Upstream Logo Review

November 3, 2005 by

In this peer review we’re examining some potential logos for a community church plant in Australia.


Logo 1:

Logo 2:

Logo 3:

Logo 4:

Upstream Communities
Perth, Western Australia
Created by Andrew Hamilton
Rather than a traditional church with a building, Upstream Communities is sort of a missional emergent community. They don’t do Sunday church services, but are instead interested in forming communities and reaching out to people not interested in a typical Sunday church experience.

They feel called to live counterculturally in middle class society (swimming upstream), which is where their name comes from.

They have had some feedback on the logos already, but are looking for more.


  • Which logo do you like best? Why?
  • Which logo do you like least? Why?
  • What do you think of the typography?
  • What do you think of the colors?
  • What do you think of the graphics?
Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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23 Responses to “Upstream Logo Review”

  • Betsy
    November 3, 2005

    1. I like #2 the best, for a variety of reasons. The literal fish image makes me think of a sporting club or something. If they were more symbolic looking, I might go for them. But I don’t like #2 as a “not #1, 3 & 4”: it is clean, sharp and compelling.
    Of the fishy variety, #4 has my vote. I love the angular shapes and layout.
    2. Least favorite has to be #3. It looks like fish being beamed up rather than swimming upstream.
    3. Great choice of font and spacing, for all four.
    4. The colors are great. Very sophisticated. I prefer the color scheme in #2.
    5. Lose the fish, or make them much more abstract. The “upstream” part is best illustrated in #4, I think… #1 looks like a canal (no opposing force) and #3 looks like lifeless fish being beamed into the mother ship.
    Great ideas… great community.

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  • Greg Vennerholm
    November 3, 2005

    There are a couple of really good thoughts happening here. Overall, you’ve obviously steered towards a nice, clean approach.
    No. 1 is my preference… here’s why:
    I love the “arc” and the “dolphin” (or porpoise?) and the scale of the two elements. The color is rich, elegant and inviting. The typographic choice is simple and understated. Very approachable. Also, I love the sense of “motion”… very nice.
    That being said, I think it’s going to present all kinds of production problems, mainly because of the notion of taking a slice of the arc. Not shure how to solve that, but it needs to be addressed. Perhaps “completing” the ends of the blue area somehow. I wish I could be more helpful in finding a solution, but suffice it to say, with a little more exploration, a solution will surface (no pun intended).
    As to the other concepts, I’m just not as taken by any of them…
    No. 2 has potential, but the interplay of the elements loses meaning. (In otherwords, if it has to be explained, it doesn’t work.)
    No. 3 is lacking the “polish” that 1 & 2 have. It’s my least favorite.
    No. 4 is just plain awkward… the two dolphins are throwing me off… the intersection of them seems to call too much attention to them. Maybe I’m just not getting it.
    Please re-post the final concept when you’re done, I’d love to see it.

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  • Mike
    November 3, 2005

    My vote is for #4.
    I like the overall flow if it, the two fish shapes give balance to the design. More importantly if you are going to have “communities” in your name I don’t think you want to show just one fish! The image can’t contradict the nameplate.
    Finally, with design #4 you have the nameplate set seperate from the image piece. This will help from a style perspective as there will be times you just need the nameplate without the image and times when you need the image without the nameplate. You have built in flexibilty with this design that still allows for overall integrity to the logo.

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  • Teevio
    November 3, 2005

    1. Logo #4 by far! Everything is good about it. The colors work well, the font is used appropriately, it conveys a sense of growth, upward motion, will be easy to use in full-color proofs as well as b&w. Simple and elegant.
    2. Logo #3. Bright blue and yellow aren’t a good combo. It looks very old school 80s feel. Pretty much the opposite of my previous answer.
    3. The typography is modern, easy to read and has nice balance.
    4. The colors have the traditional blue, but made progressive with the yellow/green.
    5. In terms of graphics, beautiful. Conveys upward motion, the fish tie into the name. Simple (which is important to a logo) and easy to reproduce.

