By Lemuel Iglesias
IT was during a period of transition in Merlion International School when I created the school’s new symbol; it was changing its leadership, it was changing the teaching roster, it was changing its name from being the namesake of a Guardian Angel into a name that would later be synonymous to the high-standard-curriculum it will offer. The incoming leaders of the school in 2007 decided that Merlion International School should have a powerful symbol to proclaim the positive changes that was coming. The “new school” needed a new logo.
Among all the changes that will happen, why was the logo a priority?
Basically, logo IS a powerful symbol to rally around, as much as a national flag is to any country or state.
A logo is an identity. It’s what makes a company, or a school for this matter, unique, special and different from any other existing school.
Similar to a national flag, for a logo to be powerful it only needs two criteria: It must be memorable and meaningful.
Like the Red Cross being the symbol of medical help the world over…
McDonald’s double arches that looks like yummy French fries…
and the Nike “swoosh” that uses two cartoon lines to symbolize the shape of running speed.
The idea started with the first three letters of the school name: M-I-S.
How do you work that out in a simple symbol that would mean “excellence in education”? You add an obvious symbol: a Book.
Next, how to send the message that one of the strengths of the school would be its Singapore-based curriculum? Shape the mix into the Singapore symbol: a hybrid of a Mermaid and a Lion.
Using coloured markers, Design No. 1 came out like this:
You notice the red M (with the lion head attached to it), the blue “S”, and the yellow “I” standing proudly on a book. It looked good but also uninspired and lazy. Curvy lines and cool colors do that. It makes all designs seem relaxed. This one’s too relaxed. But I have to start somewhere. Like what I always say to my art students, the first attempt is sometimes not the best attempt. So, I tried again.
Why not make it more aggressive?
With coloured pencils, I changed the lion’s mane into three “Letter Ms” using sharp jagged lines, used the warm colour scheme, removed the letter “I” and modified the book design from four lines to three. The attempt for Design No. 2 came out like this:
It’s aggressively macho, it’s powerful– too powerful… it’s a little scary. A third attempt might be in order.
Just for fun (I had too much time in my hand), why not design a complete opposite of the “macho Merlion” to see how Design No. 3 would look with curvy lines and pastel colors using pens and coloured pencils?
Nope. Seems too feminine for comfort.
For Design No. 4, I tried to step back from the original concept and try a completely different approach: Make the image face the opposite direction, draw the lion’s mane using dynamic, flowing curved lines and use a more realistic fish-like body. And why not add a blue crown as a final touch of royalty?
It came out looking like a sardine can logo… back to the old drawing board.
I needed more inspiration so I showed the first designs to the school principal at that time. He liked it but he wanted me to experiment some more, “Why not make the lion… face towards the front?”
I gave it a try. Made the lion’s head turn toward the viewer (notice the letter M above the eyes?), tilted the book a little towards the front and I added wavy lines underneath the book to stabilize the design. This was Design No. 5:
It came out like looking like a luxury car logo, so we scrapped it.
Tried the same idea for Design No. 6, but this time, why not use the book as a background and place the curvy waves as body scales?
It looked good, but the body looked more reptilian than fish like. (Note that this is the first time the body scales appeared.)
We realised were too far off now from the “Singapore symbol” that we wanted to follow as a model. So, we went back and studied our very first design.
For Design No. 7, we decided to keep all the elements that worked for the pervious designs. We kept the background from Design No. 6 and we kept the tilted book from Design No. 5. What was different was that the mermaid’s tail is now curved towards the right forming a small circle near the fins– more like the Singapore Merlion:
We were so proud of this one; we showed it to the School Board in one of our meetings.
First they were kind, “The design looks good…”
After a few more seconds of staring at it, they were unimpressed.
“The lion’s mane looks dead… and is that a horn at the back of its head?” said one critic.
“The blue background colour is dull,” said another.
“The lion looks like it just came out of the shower with its hair all damp,” said the third.
We walked away from the meeting the complete opposite of how we came in.
Two weeks of work and what we got was “Dead, Dull and Damp.”
But, they also said it was “good”. We can still salvage something from that.
Now is the perfect time to bring out the big guns: Tech know-how.
We scanned Design No. 7. We uploaded it to a PC.
Opened the Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop programmes and tweaked the whole drawing.
I used the lion’s head from Design No. 4…
Used the red colours from Design No. 1 and 5…
and exaggerated the curvy lines of the lion’s mane, to increase its volume, so to speak.
A couple of days later, we marched back to the school board armed with a “final design”.
“It’s more alive!” said the first one.
“The colours are now dynamic!” said another.
“The lion’s mane now looks like it’s been blown dry… did you use a hairdryer?” said the third in jest. Everyone laughed.
“It’s approved– Go, now, to the printer have it copied in different sizes… make stickers, stationeries, school uniform patches– Go, go, go!” said the head of the school board.
Within a week, the Merlion International School logo was made public. It even had other meanings by then.
It’s not only on stickers, stationeries and school uniforms; it’s also on the school building façade, the school bus and the school website.
It’s Photo No. 27 if you Google Search “Merlion Logo” and No. 5 if you search “Merlion International School Logo”, consistently making its way to No.1.
The logo has indeed come a long way. It’s memorable, it’s powerful, and it’s excellent.
Just like what Merlion International School is today.