Corporate Identity Design Notes

Pundit — Initially, I thought of naming my company Pundit Holdings. This would create a personal connection to me and to Indian language and culture. “Pundit” has, unfortunately for me, a negative connotation in American English, but I had lofty designs of reversing this perception through exceptional performance. “Pundit” also implies contrarian, and the contrarian approach is essential for exceptional returns in the stock market. Eventually, I rejected this as a name for my company because of the negative connotations. Coming out of an election year certainly had something to do with it!

Fractals — Earning exceptional returns on stock market investments is possible because the market is a complex adaptive system. Like other complex adaptive systems, it is a human system. It often behaves efficiently, but its inefficiencies can be exploited for financial gain. Complex adaptive systems model many desirable qualities in the dynamics of marketplace companies, like exponential growth, acquisition and spin-off, propagation of information, as well as lock-in. I considered names like Fractal Capital to express this understanding, especially because fractals are an endless source of attractive visuals for logos. “Chaos” is a fashionable word arising out of the study of complex adaptive systems, but it has negative connotations. The borders between regions with different mathematical properties often have fractal shapes.

Mountains — I love and have great pride in Mt. Hood, and often feel that my solitary Sunday drives to Mt. Hood Meadows are a pilgrimage. Time alone on the silent snow-covered slopes is meditative time, and even descending on my snowboard is therapeutic. Even though it is not nearly as high as the Himalayas, I made a personal expression of this sentiment by memorizing and translating the opening verse of Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhava which I knew made poetic reference to Himalayan majesty. Many local companies are named after local landmarks, so naming my company after a local mountain seemed appropriate. Mountains often occur on the borders between tectonic plates. Indeed, mountains have the fractal quality of being self-similar—it is difficult to tell the size or height of a mountain, or whether it is just a bump on a larger mountain, merely by its shape. More interestingly, we observe mountain peaks as the border between earth and sky, between the gross and the ethereal. I always thought Mazama Capital (Corillian’s largest shareholder) had a poorly chosen name. It does have special meaning to Oregonians, but Mt. Mazama blew up long ago leaving nothing but a gaping crater that later filled up with water—Crater Lake. Not exactly the kind of events you want associated with an investment fund. Since I was twelve, I was also fascinated by the name Kilimanjaro.

Himalaya — During this time, I realized that I would have multiple portfolios in my company, and it would be nice to give each one a related name. It must have been after seeing an ad for Prudential Insurance that I determined to use the name Himalaya to maintain a strong connection to India and to connote the stability and strength of a mountain. I also discovered that the nine highest peaks in the world, after Everest, are also in the Himalayas. So, I could name multiple funds or portfolios after Himalayan peaks, many of which had a name in Sanskrit or traceable to Sanskrit. The name Himalaya Capital was fixed.

Avalanche — For the logo, I imagined showing a range of rising mountains, representing the rising value of various portfolios. The power laws obeyed by complex adaptive systems are illustrated by the thought experiment of dropping grains of sand on a pile and determining when a grain or grains causes a large or small avalanche. This effect actually occurs with earth, rock, and snow, on a larger scale, on real mountainsides. A logo that showed a sheet of earth poised to descend down a mountainside would combine these concepts nicely. I wanted to use geometric shapes because of their simplicity and flexibility for rendering in various media (business cards, embroidery, web, signage).

Conclusion — I imagined a pyramid with a self-similar sheet on its side. This eventually became three pyramids, shrinking exponentially (scaled 1:2:4), intersecting to suggest both a range of mountains as well as a fractal avalanche. The shades of blue I chose simply because I like blue, and because they bring to mind water, glacial ice, and sky. The orientation and angles of the pyramid are fairly arbitrary, the best I could do freehand. I initially imagined representing clouds and the sun—which is so important in Hinduism—to further convey the transition between physical and ethereal. After experimenting with a background having a radial gradient from white to blue, I decided less is more and that maintaining a white space above the mountain area was best. This also lent itself to a vertical orientation for business cards, letterhead, and envelopes: challenging, but unusual without being unheard-of. Similarly, I tried placing the pyramids on a brown or green sheet, representing the land, but due to perspective effects, it tended to dominate. A white space seemed to look better, and a thin horizontal line separating the name seemed to work best.

Test — I showed the (enlarged) business card design to my daughters. Uma, 5, is fascinated by logos and is barely able to read. When asked what the logo looks like, she immediately exclaimed, “It looks like mountains—That one looks like a cube of ice on its side.”

Tags: Business, Design

Created at: 8 March 2005 6:03 AM