AAC Needs a New Logo


Phyllis and I are pretty happy with the our new self-built website and, judging by the lack of complaints, so are you. (If you have suggestions for improvement, please leave a comment to this post.)

On the other hand, as an artist I…well…kind of suck, so we need some help with a new logo.

We were going to turn to one of those online design market places (and may still, if this doesn’t work) but then I realized that we have a huge number of smart readers here at AAC and maybe one of you might be interested in keeping us safe from some horrible DIY design screwup. And the beauty of this approach is that we don’t need to spend hours explaining what the heck it is we do, or what our brand is, to some stranger.

So here’s what we need in a logo:

  • Instantly recognizable and differentiated as ours.
  • Classy and low key.
  • Should look and fit well in the existing header without adding any height.
  • Scales well. In other words, it should be recognizable when quite small, say 30 pixels on the short (height) side.
  • Should be usable and recognizable alongside (or incorporating) the words “Attainable Adventure Cruising Ltd” or by itself.
  • Adobe Illustrator native vector file, not a bitmap, so we can scale it.

The logo should communicate what we write about: Offshore Voyaging. I have no idea how one goes about doing that:

  • a cloud,
  • some waves,
  • a sea bird over waves?

Beats me…told you I sucked at this stuff. (The logo should not imply that we are only for sailors and not for those with motorboats.)


Although I was once in the printing business and therefore know something about fonts, I only know enough to understand that putting fonts together in a cohesive design takes talent and training.

So, although we are reasonably happy with the fonts, sizes and weights we chose for the new site, if you have suggestions for improvement, we are all ears.

Any fonts suggested need to work together to create a clear hierarchy of importance and legibility trumps all. Each of the following needs to be specified:

  • The heading “Attainable Adventure Cruising” (could be part of the logo).
  • The heading of each post.
  • The byline for each post.
  • The body text for each post.
  • Heading 2 style within post.
  • Heading 3 style within post.
  • Heading 4 style within post.
  • Heading 5 style within post.
  • Heading 6 style within post (for footnotes).
  • The headings of sidebar areas.
  • The body text in the sidebar areas.

You can use any font that appears in the Google font library that includes an italic and bold variants.

The headings within the post should have a clear hierarchy.


Our current thinking is to stick with the same colours that we are using now, to keep some brand continuity. And, by the way, we chose these colours with the Adobe Color CC Wheel, so they do work well together.

But, having said that, if sticking with these colours will screw up that brilliant cohesive design for a logo and associated fonts that has jumped into your head, particularly if your name is Jonathan, and you also answer to Jony, we would certainly consider changing.


OK, now we have the job defined, let’s talk about money. My first idea was to run this as a competition with some not very big prize. But then I thought about how much, as a photographer, I hate and despise those competitions that news, photo, and magazine sites run that are nothing more than a thinly veiled and extremely sleazy way to con a bunch of photographers into parting with the rights to their work for nothing.

So here’s the deal. We can afford to pay US$250 for the above help. Yea, I know, it’s a pittance and less than you could earn flipping burgers. Welcome to our world. The undervaluation of creative people is one of the great sins of today. But it is what it is, and since we work for very little, that’s all we can afford to pay. To make the deal a little sweeter, we will throw in a three year membership. (If you are already a member we will add three years to your existing membership.)

We will pay you half up front and half when the work (as specified here) is done and approved. If we don’t like the end result and don’t use it, you keep the deposit, but we don’t pay the balance.

On the bright side, if you are a talented professional designer, I’m guessing this won’t take you very long.

Making it Happen

So, if you are both qualified and interested in helping us out, please contact us with a quick summary of your experience and maybe an example or two of work you have done together with a concept, or even a rough sketch of what you have in mind.

Note that I said “qualified”. I know just enough about design to understand that doing it well is way, way, harder than it looks and almost always requires some form of professional commercial art training.

What I’m trying to say, hopefully without bruising anyone’s feelings, is that if you are an untrained amateur, this is probably not for you.

And, in the same vein, we are not looking for technical website building expertise here. Rather, we need a typography and design expert.


Having said all that about looking for a professional, you, our members, are who all this effort is for, so if you have any suggestions to make any of this better, please leave a comment.

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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29 comments … add one
  • Stein Varjord Jan 26, 2016, 9:00 am

    Hi, John and Phyllis.
    The site looked and worked fine earlier too, but has definitely become better, both visually and functionally. I think fonts, colours, etc are good. It’s lean and simple, which I like. Some readers might prefer a background colour and a more “filled up” space, but not me.

