Designing the Logo for Moksha 2017

Moksha is NSIT’s (Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology, University of Delhi) annual cultural festival. I had the opportunity to design it’s logo this year.

Not many people are aware of it, but NSIT’s annual cultural festival is aided by a dedicated design team, called the MDT. The MDT is responsible for the posters, artwork, logos and the social-media presence for Moksha. I had the opportunity to lead the efforts for creating a logo for Moksha this year, and so I decided to document how I designed the logo and what I learnt during the process.

The Theme

Most cultural fests have a theme. A visual aesthetic that the fest would adhere to, to have a design coherence. For Moksha, it the theme this year was Mythology, or rather a confluence of four different mythologies from across the globe: Indian, Chinese, Greek and Egyptian. So a logo had to be created that represented the four.

So I set out to create the logo for a fest which was themed around the confluence of 4 mythologies.

Starting Point:
The basic idea was to create a symbol, which represented the confluence of the four mythologies.

The symbol by nature of the broad spectrum it represents would have to be one that’d fit right in the history books, from the times when rulers conquered large territories, and searched for moksha, eternity or even immortality. Luckily, there was an overlapping timeline between the such searches for moksha and rulers whose kingdom have a vast geographical presensce.

Inspiration from History: Alexander the Great and Ancient Kingdoms of the time

A map of Alexander’s Kingdom from Wikipedia

Between 331–323 BC, Alexander was the ruler of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia. His rule covered a wide range of geography from modern day Greece, Egypt and all the way upto Indian borders. A perfect kingdom and timeline to explore for the artworks, glyphs and symbolism at the time.

Add to that, around the time Egyptians were exploring the idea of Alchemy, immortality, The concept of “Moksha” would come a little later in the history but for the purpose of picking a symbol covering all the four major mythologies, this seemed like a good starting point.

Alexander’s contribution in the final logo, didn’t amount to much, but it was always good to know that I wasn’t designing a symbol too out of the realm of possibilities for history.

My takeaway from these art forms of the medieval period was that the art and symbols were very intricate. While the greek focused on geometry and symmetry. Other areas obsessed over the intricacy of their designs. A design for such mythological and historic references could hardly be minimalist.
noun; A concept in Hinduism that refers to the freedom form the cycle of death and rebirth; In an epistemological sense it may also refer to the freedom from ignorance

Inspiration board

With the realisation of what I needed from the logo. I set out to take some inspiration on the internet.

Most of the art I discovered online, focused one mythology, These beautiful circular glyphs were great if we focused on just one of the four mythologies we were creating. But the logo was to include all four. Needless to say, these were interesting inspirations. I liked the red and black combination for the dragon, the aesthetics of Sanjay’s Super Team’s characters was a refreshing graphic from the traditional Hindu mythological figures. The greek, no doubt were more symmetrical.

First Designs

The initial sketches looked way different from what the final logo would look like, but they were a good starting point to explore different symbols and forms for adding them.

These are just six of the many designs which I tried. (Excuse my poor drawing skills here) The idea was to create quick illustrations of the many ideas I had. And a stylus and iPad seemed like a good tool to get the rough sketches out there. You can probably see the multitude of ideas tried here: A conventional circle, a simple crest, an egyptian styled cartouche or just free from farrago of ancient symbols. We’d ultimately go for a more disciplined approach, but it was fun exploring these ideas any way. They were also a good testing ground for the symbols I’d pick later on.

Finalising of Symbols

While finalising the symbols for that’d make it to the final cut. I kept asking a question to myself:

What would an ancient king, who was out there to conquer the world and embrace and imbibe the culture of different societies, want for his crest?

I had a wheel of four different qualities ready, and I was on the lookout for such symbols but there was another aspect to it as well. A symbol that’s not well recognised by the crowd, would end up losing its meaning. While it’s important to have a deeper meaning to the work we create, it’s also important to retain the meaning in the eyes of the people.

And sure enough, I didn’t get all the all symbols to adhere to this circle. But what I finally chose is something everyone was able to instantly recognise.

And One more thing: I came across this interesting greek symbol which seemed to be present in almost all of the artwork at the time.

The Meander features heavily in greek architecture, and has a strong influence on anything associated with the time. The right most image is a shot of the walls of the Griffith observatory in Los Angeles, which I had the pleasure to visit recently (after the creation of this logo), the meander featured prominently on the walls.
The Meander: A greek symbol that symbolised eternity, unity, infinity.
It seemed fitting to bind our logo in this infinite cycle. Just to give that quest for moksha.

Finalising The Logo

With the symbols picked and the basic structure ready, it was a search to pick the right type and offer some polish to the designs.

. The Hindu Swastika (has very different connotations from the similar german symbol) was ultimately withdrawn from the logo to give it further clarity.

The font we eventually picked for the logo was a sharp contrast to the symbol. True the symbol represents history. But the type would eventually be used in a lot of other places across the fest. And for that reason, a much more modern type was picked for the logo

The Final Logo for Moksha 2017. Notice how the negative space represents an “M”
Moksha Style Guide. This was circulated between all members of the MDT and other creative teams wanting to use the logo for the promotion of the cultural fest

The Missteps

Now that I look back at this logo. I feel I could have done a few things differently. For starters, the idea to not make a minimalist logo and one that was more symbolic to the history was ultimately problematic. (I’m sure I’ve irked a lot of people at the hand-illustration team who were asked to make this intricate figure by hand, apologies to them! :) )

The logo would eventually have to have two different variants. One for the bigger size with all the designs in tact, and one for smaller glyphs, with fewer details to keep it legible.

This would ultimately result in a lot of explaining between the various teams who wanted to use this logo for the promotion of the fest.

Early morning scenes at Moksha 2017. It’s always good to see my work be visible throughout the college

Hoping to hear everyone’s feedback on this post. These are all first attempts at documenting my work. I’d love to hear feedback, both on the logo and the documentation accompanying the logo.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Vidit Bhargava’s story.