You may recall that from my previous post I felt The Time Machine musical was in need of a good logo, after all, any organisation, company or group that’s worth their salt should have a logo that represents something about the spirit of their endeavours. By ‘good’ I mean simple, stylish, original and iconic. The first edition of H.G. Wells’s ‘The Time Machine’, for example, had an outline drawing of a sphinx on it’s front cover, a beautifully simple logo that perfectly represented the enigima the Time Traveller was faced with when he travelled 800,000 years into the future—”What had become of mankind?”. This was just one of many puzzles he had to try and solve. I must admit I was tempted to use this sphinx idea, however, over a hundred years later on it’s hardly unique or original.
Conceptualising and designing a good logo is deceptively challenging, which is undoubtedly why many companies employ a professional artist to do the job. Jeff Wayne worked with John Pesche to create the The War of the Worlds logo on his album cover. Pesche is the artist who created the famous Rolling Stones tongue in the 1980s. So, knowing logo design is serious business, strictly only to be taken on by skilled professionals, I decided to plunge right in there, get a few friends involved and have a crack at coming up with something—it was not easy.
We played with several ideas. A friend experimented in Photoshop to warp copperplate text, draw clock faces radiating time energy and other such stuff. All splendid efforts, but lacking the originality, the simple, yet clever idea I was after. I then pestered Bill to have a go at drawing a clock face where the numbers were being sucked into the centre like a singularity in a blackhole. The resulting picture was quite pretty, looking somewhat like a flower, but the design was much too busy. I attempted another, more simplified version of this concept by taking a photograph of my mum’s old kitchen clock and then manipulating the digital image on computer, swirling and gradually distorting the numbers towards the center of the clock face. The effect was pleasing, like a whirlpool or adding cream to a black coffee and stirring it gently, but still over-complicated and not really original or iconic. At this point I’d completely run out of ideas.
Then I went back to the idea of using a cog wheel design. An approach I had completely written off earlier because cog wheels are such an obvious and widely used logo—you find ’em everywhere. They’ve become synonymous with steampunk, a real cliché. However, my own cog wheels were whirring away in my mind. I had an inkling of putting a four-dimensional twist into the thing and one night in 2011, at around three o’clock in the morning sketched the twisted cog wheel shown in figure A. How on earth my addled brain came up with it, I’m not sure—my subconscious must have been doing some serious overtime. It must have been in part because I’ve always had a fascination with optical illusions, the impossible objects such as the Penrose Triangle. And, maybe, a brilliant short science fiction story written by Issac Asimov injected some additional oil into the creative machinery of my mind.
The 4th Dimension
As I recall, Asimov’s story was about a research scientist who has an accident whilst working on a powerful electro-magnetic machine, there’s an explosion and he later wakes up dazed and very confused in hospital. At first it seems the explosion hasn’t seriously harmed him, but as the days pass it becomes apparent that he’s steadily losing weight despite being looked after and eating well. The doctors also discover that he’s now left handed and writing backwards. I’m sure the geeks out there can figure out what’s happened to our scientist? The explosion threw him up into the 4th dimension and he landed back in the 3rd dimension flipped over, just in the same way a piece of flat, 2 dimensional paper on a desk top can be flipped over through the 3rd dimension and land back on the desk. The reason he’s losing weight is because his body can’t digest and absorb nutrients from food—his body biochemistry is now back-to-front. I love stories like this. Anyway, this got me thinking about H.G. Wells’s Time Traveller, how he might have performed all these temporal experiments, many of which went wrong before he eventually built his little prototype time machine. Picture his gloomy old workshop, illuminated by the flickering light of an oil lamp of course, and littered with all manner of Victorian engineering paraphernalia, including machine parts that he’d sent through time, but some of them had returned ‘wrong’, all twisted into all kinds of impossible shapes.
Now I had my simple and original logo. So much time and effort went into this design I decided it would be prudent to register it as a trade mark (UK00002605830) to protect all that hard work. And, the more I thought about it, the more I began to realise what an appropriate metaphor this cog logo made for The Time Machine musical. It’s an impossible shape and that’s what Mr Wells was really writing about in his first novel. Impossibility. Not so much the impossiblity of time travel, but the impossibility of Utopia, the impossibility of solving the human condition.
A. My initial sketch drawn a 3 o’clock in the morning.
B. My second rough pencil sketch. The shape is more defined and cleaner, however I’m at the limits of my drawing ability. Time to get a real artist involved I think.
C. Third pencil sketch drawn by artist Bill Nims. I later added the writing, which was copied from the chuck key of my Bosch electric drill.
D. This is a more distressed fourth version by artist Matt Deakin drawn in pencil. There are more dings and pits in the metal. Also some nicks. I’d really like less distressing and more focus on a metallic lustre.
E. A fifth version drawn by Bill. This time some distressing has been added (dings and scratches in the metal). Proportions are better but still require improvement. It’s difficult to get right because the cog is an impossible object—an optical illusion—it cannot exist in the 3-D world. Beginning to see that the whole shape of the cog needs to be altered to tighten up the geometry.
F. My last pencil sketch. It’s beefier in proportion than the previous versions and more effort has been put into improving the accuracy and perspective. The font needs some more work—it’s supposed to be engraved into the metal. Would very much like to create a hyper-real rendering of this image. Perhaps the backdrop could be industrial, a surface with some gravel or metal swarf with some reflections of it in the metal teeth of the gear wheel.