Established in 1994, Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) is an Oregon-based manufacturer of knives, tools, and accessories for sports, work, camping, and being a bad-ass. Working with different designers CRKT offers everything from pocket knives to large survival blades to tomahawks, all with awesome names like “Redemption”, “Chanceinhell”, and “Spark’N Sharp”. Earlier this year, CRKT introduced a new identity designed by Hood River, OR-based Blue Collar Interactive.
Anatomy is an extremely important aspect of good design. There must be a visual rhythm to each element in the mark that’s simple, balanced and above all else, justifiable. There’s simply no room for extras, especially when you consider the small size at which these marks will be ultimately used. Quick and easy recognition is paramount, regardless of format.
We ultimately arrived at a simple conclusion. Using the natural complication between the “K” and “T” letterforms, we exposed a logical intersection to introduce a cut—truly turning a negative into a positive. This simple cut effortlessly communicates the essence of what CRKT is known for—building quality knives. It also removes the need for more abstract ideas, allowing the mark to stand on its own with confidence.
In principle, the previous logo was fine with simple enough typography and a mountain-and-river icon to denote outdoorsiness. From the first photo shown on the post, though, you can see how that icon becomes a blotch when emblazoned on the side of a tomahawk where there is a relatively large canvas but in smaller pocket knives that icon is either impossible to read or taken off altogether, leaving the CRKT acronym to do all the heavy lifting and this is where the new logo marks a huge improvement: it’s an acronym wordmark designed to stand on its own and in all kinds of sizes and reproduction techniques. The new wordmark is really great, starting with the tapered shaped of the “C” that, to me, looks like the blunt edge of a tomahawk, and the cut in the “K” was a brilliant way to deal with the problematic kerning of the “KT” pair and infusing the wordmark with the necessary roughness and slice-ability it required to quickly communicate what this brand is about.
Another incredibly important piece to the branding puzzle revealed itself around the campfire—the brand anthem. Those who keep a knife in their pocket or clipped to their belt are quick to assist when they see someone fumbling with a task. I watched as a friend attempted to carve a point on a piece of vine maple to cook a hotdog, pulling the blade towards his fingers. The knife was quickly removed from him and the stick was carved correctly. Confidence in Hand™, CRKT’s new brand anthem was born.
In application, the logo doesn’t do much and it doesn’t have to. Put it on the blade and get out of the fricking way. The chiseled approach works better on the tagline than it does on the logo and it’s a good way of adding, literally, some added depth to the applications. To make matters more sexy, Blue Collar art directed a great set of photographs that really communicate what CRKT is all about without even needing any copy. From the lighting to the clothes to the dirty fingernails on the model everything says Rugged like a Mofo. Fun fact: the model was given a month to grow a beard that they would shave down into different configurations and levels of gruffness during the photoshoot. Details like this and thinking like that is what makes branding so much fun. And sharp.