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Smitha Prasadh

I'm a user experience designer, trying to do right by the world.

JETAA Pittsburgh: logo and identity design

What this is about

JETAA, or the JET Alumni Association, is a network of alumni groups across the globe. Pittsburgh has a small chapter, and I’m the president.

We were long overdue for a logo refresh. This was a labor of love, combining iconic imagery from two places near and dear to my heart.

(All the sketches and digital design work are mine.)

About the JET Program

Short for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, the JET Program is one of the largest cultural exchange program in the world. Run by the Japanese government, it places participants in primarily rural and suburban placements as employees of local government offices. There, they serve as grassroots cultural ambassadors and assistant language teachers for 1-5 years.

Involving the entire chapter

This was collaborative from the very beginning.

I started by polling our chapter for their favorite iconic images related to Pittsburgh and Japan.

Pittsburgh images:

  • three rivers
  • bridges

Japanese images:

  • hinomaru
  • torii
  • cherry blossoms
  • Mt. Fuji
  • kimono

Sketches, round 1: general investigations of pairing different elements with each other. I introduced several Pittsburgh landmarks and famous Japanese ukiyo-e images as well.

Series of sketches where I tried matching the Japanese and Pittsburgh images to come up with concepts. 'Hinomaru' with 3 rivers across the surface, a famous Pittsburgh bridge done to look like a torii, recreating Pittsburgh's three rivers as branches of a cherry tree, Mt. Fuji with a famous Pittsburgh bridge in the foreground, and homages to famous ukiyo-e (wood block) paintings.

Sketches, round 1: early rough sketches that matched the voted-upon Pittsburgh and Japanese imagery with each other, along with a few others I threw in for good measure (mainly deriving imagery from famous ukiyo-e).

Sketches, round 2: a revised round on several of the concepts. The JETAA Pittsburgh community voted on these.

Top to bottom, left to right:

  • three rivers and hinomaru
  • torii Sister Bridge
  • cherry blossom branch and three rivers
  • Fort Pitt Bridge and torii (based off a Hokusai woodblock image)
  • sacred camphor tree and three rivers
  • Mt. Fuji and three rivers (based off a Hokusai woodblock image)
  • Mt. Fuji and Sister Bridge (based off a Hokusai woodblock image)
  • Mt. Fuji and Sister Bridge
Revised and refined series of sketches.

Sketches, round 2: refined sketches based on community feedback.

Moving to digital

These were done in Sketch.

Hinomaru x 3 rivers, 2 versions on the line weight of the river.

Hinomaru x 3 rivers
(2 variations on river line weight)

Sister Bridge x torii.

Sister Bridge x torii

Cherry blossoms and branches x three rivers. A branch comes from the left and two more split off from the right, with cherry blossoms at their ends. There are 2 variations on branch thickness.

Cherry blossoms x 3 rivers
(2 variations on branch thickness)

Mount Fuji in the background with the 3 rivers in the foreground. A horizontal oval image, adapted from a Hokusai ukiyo-e print.

Mt. Fuji overlooking the three rivers

Sister Bridge in the foreground, with Mt. Fuji and Pittsburgh's PPG Place in the background. More like a painting than a logo.

Sister Bridge x Mt. Fuji
(based off a Hokusai woodblock image)

Mount Fuji in the background with a Sister Bridge in the foreground in a more graphically abstract style. A horizontal oval.

Mt. Fuji behind a Sister Bridge

And the winner is...

The community voted on the above. Two images came out as clear winners, but I made an executive choice to go with this one! (The red matched most other JETAA logos, and this was by far the most easily reproducible.)

Second place was the cherry blossom/3-rivers mash-up, which was honestly my favorite. I plan to use that as secondary imagery wherever possible.

Final JETAA Pittsburgh logo: JETAA in black all-caps text, the red hinomaru with the white 3 rivers across the front, and PITTSBURGH in black all-caps text.