    I’ve been pondering logos, colours and design for my own projects, so I have been reading and thinking about it and have formed some opinions. I have no actual competence, so the following is just my ten cents worth. Or maybe just one cent, and no, I don’t expect to get paid for this. 🙂

    Elements that seem elegant, classy and luxurious are tempting, but frequently don’t give the desired effect, or even if they do, the site becomes boringly similar to lots of others. Going the exact opposite direction might be worth considering. The word “Attainable” means many things, but also hints “available for reasonable money”. The Google fonts “Permanent marker”, “Special elite”, “Gochi hand”, and more may fit that. “Black ops one” has a hint of the letters sprayed with a cliche on shipping cargo boxes in the old days. Might be a cool connection, but I’d prefer them rougher. Don’t know if that exists in the Google font library. These fonts should only be used in headings etc, as readability isn’t as good. For body text, I like “sans serif” font types. The one in use now is perfect.

    For the logo, I’d go for as simple as possible. Probably just the words above each other, aligned to the left. The first letter column would be “AAC” and can be emphasised to be more visible. Also, the words and thus the “AAC” letters could be staggered maybe 45 degrees and the three “logo” letters can be bigger so they intersect each other. Meaning that the” A”s would share an extra long right leg and the “C” would attach to the bottom of it.

    The trouble with this layout is that it’s relatively high. In a heading it might get small letters or might take too much space. If this is the case, I’d maybe skip the stacked words and only use the logo of the first letters (as above?) separately and then have the words written in one line.

    An actual graphic logo is great for companies that can put the time and money into making it widely recognised. Like Nikes “swoosh” and the McDonalds “M”. The logos let potential customers recognise the brand in a second. Most entities have neither the money, time or need for such a widespread and intuitive recognition. They are normally better served by using the name as the logo, like “Coca Cola” does.

    If a more graphic logo is still wanted, I’d avoid trying to tell too much. The name says enough. The logo is so people who already know the story can recognise it. Some very simple geometrical shape is the best logo. I have no good ideas, but iconic shapes that are intuitively linked to the name would be stuff like: Palm, iceberg, sail, wave, sun, polar bear, penguin, bird, cloud…

    Sorry for the long post of unorganised inconclusive chatter, but hopefully more competent individuals can turn bits of it into something useful.

    • John Jan 26, 2016, 10:36 am

      Hi Stein,

      Thanks very much for taking the time to make all of these good suggestions—it’s incredibly valuable to have the benefit of an unbiased outside eye!

      Also, a very good point about the drawbacks of a graphic logo and the importance of keeping the name at the fore. Before your comment, we had not really understood that, but do now.

  • David Jan 26, 2016, 1:26 pm

    Hi John,
    These logo project specifications are well done and have a high likelihood of prompting a quality outcome in the hands of the right capable person. If that person doesn’t emerge from the AAC readership then I suggest 99designs. You may already know of it. It’s a crowd-sourcing design competition marketplace that is respected among both designers and clients. There are a lot of talented designers who find work there, some of whom probably have day jobs at your favorite companies. Many great designs have come from 99designs. Costs are lower than many other approaches and bounded as you set the price going in.

  • RDE Jan 28, 2016, 6:51 pm

    Best current example of a landing page heading & logo on any sailing site! http://www.sailingtotem.com/

    Captures the spirit of the site perfectly.
    Doesn’t use up too much valuable space on the critical landing page.
    Replace the image occasionally when the spirit moves or even run them as a dynamic slide show.

    • John Jan 29, 2016, 9:53 am

      Hi Richard,

      Ah for the days when it was that simple. The image on the site you link to uses CSS backgound, the result is that it’s neither properly responsive or retina friendly (looks poor on most Apple devices). It also appears on every page. Result: a huge data hit to anyone on a mobil device. Since many of our readers are mobil and/or Apple, we really don’t want to go down that road.

  • RDE Jan 29, 2016, 1:12 pm

    Hi John,
    My comment was directed at the appearance of the logo and heading superimposed on an image which looks great to my eye. How to achieve that within your chosen platform? That’s a problem for techies beyond my pay grade!

    • John Jan 30, 2016, 7:48 am

      Hi Richard,

      I agree that it’s a compelling image. The trouble with using an image in the header without any other differentiating logo or wordmark, is that you have no branding. Meaning that when you change the picture you lose all brand recognition. (I have been getting some incredibly useful advice via email from a reader who is also a senior marketing executive.)

      Also, another interesting fact that I only just learned is that the slideshows (sliders) that are so popular on many home (landing) pages have actually proved to be a negative that reduces sign ups and conversions. (As a photographer this breaks my heart!).

