They’re on your shoes, on TV and plastered on billboards across the country (but, thankfully, not in Door County). It takes just a glance to recognize world-famous brands’ world-famous logos, such as Apple’s outline, Gerber’s baby, Starbucks’ siren and Shell’s, well, shell.
On a peninsula where large corporations exist in few places outside of its lone city, and small, local businesses make up the landscape, a business’s branding can take a bit longer to become instantly recognizable. The flip side is that the stories behind these logos — often inspired by Door County’s character and characters — can become enshrined quickly in the minds and memories of those who experience our peninsula’s culinary, arts and shopping scenes.
Here are just a few.
Northern Sky Theater
When the former American Folklore Theatre became Northern Sky Theater in 2014, it unveiled a logo that married its musical roots with one of its most endearing qualities: presenting “professional original musicals under the stars” of Peninsula State Park.
Created by northeast Wisconsin-based designer Bill Vandermause, and fine-tuned by the task force responsible for guiding the company’s name and logo changes, the logo evokes the night sky with the hint of a musical instrument.
Artistic Director Jeff Herbst explained how, after settling on a deep-blue gradient to color the logo, the task force took the design process one step further in its reflection of the night sky.
“We thought, ‘Okay, it is the sky, and it is a landscape within the logo, and what are the constellations that would fall within the northern sky?’” Herbst said. “So there are places where that logo is used where we actually have little constellations and stars within that logo.”
The simplicity of the logo’s shape was inspired by Apple, Herbst explained, and it’s that simplicity that, as with the tech company, allows for greater creativity in branding.
Herbst said the Apple logo “lends itself to being useful in all kinds of iterations, so you can do multiple colors behind it. You can do all kinds of patterns within that logo, and it still maintains its recognizable form, but it takes on all kinds of connotations. We’ve done that with our logo as well. We’ve used fallscapes behind it; we’ve used winterscapes behind it. It’s malleable in terms of how it can be used to convey different sensibilities.”
Bearded Heart Coffee
Although the verdict on how healthful coffee is for humans seems to change with the seasons, Bearded Heart Coffee has made fans of at least a few cardiovascular surgeons. Probably for its coffee, bakery items and open-faced toasts, but definitely for its logo.
When the anatomically correct heart and its scraggly beard showed up on a sign in front of the Baileys Harbor coffee shop in late 2014, residents and tourists alike were “equally freaked out and enthralled by it,” explained Sage Conrad, general manager and a daughter of Bearded Heart owner Mary Horton.
That image — an original drawing by another of Horton’s daughters, Calla Norris — had actually inspired the business’s name.
“[Calla] drew that probably six or seven years ago while she was in high school art class,” Conrad said. “She gifted it to Mo [Grey], my mom’s original business partner. … When my mom and Mo were putting together the business plan, it obviously is never easy to pick a name, so they decided to use that as a logo and name it after the drawing.”
Although the image has settled into the hearts of Door County residents and frequent visitors, it continues to draw quizzical looks and plenty of attention from first-timers and those who see the one-eyed, bearded heart on hoodies, mugs and stickers near and far.
“It’s different enough that people can like it,” Conrad said. “I regularly mail stickers and things like that to people who are just excited to put that on their textbooks and stuff.”
When artist William Bradley was tasked in 2013 with designing a new sign for his parents’ business, the Artists Guild, he wanted to honor both his family and the aesthetic of historic downtown Sturgeon Bay.
He immediately turned his artistic eye toward early-20th-century America, when family-run businesses were the way of the world in small towns. Using a digital drawing and collage process, Bradley — vice president of the Artists Guild — incorporated elements of vintage advertisements and signs into the design, which is also a nod to his family’s multigenerational history as artists.
“If you were to come into the Artists Guild in the framing department, there are some illustrations from my great-great aunt, who raised my grandmother, and they both had a style of drawing a lot of plants and still-lifes, so when I saw that, I thought, ‘Oh, this definitely taps into the sort of line drawings that they were doing in the early 1900s,’” he said.
The resulting sign — a warm, muted snapshot of nature up close — also draws on his mother’s landscape paintings and his father’s history prior to opening the art shop.
“My dad actually got his degree in agriculture and was a farmer for a long time before becoming a businessman,” Bradley said. “He loves keeping bees, and the sign has bees on it as well, so I was looking at my parents when building the sign and designing.”
The name Antonia Tomjanovich won’t ring a bell for most Door County residents and visitors, but say “Grandma Tommy’s,” and most people will think of the elderly woman with the bandanna who welcomes visitors to her namesake’s country store on Highway 42/57.
Based on a photograph of Tomjanovich taken for National Geographic’s “Kingdom So Delicious” — a 1969 article credited with putting Door County on the national map as a vacation destination — the logo is an artistic rendering by the late Kathy Stanaszek that shows Grandma Tommy as a “salt-of-the-earth woman — strong, honest and with some well-deserved wrinkles from hours spent outdoors tending to the garden,” according to the business’s website.
Her grandson, Steve Laubenstein, and his wife, Kate, opened the business in 2009 as a tribute to the farming, gardening and kitchen traditions of Grandma Tommy’s original 1940s roadside market, Tommy’s Farm Market.
“Grandma Tommy was a star in the kitchen,” the Laubensteins wrote of her. “Her gruff exterior melting away as she lavished her guests with glorious food and making their favorites available. She was a unique lady — never one to mince words, honest and hard-working, but a softy when it came down to it.”
Kate Laubenstein described Grandma Tommy as a helpful woman who was generous in sharing “any information she had,” whether it was telling tourists what to see in Door County or showing locals how to pick out the best produce.
Those well-known and well-loved characteristics of Grandma Tommy continue to inspire their own approach to their family-run business.
“We try to give people as much information about the county as possible,” Kate Laubenstein said. “We try to get a map into everybody’s hand … and it’s a matter of being a welcome-to-Door-County stop because we are one of people’s first stops.”