Houdini an Identity

Here is a great iden­tity for Houdini, a newly formed cre­ative agency in Australia. Head of Design Darren Cole discusses the process of creating the iden­tity, below. This predica­ment is cer­tainly relat­able; and I think it speaks to any designer who is faced with a sim­i­lar challenge:

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.

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’ (ged­dit?) hap­pened. We found the ‘H’ could be fash­ioned from the lower case ‘a’ and lower case ‘p’ – aptly reflect­ing our tagline and philosophy.

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.

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.


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