Behind-the-scenes: Melland Schill logo redesign

Posted by Becca Parkinson - Wednesday, 17 Nov 2021

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When I was asked to redesign the logo for the prestigious Melland Schill law series, I did so with three goals in mind: The first was to make sure the redesign was effective in representing a serious and academic field. The second was to create harmony between three different strains in the series while retaining some unique feature to differentiate them from one another. And the third was to honour Edward Melland Schill, the namesake of the series.

My first port of call was to research. Edward Melland Schill became a lieutenant during the First World War where he was eventually hit during a successful push and later died of his wounds. Over 40 years later, his sister Olive left £10,000 in her will to set up a series of lectures in her brother’s name in the hope that international law studies could help avoid the type of conflict that led to her brother’s death. Or, as Captain Blackadder more succinctly put it, so that Field Marshal Haig could ‘move his drinks cabinet six inches closer to Berlin.’

This became the impetus of my redesign. I hoped to tell a story with the logo, since I knew that the accompanying wordmark would remain professional but unobtrusive. I wanted to choose a symbol to represent Melland Schill—rather than using his portrait—to avoid illustrative work, which can quickly date as art styles become unfashionable. From there, I struck on the idea of using a First World War lieutenant’s insignia.

An image of a First World War lieutenant's insignia
An image of a First World War lieutenant’s insignia

I simplified the pattern using the basic building-blocks of its shape. I rounded off the jagged edges to diminish the abrasive and overtly militaristic look and serendipitously found it began to resemble a poppy.

The 'poppy'-like symbol which Christian drew based on the military insignia above

Once I was happy with the emblem, I began to look at how I could differentiate the three strains in the series (Perspectives on, Studies in and Classics in). To maintain unity I wanted the bulk of the design to be identical for each, with the key difference—the strain title—somehow highlighted in the centre.

I went over some of the previously published titles and noticed the covers generally used full block-colour. This gave me the idea to make the logo using negative space, with the book’s colour surrounding the white text of the strain title. I made a mock-up of what this might look like once printed and found that it worked successfully in guiding the eye to that central letterbox.

I knew the ‘MELLAND SCHILL’ and ‘INTERNATIONAL LAW’ text would require a simple serif typeface, though I experimented with a variety of fonts for the strain text itself. I tried some with a little more character, such as this Greek-inspired version, though this was (quite rightly) rejected in favour of the more professional types, which were eventually chosen by the series editors themselves.

A mock-up of the new design on two of the Melland Schill volumes
A mock-up of the new design on two of the Melland Schill volumes

Once I had worked all of these elements out, I set to assembling them into a coherent design. The ‘MELLAND SCHILL’ text needed to be the same width as the much longer ‘INTERNATIONAL LAW’ – and since scalability would be an issue, the letters required very careful kerning to preserve readability. I drew in ruler lines to give the piece mathematical precision and allowed an equal-width border around each element for visual breathing space.

A version of Christian's final design for the logo

Overall, I think the end product works well as an update. It is sleek, sophisticated and has a more personal link to the series’ history than its previous incarnation—and will hopefully represent this brilliant series for some years to come!

The final result, the new logos for the three Melland Schill series.

Christian Lea is a writer and graphic designer from Manchester, working in publishing.

Check out his Etsy page here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/ChristianLeaDesign.

Latin America and the international investment law (Melland Schill Perspectives on International Law) will be published in January 2022.

The law of the sea: Fourth edition (Melland Schill Studies in International Law) will be published in Spring 2022.

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