The FedEx logo is famous among graphic designers. It has won buckets of design awards and has been ranked by some experts as one of the best logo designs in the last 35 years—or as some claim—ever. Nearly every design school professor and graphic designer will praise it as such, and some will then try to draw you into a discussion about its clever use of negative space. Many, though—like me at one time—want to display their design knowledge. But I’ve reformed. Now I only brag about my honesty; about how, until someone pointed it out, I had failed to notice the directional arrow created naturally by the relationship of two of the letters. How about you, do you see it?
For a time, from the mid 1980’s until the early 2000’s, I volunteered as a graphic designer at Fells Point Corner Theatre, a local community stage. My work included brochures, flyers and posters; the latter being my favorite thing to do. Over the years, it was a pleasure to collaborate with the FPCT staff, but my first poster concept was rejected out-of-hand. Here’s the rough design I submitted: At least one FPTC theatre board member said it was “too sexy.” Now, anyone who knows that particular Sam Shepard play, Fool for Love, would know it’s about carnal lust from start to finish, so I was surprised they were surprised by my attempt to come up with a dynamic visual equivalent for most of what goes on in the play—or at least what is suggested by the text.
In case you haven’t seen a production of the play or read the text, here’s the edited opening paragraph from a review of a production staged in Minneapolis: “Stories of forbidden love make up . . . the spine of works for the stage, for the obvious reason that raging, unbridled passion lends itself to a ripping drama. Fool for Love raises the stakes by tearing through a very particular taboo, and this . . . production captures a great deal of its intensity, desperation, and outright weirdness.” —Quinton Skinner, Minneapolis City Pages.
After some back-and-forth with the FPCT board of directors wherein I passionately tried to justify my original approach, I soon realized I had to comprise. Eventually we agreed on the final version you see below. And because the production was a success, and just about everyone liked the poster, I guess you can say it was a happy ending for most of those concerned.