As a long-time employee of IBM, the famous blue logo was an integral part of my identity: it was on much of the mail, both electronic and paper, which I sent and on most of the vast number of documents I wrote. It was on luggage tags of bags I carried all over the world. I displayed it proudly on my time-stained Hartmann briefcase which seemed to travel a million miles with me on the trains to work and the disintegrating backpack in which latterly I lugged around computers.
But what about the time when I did not want to be identified with IBM? How would I identify myself? Which one of my many interests or hobbies could best represent me? And, after I decided that, how would I display it visually? I let the questions rattle around, unanswered, in my head.
Standing at the bus stop one snowy night after calligraphy class I found the answer: a signature stamp, an inkan or hanko as it is also known. Briefly, a hanko is a stamp used with red ink as a signature. I decided to create a digital version which could be inserted into a document or used as an avatar.
Hanko designs can be very elaborate but since I would not be able to control the display medium I drew a single character within a square box using a stylized hiragana form of the character shi, the first of my name. The enclosing box was a set of Bézier curves and I saved the drawing as a PNG-file to preserve transparency such that an underlying image or background colour would be visible.
Although I initially intended to use the hanko only in digital form, recently I printed calling cards which included it. Peter Sherk of Haddon Press submitted three designs of which I chose the one below.
Although I have been interested in graphic design since childhood, my hanko project reminded me that there is much to think about before any work is begun. To anyone embarking on a similar activity I recommend two articles on the topic of Logo design written by Steve Naegele in February 2010, in his blog, A Sumtyme Blog of Knowthing. Whether you are thinking of doing it yourself or sending it out to the pros, read this first; you are tying your life to the results.