Responses by Graham Clifford, designer, Graham Clifford Design, Toby Barlow, creative chief, and Robert Buber, Lafayette American
Background: We were asked to rethink the Detroit Department of Transportation’s logo and to help design new buses. The public perception of public transportation in Detroit was low, but new features and better service have been put into place. It was our job to reflect that with a new look and feel.
Reasoning: The logo we designed makes use of a custom drawn double D that represents an unending loop of service. The period, or dot, is a visual representation of the Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) as well as a destination marker—together in one simple cohesive mark. The bus was designed to symbolize forward momentum and positive energy emanating out from the Spirit of Detroit, the city’s iconic logo that sits on the far upper corner of the design.
Challenges: Honestly, we expected the city to be bureaucratic and difficult, but instead the city was an encouraging, imaginative and fun collaborator.
Favorite details: How the buses look out on the street. Seeing them on the street is a colorful reminder of how far Detroit has come. Every day, many people send us pictures of the bus in their neighborhood. When was the last time anyone took a picture of a bus?
Visual influences: For the logo, we prefer using words. We thought more about what we wanted the mark to convey: Detroit, connection, motion and an unending loop. And we got to visualize the dot with a dot. For the buses, we pulled from a mixture of Art Deco, Pop Art and WW2 poster art, with inspiration from Art Deco masters like Marshall Fredericks, Lee Lawrie, Roy Lichtenstein and James Jean. We worked to create a design that felt distinctly American and captured the attention of the public in a fun way without feeling too derivative.
Anything new: We learned to embrace civic projects. We had always been wary of government projects, as it seemed like it might be a bleak, Kafkaesque nightmare. But instead, this project was a lot of fun. The whole process reminded us of the Modern Lovers’ song “Government Center.”