Designing for the City, Inspired by the City

Jan 23, 2016 • Shivani Aurora

I joined Code for San Jose in the month of July 2015 and my first task was to design the logo for the brigade. Based on our group discussions, it was clear that we needed a strong logo that is futuristic, professional and impactful. I wrapped around my thoughts to combine these attributes and came up with some exciting options. My experimental sketches played around with the initials of Code for San Jose (C, S and J) creatively. Reinstating the name, I tried to incorporate the symbols of “coding” in the designs such as the round bracket or parenthesis, the angle bracket and the square brackets.

Some Initial Explorations

Initial concepts

While they did fulfill the criteria, I wasn’t completely satisfied, because, the logos did not resonate entirely with the identity of the cohort. Code for San Jose welcomes not just coders but also designers, data geeks, policy wonks and all community members who have an interest in using technology, creativity and human spirit to solve societal issues. I realized we needed a symbol that each of them could relate with. In my discussion with the group members, their unanimous vote showed how closely each and every member was attached to the community and how they wanted to see its reflection in the logo.

My obvious next step was to identify, what is it that represents the community of San Jose. We came up with a list of options and unanimously chose to settle down on the final one – City Hall.

Why City Hall?

Landmark: City Hall is a distinct and unique landmark in a prime location, downtown San Jose. Since 2005, it has been a vital part of the city. Interestingly, the large complex, with the 18 story tower totaling 550,000 sq ft (51,000 m2) makes the building mostly visible from far off distances, giving a sense of identity to the surroundings, and in our case, providing a sense of association.

Relevance: City Hall is the center of the government of the city of San Jose, California. What could be a better choice than the very place that is built by the people, for the people. Code for San Jose has also been closely associated with the government officials of San Jose who have been a key member in providing the right support with open data, sponsorship as well as numerous resources.

Values: The building was designed to be environmentally friendly, making use of natural light, and providing shading with brise soleils on the tower. The architectural style is most influenced by that of Le Corbusier that accounts for the modern urban look. This coincides with our values of being modern, innovative and futuristic.

After deciding on the City Hall, my next step was to undertake the design process.

Design Process

  • Photography: I went around the city hall and clicked numerous photographs from different angles for inspiration. Once I was there, the magnificence of the building captured me and I couldn’t stop clicking pictures. I believe my picture count went over 250 😉
  • Sketching: After carefully selecting some picture angles, I sketched my ideas around them. Below are some of them:
    Sketches city hall logos - image missing
  • Illustration: I used my photographs to trace the outline of the building and then simplified the lines to create two sets of explorations – one with the tower and the hall and the other with just the Rotunda Hall:
    combined - image missing
  • Shortlisting: I shortlisted six options from the explorations and asked the core key members to narrow down on their preferred choices. We finally decided on the one with the “Rotunda Hall.” I further simplified the silhouette to achieve a clean and modern look.
  • Colors: The colors are inspired from our parent organization, Code for America. Although the look is similar, the exact shades vary. The primary colors in our logo are: colors
Blue Red
#319CC5 #D52435
R49 G156 B197 R213 G36 B53
  • Typography: The font used in the logo is “Myriad Pro.” I particularly chose this font as the perfectly straight stems, flat endings and the apt letter proportions imparts warmth and readability. Moreover, it pairs up well with the illustration of the building. While the crisp outlines synchronize with the precise letter fit, the clean open shapes balance the closed circular structure, thus enhancing the harmonious display.

Initial designs

Narrowed down designs

Code for San Jose is more than just a group of people. It is a set of principles, enthusiasm and dedication that reflects a close-knit community moving towards a better tomorrow, and I am excited that now our logo depicts those values. We are proud to present to you the awesome logo for Code for San Jose!