Designing A Visual Identity For Brute Reason

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If you follow this blog, you’ve probably come across Brute Reason, where Miri writes lucidly on social justice and psychology. In a recent response to this annoying meme, she notes:

Many atheists have had coercive and abusive experiences with religion. Some consider their time in religious spaces to have been traumatising. And when you’ve experienced a trauma, little reminders of it can be overwhelming. Viewed through this lens, a certain amount of snappiness or impoliteness from an atheist being told “At least your mother is smiling down on you from heaven” makes much more sense.

But there’s another way in which Christian privilege plays out in this situation, and that’s in our perceptions of tone and politeness. . . . While it’s apparently egotistical to reference one’s atheism in response to an explicitly religious comment, it’s somehow not egotistical to offer unsolicited help that’s not what the person needs, without bothering to ask what they need, and then get offended when that help is rejected as irrelevant.

A while back, Miri hired me to create a fresh look for her blog—specifically, a set of promotional images, and more specifically, a new banner. Since hers is some of my favourite writing, I was only too happy to say yes. Since joining this site three Decembers back, she’d been using this one, which is likely how her blog looked the last time you saw it.

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Navigate to it now, or indeed to its Facebook page, and you’ll notice she’s redecorated.

It took some time to find the right style for Brute Reason. Despite knowing Miri and her writing, I didn’t start with a clear idea of where to go, but the finished product is one of my favourite things I’ve designed, as representative of who she is today as the old banner was of her in 2009, a confident, streamlined maturation.

There were stages to its development. Initially I liked the comic book aesthetic—it was a case, I said, of moving it away from Heina’s pop art style banner. My first thought was to go back in time further, to channel the three dimensional text of nineteen thirties Superman comics and their derivatives.

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Somehow the early doodles didn’t work. I tried styling the name of Miri’s blog like the zooming titles of Richard Donner’s films, considered adding dots, comets, stars—but somehow it didn’t hang together. The whole thing felt too matte, too masculine, too witless: I couldn’t see her in it. Then it struck me that superheroes wore symbols.

I was dissatisfied with what I had, I told Miri. It felt generic, and I wanted to create something emblematic and unique. I noticed I was gravitating to a modern aesthetic, so I decided I should draw a letterform logo to represent the blog—a personal symbol with a superheroic quality that also felt blog-age.

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I knew we were onto something as soon as I realised you could fit an ‘r’ for ‘reason’ inside a ‘b’ for ‘brute’. It also brought it home to me that slab type was completely wrong—that Miri wrote her blog in sans serif, and sleek round fonts were the ones that most matched her personality.

The fact the circular bit of the ‘b’ looked like a Pokeball seemed like it might appeal to Miri, but the dot in the centre was something I added on reflex, not something that had earned its place. The dimensions were wrong—the lines had to be thicker, the letters easier to discern—and the ‘r’ needed to be more distinct.

Then there was the matter of colour. Scarlets and pink were tones I knew Miri liked, mainly when it came to lipstick, and it occurred to me they’d be appropriate. Red had been the atheist community’s colour for years and years—and what could be more delicious than colouring the word brute in hot pink?

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I planned at first to incorporate that logo into the blog’s banner. FTB’s site design threw a spanner in that. The title, I knew, should appear horizontally, but creating ten more custom letters would lead to a tortured design. Better to spell it out in type (Futura screamed Miri)—but then where did the emblem go?

Our banner dimensions, in contrast to those of some either sites, are uniquely hard to design around, allowing as they do only one horizontal plane on which to arrange things: as soon as you want extra vertical layers, things have to be tiny and out of proportion.

In the end, I decided there was no way to have both regular text and a letterform in a 728×120 banner, so the symbol became an icon for Brute Reason’s Facebook page. Of the three versions I drew up, Miri chose the one on the right.

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Why the border? So that it matched her blog banner—and so that when Miri requested a different graphic for her Patreon page, the two could interlock appropriately. (Through the magic of meticulous trial and error, we achieved the same effect artificially on Facebook.)

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Due to tech issues I resolved this month thanks to my readers’ generosity, I’ve got a back log of design projects to tie up, but I’ll be taking on fresh work in the new year. (In the past I’ve made everything from book covers to t-shirts.) If you’re interesting in hiring me to make something similar for your blog or other project, drop me a line.

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Designing A Visual Identity For Brute Reason
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4 thoughts on “Designing A Visual Identity For Brute Reason

  1. 3

    Hi I’ve been wondering about her new icon on tumblr! Cool idea, but I’m afraid I have to offer some negative feedback. It didn’t look like it had an “r”. It looked like a line with a rotated capital “Q” attached. Maybe the “r” needs to be less distorted? A normal “r” would work just fine I think!

    But I’m not Miri, so I’m not sure my opinion matters so much 😛

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