We’ve known for a long time that the only constant is change. We’re certainly seeing a good deal of it in our city these days. As the winds shift, CounterPulse is adapting and continuing to make a place for daring, intimate, socially relevant performance in San Francisco. We’re planning our growth into a new home on Turk Street and as we do so, we’re re-imagining our visual identity. Our move from 848 Divisidero Street in 2005 also marked a change in name and logo. It seems fitting that our next incarnation come at a time when a physical move is imminent.
Like us, you may have a nostalgic association with our old logo. The symbolic hand of the people reaching powerfully up, gently cradling a heart, presenting itself as an expression of sensitive political force. The stark contrast of black and red connecting us to a lineage of political artistic endeavors, notably Agitprop and Russian Constructivism. And yet, there’s something static about a literal symbolic mark that points so explicitly and specifically to art movements of the early twentieth century. Nevermind the fact that passersby often remark that our logo gives them the impression we’re a blood donor clinic. With our new logo, we wanted to disassociate from the medical profession and carry our politically engaged art making into the twenty-first century.
Our old wordmark, “CounterPULSE”, was beginning to feel overstated with its shout-it-out all-caps “PULSE”. The capitalization overemphasizes “PULSE” when our work to support art that runs counter to the dominant pulse of contemporary culture gives equal weight to the “Counter” portion of our name. So we chose something more subtle yet still bold — to keep the capital “P” and spell our name “CounterPulse”.
With these thoughts in mind, we sought the help of a team of dedicated pro-bono consultants from the Taproot Foundation and embarked on a redesign of our logo. Drawing on language from our recently completed strategic plan, we distilled what we considered to be the essence of our organization. We uncovered energetic terms to describe ourselves, the artists we work with, and the art made in our space — spotlight, shadow, subversive, dynamic, shattered, chaotic, textured. Using these terms as springboards, we collected images into mood boards that would help us identify an aesthetic that resonated with us.
These mood boards also included images of our new neighborhood, the Tenderloin — its ornate façades, bold street art, and warmly glowing neon signs. We gazed at these collages and were drawn to shapes, colors, and textures that felt like CounterPulse.
The Taproot team guided us first though an audit of our visual identity and those of other organizations in our field. They then incorporated our mood boards and led a critical process of concept and draft review. Our Taproot graphic designer, Diana Heom, was prolific, giving us draft after draft of material to feast our eyes upon. After a six months of vigorous discussion and course changes we came to a final consensus about our new visual identity. Behold!
The new mark echoes the shape of the old. The fist holding the heart is abstracted to form “CP” (the acronym for CounterPulse we affectionately use in the office). The mark incorporates strong geometric shapes shattered by diagonal lines that both support and disrupt symmetry. The shape holds space and also moves through it, giving weight and dynamism to our name.
Our new primary logo colors are slight variations on the old. We added an orange electricity to the red. The black is rubbed lighter to a charcoal grey. When on a dark background, the new logo will be accented with a cream color, softening the contrast. These are the colors of a vibrant contemporary CounterPulse.
We also introduced new colors to our brand palette. We weren’t comfortable being just one thing, given the great diversity of artists and performance forms that grace our space. Our brand family now contains a teal, pink, and orange, for special applications.
Giving us further room for adaptation, we created stencils of the mark that allow us to incorporate photographic moments of performance. The rich images of the artists we work with will be featured online and in print, giving the community glimpses of the magic that happens inside our space.
A new era of CounterPulse begins today. We hope you share our excitement about our new look and the positive change it reflects. We are grateful beyond words for the creative labors of our Taproot team. Thank you sincerely Sara Bert, Diana Heom, Jean-Luc Lamirande, Anna McLuhan, and Susan Ordway. A special thanks to my colleagues on the CounterPulse project team, Executive & Artistic Director Jessica Robinson Love and board member Kate Patterson, to our Engagement Fellow, Reena Karia, for her design skill, and to the rest of the CounterPulse staff for their keen eyes and design-savvy advice.
– Shamsher Virk
Communications & Engagement Director