How Heraldry From the Middle Ages Inspired the Ad Club’s New Logo

Organization with 20 different properties unites under a plus sign

The Ad Club has finally refreshed its logo.
The Ad Club

Next month, the Advertising Club, the venerable New York organization best known for its Andy Awards, will debut the first refresh of its brand identity in some 15 years.

It’s a never-ending task for any brand to stay current but all the more so if it’s been around a long time, and the Advertising Club surely has. Formed in 1896, the organization took its current name in 1915.

“We’re 121 years old and, in an industry that is transforming daily, remaining contemporary and relevant and fresh is important,” said Ad Club president Gina Grillo.

The new logo, which will anchor a correspondingly re-engineered website, is a dramatic departure from the distinctly more traditional insignia the club’s 5,000 members are accustomed to. It is a simple design—a plus sign—but its simplicity belies the many challenges involved in creating it.

Of course, the Ad Club, which connects the industry’s professionals across marketing, media and agencies, had updated its look over the years. But this time, designers at agency Gyro faced a job far more thematically complicated than usual. For one thing, digital technology has changed the industry so much in the past 15 years that, as Gyro creative director Kash Sree pointed out, “even the word ‘advertising’ seems dated—that was one of their problems.”

Another issue: The Ad Club’s 20-plus programs and properties, the very offerings that define its mission and make it popular with a growing roster of members, have become so numerous that uniting them under a single brand was a proverbial job of herding cats.

“They had so many sub-brands and subsidiaries of which many were stronger than the Ad Club,” Sree said. “I’ve judged the Andy [Awards] three times and didn’t know they were part of the Ad Club. So we thought, ‘How do you bring all these brands under one brand?'”

Sree’s team started with an unlikely concept—heraldry, the system devised in the Middle Ages by which hereditary symbols are arranged on a coat of arms. Gyro began by arranging the Ad Club’s numerous sub-brands on a figurative shield, “and what that did was create a plus sign,” Sree said. Then, using the reasoning that people read from left to right and top to bottom, Sree positioned a typographical Ad Club—“Ad” followed by a “Club” rotated 90 degrees—in the upper left quadrant.

This arrangement not only dispensed with the word “advertising,” it freed up three other quadrants in which the organization could position its sub-brands like Young Innovator, Thought Leadership Series or the Andys.

To further organize the various properties under the Ad Club name, Sree also assigned each of the plus signs a different color depending on which of the club’s “pillars,” or mission areas, the property belongs to. For example, educational programs appear with a purple plus sign, empowerment ones with orange and celebratory events with a pink sign.

“One of the things that appealed to us with the logo is that it feels very contemporary and fresh,” said Grillo, who explained that the logo works on both an organizational and symbolic level. The plus sign not only visually streamlines a complex organization but visually signifies the many benefits of membership. “The Ad club not only helps build on your career,” she said, but there’s always an extra, or a plus, to joining. The plus sign will also function in the new website as a means of separating all the information, even as it visually introduces new pieces of it.

According to Sree, this kind of logo treatment was long overdue. “The Ad Club is the oldest advertising club in the world, but it was almost stuck in the age of Mad Men,” he said. But the business has changed: “It’s a lot faster and more collaborative,” he said.

And once the new logo debuts, nobody’s likely to think of Sterling Cooper.