While our association has been around for much longer, 2019 marks 50 years of “ICA” after the organization’s transition to International Communication Association from the National Society for the Study of Communication in 1969. Two years ago, in advance of this anniversary, members of ICA’s leadership team posed to the Board of Directors (BoD) that, given the changes in the membership of ICA and in the field since then, it may be time to investigate whether the then-current ICA visual identity really represented its membership. A task force was appointed with the charge to identify whether ICA members felt it was time for a visual refresh and, if so, to oversee that process.
You may recall having received an invitation to participate in an online survey about the ICA visual identity in October of 2017 that came from this task force. A total of 1,077 ICA members shared their opinion about the ICA visual identity through the questionnaire. When asked whether it was time for a new visual identity, 66% of respondents indicated that it was certainly time. Only 16% percent responded that the current visual identity should be maintained. Honestly, I was one of those 16% of members.
It’s true. Despite my involvement with the visual identity task force, I was initially against a change. I found the green logo visually appealing and the interlocking letters quite clever. However, after reviewing the explanations for why many of our members thought it was time for a change, I too was convinced. What I hadn’t realized until exploring the qualitative data from the questionnaire, was that unless one’s native language utilizes the modern Latin alphabet, our current logo was somewhat illegible. Multiple respondents commented that while the “i” and the “a” were clear, they appeared to be the only letters (there was no “C” for communication!}, and others responded that the “i” and the “c” were clear, but they didn’t understand the cane shape at the end (cleverly turning the C into a Times New Roman a). For those who were not native English speakers/readers, it was difficult to read. In short, it became clear that we had a logo that was not representative of all of our membership, and it was time for a refresh.
Given this, the task force moved forward with the visual identity rejuvenation. Four requests for proposal (RFPs) were sent out to branding companies and three submitted bids. The task force recommended to the BoD that The Mighty Good be selected for this task based on their portfolio, proposed budget, proposed timeline, and prior experience working with nonprofits. The BoD ratified this motion at the conference in Prague in 2018.
The first step in working with The Mighty Good was to convey that ICA did not need to be “rebranded.” ICA already had an excellent brand, one that members described in the questionnaire as representing scholarship, tradition, prestige, and timelessness. What we needed was a visual identity that represented the good things that ICA already meant to members.
After making the mission clear, the next step was to review the landscape of options. The firm studied visual identities from around the world of universities, journals, and scholarly organizations: it was important to find the visual keys that capture scholarship and timelessness, while ensuring we did not go down a path that was too similar to another design so that ICA would have a visual identity that was uniquely its own. From the review of the visual landscape, The Mighty Good recommended that proposed designs use Serif typefaces, dark colors, and include a shape with the name of the organization.
Then it became time to consider how to visually represent communication in a way that would appeal to our diverse group of scholars. This became the most difficult task...and in the end was quite impossible. A thorough review of mission statements and descriptions from ICA’s divisions and interest groups made it clear that ICA members actually have a lot of disagreement about what constitutes communication and where the boundaries of communication and other behaviors begin, but that that disagreement was part of our strength. What the divisions and interest groups had in common was the study of meaning and the role of perception in the communication process.
As such, The Mighty Good set forth to create a symbol that played with the idea of meaning and the interpretation of messages. Company designers decided the best way to do this was through an optical illusion—something that, like communication, can be interpreted in many ways. The final design uses 12 lines and four colors. Initially, most people see a pair of interlocked hexagons or 3D cubes (connoting building blocks and intersecting theories/disciplines, with intersecting viewpoints and backgrounds additionally represented by the different colors). In short, the final design captures how people can be presented with the same information and perceive it very differently, which is at the core of what unifies our research landscape.
The new ICA logo was adopted by the BoD at this year’s conference in Washington D.C. and revealed by Patricia Moy (U of Washington) during the Presidential Address and Awards Ceremony, at which time it was met with “oohs” and “aahs” from the assembled audience. Thus concluded the saga that our witty Executive Director, Lawyer Sawyer, has dubbed, “Extreme Makeover: Association Edition.” Cheers!