Tom Lane details vintage-style branding for US firefighters’ clothing company

A Bristol-based typographer may not seem the natural person to help brand a clothing company based around vintage American firefighting motifs. But after Hook & Irons founders – and Miami Dade firefighters – George and Brian saw Tom Lane’s hand-drawn lettering work, which is heavily influenced by the calligraphy and type styles of the early 1900s, they dropped him a line and asked him to design their logo and a series of icons to complement it.

“They got in contact by email, we had a chat and hit it off,” says Tom. “I knew straight away this was one I wanted to get involved in. With a name like Hook & Irons, how couldn’t I.”

(Hook and Irons are the names given by firefighters to the tools they use to pull down roofs and break down doors.)

For reference, George and Brian also gave Tom a wealth of information, references and memorabilia from over a century ago – including examples of ‘Gaslight’ typography, old ads, photos of firefighters in action and even examples of firefighting jargon to work in.

The concept for the logo was to be a ‘badge of honour’ based on the mildly worn heroic spirit of firefighters, capturing the pride, honour and history of the men and women who risk their lives to put out fires.

To find this spirit, Tom says he didn’t have to look far. He describes George and Brian as “some of the most stand-up and respectful people I’ve ever worked with”. It also helped him understand where the brand was coming from as George and Brian would often be on-call when they were discussing the project with Tom over Skype.

“[They were] off saving lives and putting themselves in danger while I was nicely tucked away in relative safety, drawing pictures. I had all the motivation and inspiration I needed.”

Based on the reference materials, Tom wanted to create a logo that was primarily typographic – but he also wanted to subtly work the Hook and the Irons into the logo. While sketching, he says he “focused on developing letterforms and alignments that I felt captured the look and feel we wanted to convey and did something unique and relevant.

“I always begin in the sketchbook making marks and playing. Keeping relaxed, my mind open, never trying to nail it but to explore possibilities,” he says. “From my roughs, I had a pretty clear outcome of how I wanted the ‘Hook’ to hook around the top and to have a big drop cap ‘H’ with some additional firefighters’ tools making up the inner detail and pulling you in.”

Once complete, Tom refined the design using a bigger drawing pad, scanned it in to fine-tune kerning and spacing, then created the final pencil drawing, which he then digitised. A short, wide secondary version of the logo was also created (above), as were icons to reinforce the brand identity (below)

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