Elephants and Creativity | How We Chose Our Logo

Creative elephant mural
Photo by Bryan Gomes on Pexels.com

The night I finally made the leap and started putting together this website, my graphic designer wife, Ashley, was eager to help me develop a visual identity for The Creative Mission. I’d just settled on the name, and we were talking about using some sort of abstract icon — a swirly spiral, the letter “C” with an arrow, or some sort of burst. But for some reason, I’ve always liked logos that had a little more character.

Back in 2012, Ashley and I launched a local lifestyle blog called WhooNEW that used the shape of Wisconsin to create an owl logo. We called him “Scoots.” While it seems a little cartoony now, it was also super-creative and very memorable. People started recognizing it right away, and when we’d mention the name of our site they’d say, “Oh, you mean that owl thing?”

So, I started looking into creative animals. Eagles? Too serious. Crows? Kind of evil. Chimps? Not quite right.

Elephants! My curiosity piqued. It immediately felt right, and the more we thought about it the more we liked it.

For one thing, it allowed us to use a spiral shape in the trunk (and ear). Ashley’s a fan of spirals as design elements. And, spirals have some interesting significance concerning creativity.

Ashley’s logo sketches for The Creative Mission

Author and artist Austin Kleon wrote about what he called the “creative learning spiral” on his blog in 2018. He says that instead of thinking of gaining creative skills in a linear fashion, we should approach creativity in a cyclical way.

” … the spiral is similar to the feedback loop of the Scientific Method or Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero’s Journey.’ What’s essential is that the spiral doesn’t have an end — it is a lifelong spiral.”

Austin Kleon

That “lifelong learning” is exactly what we’re trying to encourage through The Creative Mission. No one should ever stop being creative, being curious about the world, or gaining new skills and knowledge.

But, what really sold me is just how creative elephants are …

Why elephants are creative animals

Elephants happen to be Ashley’s favorite animal. I like raccoons, which are also very creative creatures, but that’s beside the point. The more I learned about elephants, the more I knew it was the perfect choice to help brand The Creative Mission and represent its purpose.

You’ve certainly heard the phrase “an elephant never forgets,” but there’s much more to the pachyderm’s mind (and heart).

Here are are a few facts about elephants:

  • The elephant’s brain is the largest of all land animals (including in proportion to its size).
  • Elephants have a similar EQ (emotional intelligence) to that of chimpanzees.
  • Elephants are creative problems solvers, although they approach things differently than primates and humans.
  • Elephants are one of a select group of animals that use tools.
  • Elephants can learn to paint and carefully choose their own colors.
  • Elephants can recognize musical tones and even create their own music.

Besides their intelligence and creativity, there were other factors that made an elephant the perfect choice to represent The Creative Mission. Elephants are social animals that live in a community, practice altruism, and show empathy for each other as well as other species.

That directly relates to something we hope comes out of this experiment. We want to use creative acts of service to make our community and the world a better place.

Creativity and empathy go hand in hand. You need to understand who you’re creating for, which means being able to put yourself in their shoes. Author Scott Perry explains the connection between creativity and empathy this way …

“Art involves connecting, communicating, and collaborating with others. That’s where things start to get messy because emotional labor is involved. And that’s where empathy comes into play.”

Scott Perry, Author of The Stoic Creative Handbook

The morning after I bought a domain and started slapping together a website, Ashley started doodling. Before we knew it, our logo came to life. (Honestly, she’s still tweaking it. But perfectionism is the enemy of done).

I’m extremely happy with how it turned out and excited to take this journey.

More about amazing elephants

Check out this video from TED that includes more mind-blowing facts and stories about elephants.

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