Have recently returned from Spring Break ’10 in the palm-swaying plushness of the Bahamas. We packed light, expecting a week of minimal clothing needs. This prediction mostly panned out, but I soon discovered one article of clothing I missed and needed most crucially: a hat. (Thanks, middle-aged hair, for thinning out on me and letting the fierce tropical photons have their way with my scalp.)
Off to the dreaded Souvenir Shop did I go. The odds were amazingly against me finding a hat I would ever wear again, because as you may recall, these retailers specialize in beachwear that makes the word gaudy hang its head in shame. Beach-related clothiers like emblazoning things with Declarations of Fun, such subtle phraseology as “I’m not as think as you drunk I am!” or “Certified bikini judge!” or “Time flies when you’re having rum!”
All of these witticisms — and more! — awaited me in abundance.
But I stumbled into something quite unexpected and welcome as well: The Bahamas operates its own “logo stores,” selling clothes marked with the official logo of the country. Say what?
Designed in 2003 by the firm Duffy & Partners, the logo is an abstract expression of the chain of islands that make up the Bahamian nation. Though it is officially comprised of 700 chunks of rock in the Atlantic, only 17 of those are considered viable tourist destinations, and lo, there they all are, drifting along their own logoriffic abstraction.
The shapes and colors are a direct response to the designers’ visit to the islands, cataloging the natural shapes and hues of what they found. Founder Joe Duffy is quoted at logolounge.com saying:
“An actual map of the islands does not look like this. The stylization comes from what we saw: the birds and shells and flowers. Here, we present each of the main island destinations, but in an abstract way. It is a relatively simple solution, but you can feel the flamingos, the turquoise water and the pink sand represented in the colors and forms,” he says. “This challenges perceptions and creates a new language for the brand.”
Yes to that. I particularly love how irregular and distinct the shapes are. There is nothing homogeneous about each island, apart from a family resemblance or some adopted habits picked up from hanging out together in the same archipelago for a few million years.
I don’t know much about design — most of what I grok I picked up from a single class from the Chicago Art Institute, which is to say I have enough vocabulary to drive my designer co-workers crazy. (Those same co-workers are responsible for the rest of what I know, as they have carefully and patiently set me straight on the hows and whys of what they do.) Still, I feel reasonably educated enough to assert: This is awesome stuff. It completely and utterly subverts the tacky-factor in most beachwear and elevates the “anything goes” element of Buffet-based island philosophy.
Sadly, I didn’t end up with this design on my hat because it breaks another of my rules of decency: No bragging on clothing about the really great destinations you’ve been to. So I ended up with the logo of somebody called Pirana Joe. It’s not elegant, but it’s suitably inscrutable for my complex vacationing tastes.