I was recently contacted by the owners of the downtown Kitchener-based elite training facility Lil’s Gym to do some design work for a few projects they had coming up. One of these projects was to create the visual identity for their new corresponding fitness clothing brand, Brown Dog Apparel. This was my first time designing with a fitness apparel company, and I had a blast working with these guys. Here’s a closer look at the project.
Brown Dog Apparel: Identity Development Case Study
The new branch of the Lil’s Gym family seeks to promote an active lifestyle for hardcore athletes and weekend warriors alike by providing clothing with a timeless look and lasting quality. Brown Dog Apparel’s visual aesthetic aims to create a strong feeling of no-nonsense motivation, but not without an undertone of support and familiarity. With texturizing techniques and bold design elements that emulate worn-out graphics seen in training equipment and gyms from decades past, Brown Dog’s branding sets a precident for the company’s product line with a trusted, high quality, and ageless style that is made to last.
The company’s branding is comprised of a series of key elements that come together to tell Brown Dog’s unique story; each component lends its own individual touch to the overall visual style of the brand. While all created separately to be able to stand alone in any aspect of the company’s product line, the different elements are designed so that they can also be combined in a number of ways to present an even richer logo that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The visual centrepiece and primary focal point of Brown Dog Apparel’s branding is the likeness of one of the owners’ dogs. Much like their corresponding training facility Lil’s Gym, Brown Dog Apparel uses the image of the dog to create a feeling of familiarity for their target customer base, which provides a tangible, real-life element to their brand that goes above and beyond traditional fitness-related graphics. The dog insignia also lends an emotional connection to the company for both the owners as well as their existing clientele at Lil’s Gym who are also familiar with the dog.
The insignia is derived from an existing photo of the actual dog, drawn by hand in a bold and tough style. Inspiration for the badge was found through the mugshots of convicted mobsters of the 1920s and 30s, as well as vintage labels on old wooden crates and product containers of long-passed eras. The logo’s use of only a single colour allows it to leave a bold and memorable impact regardless of its placement and context.
In addition to the dog insignia badge, Brown Dog Apparel’s main logo also includes a wordmark of the company’s name. Inspiration was drawn from the stylings of vintage boxing and training gear, with a bold typeface to imply strength and power. The use of the small handles portruding from the “B” at the beginning and the “G” at the end are a subtle allusion to a weightlifter’s barbel, bending slightly in the center due to the the heavy weights on either side.
In addition to the main logo and wordmark, Brown Dog Apparel’s branding also makes use of a simple letterform icon to be used in places where the name of the company is implied and does not need to be stated fully. More of a supportive sidekick to the full logo, the BaD icon provides a bold and memorable association to the Brown Dog Apparel brand.
Originally inspired by a conceptual sketch made by one of the company’s owners, the placement and rearrangement of Brown Dog Apparel’s initials offer an interesting play on words that directly ties in with the company’s mentality of promoting strong and self-empowered lifestyles through powerlifting and strength training. At first glance, the icon simply says “BAD”, and appeals to a customer base of heavy lifters and dedicated fitness enthusiasts through the bold typesetting and rugged texture. Tied in with the rest of the logo elements however, it becomes apparent that the icon is actually a simplified version of the Brown Dog Apparel wordmark, cleverly rearranged to form the literary flare.
By using the “B” and “D” letters and the handles on either end from the original wordmark, the icon also subtlely resembles the shape of a weightlifter’s dumbbell, in the same fashion as the wordmark resembles a barbell. Emphasis is placed on the idea of not using the exact shape of any workout equipment throughout any of Brown Dog Apparel’s branding elements in an effort to set the company apart from other competing fitness apparel brands – rather than being overly obvious in their imagery, Brown Dog Apparel presents a fresh and timeless alternative in a market flush with cookie-cutter workout brands.
Additionally, the use of supporting text copy elements also aids in alluding to the brand’s vintage and top quality aesthetic; nostalgic typefaces and worn textures evoke a style likely found in your favourite old workout shirt.