A logo is the identity of an entity: a band, an enterprise, or your favourite ice cream. It must be unique, it must remind you of what it’s associated with, the moment you see it. Most corporate logos of today lack that. There’s nothing wrong with having just a letter within a circle as your logo—which is what most of us do—but there should be a reason you do that.
The online story of Midnight Lampblack begins in May 2011. It began as a blog. I wanted to write, have a personal blog. Having a very common Indian name meant that I didn’t get a blog with just my name. Besides, I wanted to be one of those guys who had a cool screen name. Drawing inspiration from two of the characters people from my college were going crazy about at the time, I arrived at “Crimson Canines”. I started to love the name, and created a logo with just a crimson canine (I know). I made it a brand. I used it on all of the photos I clicked, and on all of my design work.
One day, while on my way to work, I realised that CrimsonCanines sounded juvenile. Not that there was a problem with it—perhaps, it was even good to be that in the world of design. However, things change. My focus shifted from amateur graphic design to typography. And then slowly it started including writing as well.
Given that I’m nocturnal, and most of my creative work happened in the night, I wanted a name that was relevant to the new me. I wanted it to be associated with the time I’m the most creative, and with typography—I was now a writer and a typographer. The very basic thing, common to writing and typography is ink. One of the oldest forms of ink, called India Ink, is made of soot, which is also called lampblack, traditionally made by collecting soot from oil lamps. Combine “Burning the midnight oil”, and what it produces, Midnight Lampblack seemed like the perfect name for my studio.
It was now time for the logo. If we can learn one thing from the evolution of typography, it is that good design is what constantly evolves. Take the history of typefaces, for example. From Garamond to Baskerville to Bodoni and so on, typefaces have evolved through centuries, and embraced new technologies and styles, to become better with every step. Being a minimalist and an engineer, I’m usually fascinated by simple geometric forms. The typeface, Lovelo, used for the logo is a modern, beautiful, geometric typeface, with clean edges and curves, beautiful compact forms, and an overall elegant feel. I fell in love with the typeface at the very first sight.
But what would be my logo? Sure, a single letter ‘M’, enclosed in a circle would do, but that would have no story behind it. While half-asleep on a Sunday afternoon, I remembered the great Louis Braille. To those who don’t know, Braille was someone who had, by accident, lost his sight. He had this unquenchable urge to read. He couldn’t accept the then-prevalent notion that blind people could not read. He set out to change that. He started with reading a book by feeling the raised letters in it—tactile reading.
Back in his day, the French army used to receive messages from their superiors, during the night. Because lighting the candle to read the message would expose them to their enemy, they’d devised a way to write the messages in raised dots and dashes (think of something like an embossed Morse code). Braille learnt this and, during one of his vacations, sat down and created a representation of the Latin alphabet, by using up to six dots to represent each letter. These letters could be felt.
Today, we just go about reading and writing without realising the value of the ability to see. It was the thirst to read, that made Braille create this system of reading and writing, which has helped millions of blind people experience the beautiful world of books. What Braille did demands more than a salute. The logo of Midnight Lampblack is a tribute to the great man, and his creativity and contribution. It is a toast to the ability to read and write, to realise how beautiful typographical expression is. Braille’s system is a classic example of minimalism, and minimalism is a form of elegance. Elegance is the goal of typography. And good typography is subliminal. While it may seem like an excerpt from a motivational speech, good typography is when the text vanishes and just the feel remains. To achieve this, perfection should be the goal. And perfection is when there’s nothing left to remove. And that’s precisely what minimalism is all about. The logo, thus, is a minimal “ML” in Braille.
Coming to the last part of the logo, the “io” in “Type studio” is coloured crimson-ish, as a remnant from the CrimsonCanines logo—a token from the past. Also, it is coloured different because “IO” is something we software engineers love. Whether seen as an abbreviation for “input/output”, or the binary 1 and 0, it is something close to our hearts. And no, it certainly isn’t a subliminal “design stud”. *winks*