Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Story Behind the Creation of the BDPA Logo

This blog tries to document the evolution and history of BDPA whenever possible. We hope that we can be a repository of information about the organization well into the next millennium.

We thought that you might be interested to learn the story behind the current BDPA logo. We asked BDPA Chicago past president Ricky Penick (@RCPenick) to share the story with us. Here is what Ricky had to say:

At the stroke of midnight, January 1, 2000, the twenty first century began. That is, according to some. Others believe it began exactly one year later. What is not disputed is that it marked the beginning of my term as president of BDPA Chicago Chapter.

My chapter members had spent the last nine years preparing me for the job and my mandate was very clear. My predecessor, Milt Haynes, had left the chapter in great shape when he moved into his new role as national president elect and we wanted to help the national organization while continuing to build our chapter which was, had been, and remains the largest chapter of BDPA. One way that we could do that was to host the 2001 national BDPA conference.

As a new member of the National Board of Directors, I volunteered to become the National Director of Organization Development under the auspices of National Vice President (Strategy and Planning) Donna McKay. In that role, I was tasked with two major issues: the name of the organization and the logo.

Although the name was constantly being debated from the time I joined BDPA in 1991, I chose a simple and straight forward approach to the issue. I conducted a survey of one, our founder, Earl Pace. I only had one question. “Do you think that we need to change our name?” Of course, the short answer was "no", but he went on to explain that from the beginning, it had been anticipated that the organization would be referred to by its acronym, BDPA rather than the formal legal name, Black Data Processing Associates. Since every single one of those words is controversial to somebody, let’s leave that for a separate discussion. Earl’s answer was good enough for me so

I went back to my battle to stop us from using the awful tag line, “Information Technology Thought Leaders”. Earl had also pointed out that it had also been anticipated that multiple tag lines would be used with our acronym. Thank goodness for that.

The logo was a different kind of issue. The original logo was a stylized tape reel. I don’t really know whether it was actually the original logo or who designed it, but it was the logo when I joined and I thought it was pretty cool. Sometime in the 90s, it was decided that the technology professionals of the day were no longer familiar with tape reels so an attempt was made to modernize the logo by adding a CD (I know, some of you are going “Oh, so that’s what that was.” and some of you are asking “What’s a CD?”. Welcome to the future).

Back in Chicago, our Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) was busy working with our chapter leadership on planning for our conference and how the chapter would participate and support the national organization. When I reported on my national responsibilities, someone suggested that the chapter give the national organization the gift of a new logo at the 2001 national BDPA conference.

As luck would have it, Bill Dunn of Dunn Solution Group (then known as Dunn Systems) announced that his company had recently acquired a graphic design firm and he volunteered their services to work with me to design a new logo. This was indeed fortuitous because graphic design is not in my skill set.

My criteria were simple and straight forward, at least to me. I asked for a design that was non-literal, so that it wouldn’t be made obsolete by changes in technology. It had to suggest “technology”, “association”, “boldness”, and “freshness”. The designers presented dozens of sketches. I made the initial selections based solely upon visceral response. Then we discussed each remaining selection and narrowed them down to three finalists to be presented to the CAC for a final recommendation, although all three would be presented to the National Board of Directors for the final choice of the new organizational logo. I decided that each should be rendered in red, black, and green.

As it happens, the logo that was recommended by the CAC and which eventually became the official logo of BDPA was my first and only choice among those designs that were commissioned. That was a good thing, because the approval took the better part of two years and would never have happened if I had been ambivalent. It was a lesson in consensus building and all of the strengths and weaknesses of the leadership structure of the organization came to the fore during this process. At some point I had to call upon all of my experience with decision support, project management, negotiation, facilitation, and more than a little anger management, but it eventually happened.

Along the way, there were those wanted “none of the above”, those who thought that because they weren’t around at the beginning of the process that everyone should start over, and those who didn’t want it because Chicago offered it. There were even some who thought that red, black, and green were too “militant”. Oh for crying out loud…

Eventually, the logo was approved and adopted. I tried to disseminate usage guidelines and a style book but I didn’t want to be too “corporate” about it. You have to leave some room for innovation. My favorite “deviation” to date is a black oxford shirt with black on black logo. Unfortunately, they sold out before I could get my hands on one.

Every few months I hear from some new kid who earnestly informs me that the “problem” with BDPA is marketing and we need to start with a new name and a new logo. Don’t be mad. I’m not laughing AT you, kid. More power to you. Go for it.

The number one question that I have been asked about the logo is “But what does it mean?”. My answer to that is it means whatever you want it to mean (and remind me not to invite you to the Museum of Contemporary Art). I can tell you what it means to me; “E Pluribus Unum-- From many, one”.

Asante sana to Ricky for sharing this story! Perhaps you would care to share what the current BDPA logo means to you?

1 comment:

BlackLiterature said...

At some point, everyone has debated the logo/tagline/name/etc..

Great post