of visual design for AMP. We have multiple projects, multiple websites, a big grassroots campaign every year to build the participation in the Allied Media Conference. With consultation from The Work Department, we determined that the design for all of these projects would be more coherent if anchored in a common visual language.

So the new identity was a capacity building project for AMP. The new logo, font choices, graphic templates and guidelines, these will position us to have a more coherent visual message in all the design work we do going forward.

WD: What were AMP’s goals for the new identity?

MM: Allied Media Projects produces the annual Allied Media Conference. We sponsor a range of projects under our mission of cultivating media strategies for a more just, creative, and collaborative world. Our sponsored projects in Detroit are operating in the fields of education, community technology, and media arts. At the end of the day, the most important component of all this work is the network of participants, the hundreds involved in local projects in Detroit, and the nearly 1,700 people who are a part of Allied Media Conference each year. Our network is connected through this work as well as through a set of shared principles about how we approach our work.

I wanted the new identity to be an expression of the AMP network, to focus on the pluralizing "s" at the end of our name.

WD: Explain some of the inspiration you shared with The Work Department at the onset of the project. Why was this research important to you?

MM: One source of inspiration for me were punk logos from bands like CRASS and Black Flag. These logos mean way more that just the band or their music. They signal association with a style and ethic, and when you see someone with one of these logos, you instantly know something more about them that just a music preference.

Inspiration: Crass logo, Black Flag logo, and the Dead Kennedys logo

I wanted a logo that is more than just the mark of an organization, but something that signals affinity. If I see someone with a button with the new AMP logo, I will know that this person is a part of our network. They align with a set of principles. They are a part of the community. This is a high aspiration, for the logo to carry this affective meaning, and we will see with time if organically the new logo ends up being this signifier of network affinity that I hoped for.

Slide from The Work Department's presentation

WD: Can you describe the process that The Work Department took AMP through? What parts did you like/what worked well? How was it collaborative?

MM: The Work Department helped us identify the conceptual drivers that inform the new identity. Through discussion of AMP’s mission and work with The Work Department, we revealed themes of plurality (serious + fun, complex + coherent, circled + webbed), and of intentionality (speaking + listening, teaching + learning, transmitting + receiving).

The Work Department gave us a range of design options and we selected the components of a new logo and identity system based on which logo and elements best embodied these themes.

Slide from The Work Department's presentation

Slide from The Work Department's presentation