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The Thoreau Society

The Thoreau Society is the oldest literary society dedicated to an American author in the United States. As the topic of my senior critical English honors thesis, I spent time on the Society's website and on databases reading their publications. As part of an Introduction to Graphic Design course at Boston College I worked to redesign the Thoreau Society's logo, as well as design a spread for one of their publications, the Concord Saunterer.

Creative Exploration

When beginning this project, I thought both about fresh designs that could modernize the Thoreau Society's existing brand — maintaining their core ideals of outreach, education, and advocacy with new visuals — as well as traditional elements of Thoreau's character, works, and environment. Hand-drawn logo exploration allowed a variety of ideas to take loose shape on the page, while use of the golden ratio in Adobe Illustrator standardized and simplified some of these ideas. At the same time, I thought about how branded elements such as color palettes may call back to those traditional elements of environment, taking colors directly from photographs of Thoreau's house.

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Sketched and computer-generated elements came together in subsequent logo designs to emphasize a strong, modern look within the house and tree elements that is then balanced with a more natural, open, pen-like flow in the environmental element. For initial lockups I kept the Society's font and subtitle so as to incorporate some of their existing branding.

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Design Solutions

The Thoreau Society's brand focuses not just on traditional Thoreau scholarship, but on accessible education and successful environmental advocacy in the modern day. Therefore, redesigning their brand necessitated a modernization of their logo and lockups. The combination of geometric elements that nod both to modern simplicity and the enduring sturdiness of the society as well as the more free-flowing sketched element that calls upon the creativity and diversity of the organization were maintained from initial designs. Typeface was updated to unify logo and type and fulfill the commitment to a modern look. Tradition was not forgotten; a typeface with subtle flourishes in characters such as 'a' and 't' ensure the transition to sans serif is not too abrupt. 

With elements of color, typography, and iconography in place, I then challenged myself to update one of the Thoreau Society's publications, the Concord Saunterer. "Conserving Walden Pond" by Joseph Wheeler is an article I am familiar with due to the research I've done for my thesis project. By using a modern font for titles, a new branded color palette, and lines of text that draw the eye in creative ways, the article spread becomes more interesting for readers without taking away from classic elements such as photographs, and columned text in a serif font. In this way, the balance of modernization and tradition present within the society and its new branding is put to the test via printed publication.

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