CASE STUDY: Logo for Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies (University of Toronto)

Creative Brief

In 2011 the University of Toronto’s Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies had asked us to develop a new logo. Previously the abbreviation CRRS was simply set in Times New Roman Bold Italic.

The client had a particular character in mind to use in the logo:

griffinThis is a printer mark of Sebastian Gryphius – a German printer and bookseller of the 16th century. A griffin is a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion, the head and wings of an eagle and an eagle’s talons as its front feet. Because the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle the king of birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. (That much we, contemporary people, can learn from Wikipedia in 15 seconds.)


Old look of the CRRS newsletter.

Our Process

A reference to something as old as this griffin is only commendable when doing a logo in 2011. How do you incorporate such an old element with reasonable typography of today?

Well, part of the irony is that many typefaces we know today as “classical” were developed back then, when the printing was making its first steps:

Garamond (1530), Bembo (1496), Aldino Italic (1499), Civilité (1557)

However we did not want to use the exact type Gryphius used. That would be too obvious and not too interesting. So we settled on a later period. After all, Renaissance printers only started designing type for mass printing but the people who came after much improved their work.

However, we started with exploration into how to simplify the griffin and perhaps get it more palatable for XXI century audiences.


We then tried a few arrangements “bird-type”.

UofT_2Which one do you like best? Correct. The client did not like any of these and insisted on using the exact image of the griffin creature. We went “back to the drawing board” (as if we ever left it).


No logo can find its final shape without exploration. Exploration means not just putting together elements in everywhich fashion, but also the exploration of the client’s self-perception, taste, legacy, goals and values.

UofT_6Next round of logos may seem boring but it produced an animated discussion in the client’s organization.

UofT_3All this time we were concerned that the griffin image “as is” is very detailed, too detailed to be a logo, and at small sizes the details may merge and become blurry (when distance between lines becomes less than a pixel wide).

However, after some “back and forth” the CRRS choseUofT_4And all of a sudden we had a happy client! Garamond and Engraver’s Gothic.

The logo was first featured on the CRRS newsletter # 77 in November 2011.