      You can read more about the problems with sliders here: https://yoast.com/opinion-on-sliders/
      and here: https://thrivethemes.com/why-sliders-suck/

      Both of the above opinions are based on extensive testing by industry leaders.

      Bottom line, what I (and many others) thought intuitively would be great (in this case a slideshow) often isn’t.

      • RDE Jan 31, 2016, 12:09 pm

        Hi John,
        The testing result showing a slide show to have a negative impact on sales is consistent with what I (used to) know about response back when I was playing with SEO, now that I think about it.

        Behan’s image heading does have both a logo (the Totem) and a consistent title, although the font chosen, while pretty, is not particularly high impact. Could branding consistency be maintained if the logo and heading always remained constant along with the image, or the image were only changed infrequently while the heading and logo remain unchanged?

        • John Jan 31, 2016, 12:35 pm

          Hi Richard,

          I think you are right and that’s the way we are leaning right now.

  • Terry Feb 1, 2016, 8:46 pm

    Perhaps consider using the adventure 40 as the logo… Attainable Adventure is its DNA.

    • John Feb 3, 2016, 9:39 am

      Hi Terry,

      Thanks for the thought. We are moving away from a graphic logo toward a wordmark, based on some of the great advice we have had.

  • Stein Varjord Feb 3, 2016, 4:47 pm

    Hi John.

    I was thinking about the logo and naming of the site. As the site name now is AAC, Attainable Adventure Cruising, while the address is morganscloud.com, there seems to be a bit of a branding problem. I notice most places the site is just referred to as Morganscloud. Even I do that sometimes, even though I’m the nit pick type of guy. 🙂

    I think Morganscloud is a very good name for a site like this, (and for a boat). It’s clearly different from other names and still easy to remember. AAC is an acronym and thus quite slippery to the mind. The full name “Attainable Adventure Cruising” is too much of a workout to be used much and consists of fairly indistinctive words and combinations of words. Thus, also not easy on the memory and even harder to allocate into an “identity”, as if it was a person, which is the target with any name.

    You might already have guessed my point: I think it’s worth considering using “Morganscloud” as the actual name of the site and “Attainable Adventure Cruising” as the subtitle that describes quickly what it’s about. This would make branding much clearer and stronger.

    I think the alternative to this strategy might be to change the domain name (address) into something else than morganscloud, which I see no point in and might be risky too.

    PS. Any web page with “cloud” in it, is quite hip these days. 🙂

    • John Feb 4, 2016, 8:24 am

      Hi Stein,

      That’s an interesting idea and one we will put into the mix.

      Right now the lead idea, thanks to your original comment and input from other members who have extensive branding experience is to:

      • Shorten the name to Adventure Cruising
      • Use a wordmark as a logo
      • Add the tagline “Making Offshore Voyaging Attainable”
      • Keep the URL as it is, simply because URL changes are so dangerous to SEO

      One thing that is cool about this is that we are already number 1 on Google with Adventure Cruising.

      Any thoughts?


      • Gary Apr 25, 2016, 5:42 am

        I have changed the URL of many sites, without negatively impacting SEO.

        If it was my decision, I would get the branding right and the URL consistent, as the main priority. If that means changing URL then so be it, there is nothing to be afraid of there, just 301 redirect work.

        • John Apr 25, 2016, 7:30 am

          Hi Gary,

          That’s interesting. As you say, we defiantly have an issue with URL inconsistency. Something for us to think about.

  • Stein Varjord Feb 4, 2016, 11:06 am

    Hi John,

    Using a wordmark as a logo and keeping the URL certainly seem like the best choices. I also like the tagline you mention, but I think the words “adventure cruising” are important and should appear somewhere on top too.

    “Adventure Cruising” as the complete site name makes it more probable that people will actually use it than with “Attainable” included. I like it, but it still has the trouble that it’s not a unique name, just common words. I would guess people will keep using “Morganscloud” when talking to others about the site. That is clearly a name and will not be confused with a topic or something else.

    Maybe the full name could be “Morganscloud Adventure Cruising”? The short form would then be “Morganscloud”, which is also the URL and already in use… I like the sound of that…

  • Andreas Feb 5, 2016, 9:09 am

    Hello John,
    A company I work part-time for also needs a new logo and we’re in the middle of a 99designs contest. Right now we’re in the process of selecting 6 designers we will take to a secondary round, where we will chose a winning logo.
    Here you can see the designs we’ve gotten in so far:
    We have only good things to say about 99designs and the process.
    Best regards,

    • John Feb 6, 2016, 11:23 am

      Hi Andreas,

      Wow, that’s impressive. Thanks for linking us to it.

      Still working out the details of exactly what we want, but once that’s done we will certainly consider 99 designs.