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  • Drew
    November 3, 2005

    Here’s my expert opinion… Go with number 4, but play around with it a little more. It’s almost there. I would recommend trying a version in which the dolphins are white and appear to be cut out of the background shape. Also, I would play around with the size of the dolphins and their positioning inside the shape. I think the gray text should be a little darker and maybe a different color. I’m not sure about the light tan on the right side of the background shape. This probably is not needed, or you might try a darker color for this.

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  • Faith to Face
    November 3, 2005

    Logo #4 is the only logo that, when seperated from the typography, has an individual identity. Also note that for signage, you want to be careful of that neon yellow, considering it may get all but lost in a backlit display. Overall it has great movement and is a very strong piece.

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  • Teevio
    November 3, 2005

    I don’t think that is a dolphin. It is supposed to be a fish swimming upstream.

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  • Ben J Walker
    November 3, 2005

    I love the idea. However, I think the logo image could do with a little extra kick that gives it a little more life and makes it less… fishy? It could easily be a good logo for an aquarium :)
    It’d be nice if it was blatant that the fish are going against the flow, thus bringing the visual in line with the groovy name and concept.
    My artisitic eye says No. 4 is the best of those, good strong lively colours, nice clean, modern and very professional, well layed out.

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  • Michael
    November 3, 2005

    Of those that you posted, number 4 takes it, with some color variations.
    But, and I’m not sure what you’ve done so far, I would like at some more concepts. You really only show 2 concepts right now. 1,3, and 4 are the same concepts pulled around a bit. Start with writing words that relate to the organization, how you want people to feel, what it’s about…then start to sketch on paper tons of concepts. Fish, boats, water, people, push…push…push. Why is it named upstream, what is community…keep going!

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  • Stu McGregor
    November 3, 2005

    #4. it’s the only one that really achieves the impression of upstream, or going against the flow (i think it’s because of the curves narrowing in the opposite direction of the fish pointing).
    on the fish thing, many people are calling them dolphins. dolphins don’t swim up streams. so perhaps you could make the fish more fishy : scales perhaps?
    I thought they were dolphins too until i looked more closely.
    I’m not a great fan of the Avante Garde typeface, it’s crass in my opinion…the ‘s’ never seems right : too skinny compared to a fat ‘o’. it’s also quite dated.
    don’t be afraid of the tried and tested : helvetica, myriad, lucida sans, officana sans, DIN series, even Avenir.
    muck around with those a bit more i reckon.
    excellent stuff though, logo design is the hardest type of design in my books (apart from designing typefaces) and you’re doing a stirling job.

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  • hamo
    November 3, 2005

    Thanks folks.
    I should say first up that I am simply a phys ed teacher turned missionary who likes to tinker with graphic stuff. I know very little!
    So your input is valuable. Here are my thoughts for what they are worth
    # 1 was my first effort but to me felt a bit plain and linear
    # 3 was a second attempt but maybe too big and the colours aren’t quite there
    # 4 was a third effort. I like it but may mirror it so it sits on a page better and may also change the font colour to the same as n no.2
    # 2 was my final effort and is close to being my favourite because it is less obvious. It is two opposing dynamics at work, but ‘upstream’ is not obvious. A few folks have suggested it is a bit corporate.
    Most people go for 4 & 2 so I reckon it’ll head that way.
    Any other thoughts?
    Many thanks Kev and crew (and Jon for the tip!)

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  • Jon
    November 4, 2005

    i like 4. it’s nice, clean, and perfect for a nice pool-cleaning company with a slight rebel streak (maybe they knock-off work a half-hour early on fridays?).
    if you’re calling yourself “emergent”, and you’re defining that as swimming upstream, then brutha, you gotta push it way further. what you’ve got is nice enough, “graphically”, but doesn’t feel “emergent” or non-traditional.
    ben j walker recommends you sketch a lot, push it further. i agree.

