Sarah J Coleman
6 min readMay 24, 2024

--

A Logo For Maine.

My new logo for the US state of Maine has begun to roll out in the last few weeks, and it’s a thrill to see it.

It began in early January 2023 with an email from creative Jordan and VP Neal at Miles Partnership in Denver, asking if I’d like to have a stab at updating the logo for the state of Maine.

Now all I know about Maine can be summed up in three points: 1. Our friend, the poet Andrea Gibson was born there. 2. It’s huge and beautiful, and 3. Stephen King!!!

I said yes and within a couple of weeks was hashing out some proposals. The Miles team had made my job easier by carrying out acres of research with the inhabitants of the state itself. They’d got a stack of feedback on what they liked about the original logo, what they didn’t; what living in Maine meant to them, what they thought of when they pictured their home state, and hundreds more answers to in-depth and nuanced, thoughtful questions.

The existing Maine logo looked like this:

The core feedback was that the logo felt “outdated, bland and uninspiring, particularly among Maine visitors”. When asked what the new logo should be, the answer that came back most often was “bold” — but with the near-unanimous caveat that it should nod to the traditional nature of Maine.

The findings came to me in an extremely thorough 45-page document which formed the backbone of my thinking. ‘Organic, craft, charm, outdoors, nature, wood, trees, breathtaking, rustic, authenticity and sustainability’ were other pivotal words which came out of the research.

And that was plenty for me to go on! I had the final logo in mind almost immediately, but presented lots of different looks to the team. After all, sometimes it’s just as useful for the client to see what they DON’T want as it is for them to see what they do. All but a couple were analogue, made with ink, crayons, pens and pencil on paper, I was keen to communicate movement with solidness and history; contemporary energy with tradition.

A still from one of the WIP videos I made while working on the logo.
While wax crayon, used to make a resist version.

Here are a few of those initial suggestions — there were a LOT. I do this because, at this stage, the client could spot ANYTHING in an idea which triggers the final outcome — so I tend to leave very little out; I guess you could call this a brainstorming of sorts:

Preferred options were ‘put to research’, and after a few weeks a trio was isolated for further tinkering. And by tinkering, I mean the start of the fine-tuning process — without knowing which the final choice might be. This is things like examining the weight of letters, kerning, trying different options on ‘e’s and capitals, whether on a single line or a little bumpier, like this exploration:

Often at this point the client’s curious to see how my very analogue work will look when transformed into vector art (presuming we’re working with art that wasn’t created digitally to begin with).

This isn’t a ‘click the button’ or ‘apply that filter’ step — rather, I do this via a series of processes which sensitively and carefully change the format of the piece (from pixel to vector) without changing its nature, preserving its human warmth, detail and idiosyncrasy. Without blowing any of my hand-sketched trumpets, it’s often why people come to me for logos; in a sea of Canva-generated/off-the-shelf/plastic-looking logos they want something very obviously crafted by human hands, but which functions in every format, at every size, and performs in any technical, screen or print environment. I’ve been doing that a long time, and it’s surprising how that need has remained consistent.

Here you can see a close-up of a very carefully vectorised version of this inky option:

This option from the second round of ideas was chosen to get through the third round. Made with simple, freely-drawn capitals in ink on paper, it worked as well in colour as it did greyscale and vector:

And as a partner suggestion to this I made a version created separately with ink and pencil to hint at cut wood, wood and trees being things that emerged as strongly connected to Maine and eliciting affectionate responses in their research group. Here’s the raw art before any refinements:

Watch some of the process here:

At this point, I got The Tingles — when you know underneath you’ve cracked it, and you desperately want the client to agree with you…but you daren’t hope too hard, because your experience tells you it can go completely in another direction! But those Tingles came when I played with these layered and coloured versions. Suddenly, I could see this on all the signs, the site, the products, the T shirts…

The team liked it. But there was one more thing. I was aware from the start that when I said the word ‘Maine’ in my mind, it was actually ‘Maine.’ — with the full stop. I couldn’t stop seeing it this way. I felt it communicated a confidence and pride in this single-syllable name, and suggested that the state was everything you could need — the full stop made it both a name and a statement.

“Where you from?”

“Maine.”

And so it was added to the next round. Would they go for this punctuatively unusual choice?

AThe answer was YES. And so, over the course of six months, our logo was born, and final artwork was prepared in myriad formats and al the colours of the new Maine branding guidelines. In its final iteration, the logo is currently working its way over the next few months onto hundreds of products, signs, printed materials and online platforms, but you can see it right away on the visitMaine website, and on these satisfying examples.

To my delight, as well as embracing my ‘thing’ for the full stop, they’re using both the flat-colour version and the textured version together, deploying them in different environments, and that in itself is unusual. I applaud their boldness!

If you live in Maine and you see it about, please take a snapshot and send it to me! “Out in the wild” has become a cliché, but only because the thrill of seeing one’s work out doing the job it was created for never gets boring.

Not for me, anyway.

Thank you to the brilliant team at Miles Partnership in Denver for bringing me on to do this prestigious project, especially VP Neal and Jordan, and thanks to my agency BAreps for their patient, professional cheerleading!

--

--

Sarah J Coleman

Artist + illustrator of over 800 books and owner of the same amount of pens. Enough to write you a picture AND paint you a story. inkymole.com / inkstagram.ink