In 2012, Cleveland-based Flying Hand Studio (under the name of Flying Hand Media) was recognized in HOW’s Logo Design Awards for their cool logo design and identity for Cleveland Rocks. Judge Sunny Bonnell, co-founder and creative director at Motto, had this to say about the design:
This logo has attitude, and it’s edgy, powerful, energetic and youthful. The integration of the pick and CLE ROX is smart and hip. It makes you feel a part of something greater—a grassroots effort you can raise your fists for. The mark, covering transparent overlays of color, is lively and works beautifully across applications.
But where is Flying Hand Studio now?
Cleveland’s Creative Scene
“When I first entered the Logo Design Awards, I was on the agency circuit, hungry for the opportunity to do some good storytelling and help smaller organizations grow,” says Philip McFee, founder of Flying Hand Studio. It’s been almost two years since McFee launched his firm, which specializes in visual identities and illustration.
The firm is located in Cleveland, where he feels right at home. “Cleveland is a city with talented designers and a creative community that puts a premium on craft—it’s been the perfect place to grow my business,” he says.
Cool Logo Designs
The firm’s work has been recognized widely, and it’s no surprise why: Flying Hand is all about “purposeful design with a sense of play” and creating “professional products that still turn heads,” as they state on their website.
McFee’s favorite logo work to date is the design Flying Hand came up with for the Kansas City-based tech team 42 Labs, a company formed by individuals who wanted to see smart tech change the world in big ways. “The foundation of the icon is rooted in their founders—three developers, and their preferred medium—code,” McFee says. “I transferred ’42’ to binary—101010—and rotated it around a central point to form an abstract representation of the trio at the heart of the team.
“A central image that combines thematic heft with design simplicity can be the springboard for a really diverse visual vocabulary. That’s one of the things I love about identities from places like Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, and, going back further, the work of FHK Henrion.”
It’s important to note that although logo design is a vital aspect of creating a brand identity, it’s just one part of a larger package. “‘Logo’ has become a bit of a tricky word to use, along with ‘branding’ and others that’ve had their basic interpretations broadened over time. I trot them out sparingly just to avoid confusion in my communication with clients,” McFee says.
“A snappy icon is great, but without context, applications or supporting visual cues, you lose the vehicles for effectively delivering and growing your visual identity. Logo work is often the start of the process, but it alone isn’t a panacea,” McFee continues. “You’ve got to have a strong core, but there needs to be that context for it to thrive.
“There are a number of Flying Hand projects that involve coming in to craft a visual language around a new, troubled or free-standing logo—sometimes newly-created, sometimes institutionalized. A thoughtful visual system can calm down an inconsistently used icon or tease more meaning out of a listless logo.”
From Creative Frustration to Creative Freedom
McFee started out working in-house and for agencies, where most of his work came from big brands who already had visual systems established. “That meant when an identity project came along, it was this elusive, fetishized moment. An opportunity to really cut loose! Creative catharsis!
“The problem with that mentality is that you’re designing with your own aesthetic satisfaction—rather than the aims of the client or group you’re working with—as the ultimate goal. Then you fall prey to trends and hubris and all kinds of problems and issues. That perspective is way too common among the creatively frustrated,” he says.
McFee has always desired input from and communication with other designers, and now that he has his own firm, he has the freedom to do just that. “I’m able to seek input from a larger design community and scratch the affirmation itch in a more healthy way,” he says. “In a sense, the desire for that open exchange with other designers is why I originally entered the Logo Design Awards.”
Rub elbows with the bigwigs
As much as we loved Flying Hand’s design for Cleveland Rocks, we had to ask—would they be entering HOW’s Logo Design Awards again this year? “I’ve done some projects recently that I’m thinking about putting in the mix,” McFee says. “Like I mentioned earlier, the awards provide the impetus and forum for folks to share some really compelling work. … It’s refreshing to have a forum where scrappy identities and design shops can rub elbows with the bigwigs.”
Think you’ve got something as effective as Flying Hand Studio’s work? We’d love to see it in the logo design competition.