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  • hamo
    November 4, 2005

    Hi Jon
    I would actually put ’emergent’ as pretty low on our priority list in terms of representation.
    We live in family zone and work among middle class folks, so a funky/wild logo just isn’t what we are after.
    i don’t know how to do something in no.4 that would depict an ‘against the flow’ motion which is why no.2 is possibly a better option

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  • Scott
    November 4, 2005

    Whenever I look at a logo I ask myself how it would look and integrate into a design element. Especially if you plan on using it on shirts, pens, cups, and other promotional material. I also look at color and ask myself if it is a fad color or one that will stand the test of time (or at least the next 10-20 years). Finally, does the image connect with the name or mission of the organization without being either too obvious or too esoteric.
    Having said all of that, I would suggest playing around with a cross breed between #2 and #4. I like the colors and type for both. However, I think the image in number 2 leans more to the esoteric side but the layout is friendlier to multiple uses. (note the rectangle shape of #2). I like the use of the dolphins in #4 but I don’t like the shape of the layout.
    I hope all goes well. You seem to have a good start. We just went through a major re-branding effort here and our logo design and changes numbered over 60.

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  • Sdesocio
    November 4, 2005

    The last one, but I would only use one fish the one that is smaller and i would tilt it so that the 2 curves allowed your eye to move in similar directions

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  • Steve
    November 4, 2005

    My vote is for #1

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  • timmie
    November 5, 2005

    I like #4, but perhaps with some alterations. I personally prefer a logo that can be used with or without text depending on the circumstance. The text and graphics from #4 could each stand alone depending on the situation.
    However, i would suggest to not use the intersecting fish as when the image is reduced, the image might become less clear. Something more simliar to the fish in #3 could work. With the fish swimming towards the right, while the arc leaning towards the left, you might even be able to further convey an image of swimming against the current, visually.
    Colours on the other hand are a matter of preference, but you might want to consider tying it together with some other prominent colours within your church (lobby colurs, sanctuary colours, etc.)

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  • Steve
    November 6, 2005

    I’d vote for 3 or 4. #1 is a bit redundant, and #2 looks too corporate

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  • Paul Tilley
    November 7, 2005

    I really like 3. I think it has a good feel about it. Contemporary but not corporate. And I like the fact that it’s very simple

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  • Dan Schultz
    November 11, 2005

    #2 has the highest chance of causing the least amount of confusion. Is it a church plant or a fishing club? It has the clean, modern look, but still very inviting and friendly.
    The organization has to decide…does it want to always be identified with a fish?
    I’d almost try the same logo, but move the green and blue waves to the right side of the wording as opposed to the left.

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  • Jelmer R
    November 12, 2005

    I guess American and European designs are different. I would say I like #1 most. It’s fresh, it looks modern. I don’t know if there is a philosophy for the dolphin (or whatever it is) but maybe you could leave that out or change it a little so it doesnt look like a fish club logo.
    #2 comes second for me.

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  • goodstoryteller
    November 17, 2005

    Logos are tuff–For me a logo has to work on the side of pen or a semi. I think you want a logo with seperate graphics and text.
    The graphic has to work at some level by itself—and brand you.
    I think the prior questions about fish are worth heavy consideration–
    Given your story–“upstream communities” works–but it has no tie to faith–Christian-church–so your graphic IMO needs to take you there. Certainly the church and fish are tied together in hx but that was a much more stylized image–it doesn’t happen for me in any of these. I understand width is more important than height in logo as it should fit both eyes.
    #1 The look is nice,fresh, artsy but the text is difficult to read because of the change in background–overlap.
    #2 I think works best as a logo–I don’t like the puesh green–it is too weak and lost against the white background.
    #3 is the only one where the text is readable- I like #2 the least as a logo but its a great poster.
    #4 I like the graphic best of any of them. The text is two weak and lost–perhaps using the background color of the graphic would tie it together.
    Would an italicized font convey more movement and upstream direction?
    You have a profound vision and mission design. Fascinating problem.

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  • Gene Mason
    November 24, 2005

    Love #4. The text is a little weak (light), though. People need to clearly associate the name and the graphic.

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Peer Review