  • Mark Tilley Feb 7, 2016, 7:45 pm

    Hi John,

    I don’t want tell you not to bother if you really believe you need to do this, but for me, I come here because of the content. Period.

    The articles are great, you pull no punches, are clearly beholden to no advertisers, a lot of great people respond to your articles with great comments, and you respond to those comments too.

    It helps that the site is easy to navigate, and personally, I find the existing layout and fonts very clean and easy on the eyes.

    I expect that no one using this site buys gear based on packaging or marketing type fluff. Likewise I would think the odds that a logo is going to make any difference to your target market would be very low.

    I’d say the existing logo looks very businesslike and therefore communicates very well that this is a serious site.

    Mark Tilley
    s/v Saving Grace
    Saga 43 – 40

    • John Feb 8, 2016, 9:06 am

      Hi Mark,

      You know what, I think you make a huge amount of sense. It’s very easy to expend a huge amount of time, that would be better spent on content creation, messing with this stuff. Thanks for the cold reality shower!

      One clarification, when you say the existing Logo is fine, do you mean the old one at the top of this post (white type on blue background), or the simple text that replaced it in the redesign at the top of the site?

      • Mark Tilley Feb 8, 2016, 9:27 am

        Well, to be logically consistent with my post I would have to say, “It doesn’t matter”!

        Although I’ll admit I like the old one, it’s more because it adds that extra bit of information “The offshore voyaging reference site”.

        To be honest, I didn’t really notice it missing. The new LOOKS fine with the redesign, but I do think that bit of extra info is useful and confirms and enhances the site name. Can you reinsert the it underneath without making it look crowded? But I don’t think anyone will turn away before reading some articles without it. And after they do it won’t matter …


        • John Feb 9, 2016, 8:30 am

          Hi Mark,

          I think that’s a good suggestion and it’s the way we are leaning.

          The big question at the moment is whether or not to drop “Attainable” and go with “Adventure Cruising” to make it less of a mouthful. What do you think?

          No hurry on any of this…got content to write!

          • Mark Tilley Feb 10, 2016, 12:41 am


            I’d leave it in. It’s just too generic as only a two word title. Personally I don’t find “Attainable” a mouthful, but a very useful descriptor that evokes the much the same idea as Good Old Boat Magazine: this is something you can do without a sinking (hmm…) a fortune into it or hiring professional crew. Having a three letter acronym is also a handy side benefit.

          • John Feb 10, 2016, 9:45 am

            Hi Mark,

            Thanks, you identified exactly what we are struggling with: too generic. On the other hand, we have had some great advice from a branding expert who says one should never shorten the name because you lose brand identification, unless you are huge like IBM.

  • Mark Tilley Feb 10, 2016, 10:36 am

    That’s not the other hand, it’s the same hand!


  • Bill Koppe Mar 26, 2016, 9:31 pm

    Hi John,
    My design experience is in real estate signs where less is more and the message has to be quickly grasped. A verbose sign is simply not read.
    In my opinion it is either Attainable Adventure Cruising, OR , The Offshore Reference Site but not both as they are very close to being the same thing.
    I find the claim “The Offshore Reference Site ” to be a bit grandiose as there are other sites eg Setsail , that could compete with such a claim. Do we need this explanation?

    • John Mar 27, 2016, 8:39 am

      Hi Bill,

      Good thoughts, although I’m not sure that getting rid of reference site is a good plan. The idea of that is to differentiate us from the thousands (literally) of sailing blogs out there.

      As to it being a grandiose claim, I hear you there too. On the other hand, my marketing director, back when I ran a high tech company, always used to say “there’s not a lot of point in being great if you don’t tell ’em your great”. Not something I was ever totally comfortable with but worth listening to in that his advice was a lot of why I can voyage today.

      I guess we could substitute “a” for “the” but it would be less forceful. Also, it could be argued that it’s a true claim today since the only other serious contender (as far as I know) would be Setsail and today they primarily publish posts about very large motorboats that are only relevant to a tiny part of the market.

      • Bill Koppe Mar 27, 2016, 10:28 pm

        Hi John,
        The 1st step in addressing the logo is to get the wording settled.
        Noonsite The global site for cruising sailors (note the similar wording ) is also an important reference site particularly for customs clearance and local knowledge. It does not compete with AAC but rather complements it. I would still delete the reference site which would result in more weight being given to AAC.
        This means little change from the current status and I think the current logo type etc is fine and also should not be altered.
        Good luck with your deliberations.
        Kind Regards,

        • John Mar 28, 2016, 8:32 am

          Hi Bill,

          Thanks again for the thoughts, we will crank them into the mix.

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