Creating the Perry 200 Commemoration logo for The Jefferson Society in partnership with the The Erie Reader, always felt like a unique opportunity for me. In previous projects, I had been able to take advantage of eye catching ‘shock and awe’ to grab the viewer’s attention. In contrast, the Perry 200 logo required a level of constraint to honor the history behind its subject.
The major challenge in designing the Perry 200 logo, was finding a method of mixing Colonial Era history with contemporary aesthetics, while maintaining historical accuracy. Making this feat more challenging was the lack of source material. Like the artists who painted great figures and events before me, I did not have access to my subject or an image that came close to Perry’s likeness. These moments allow human understanding of scarcity to take center stage. What I did not have was what I needed to create.
What I did have, was a collection of sketches, descriptions and second hand guesses that I had dug up from my own research. It seems that when a colony’s artistic talent relies on people trained in the mother country, going to war with that country is taxing on the artistic community. Furthermore, the invention of photography would not happen until the generation after Perry, which leaves us with no photographic reference of the War of 1812.
The portraits in my possession - the one’s that had been historically confirmed - were of one Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry during an ambitious youth and another of the man who had seen the tides of war and come through. Because of the strength and poise in the youthful image, I felt that it best relayed the image of passion and glory that myself and Dr. Garvey shared. I do not regret my choice but the feeling of leaving something behind never left me.
Perry’s experience did not end in his youth. It went on. His eyes became older and his shoes wore thinner. By not recognizing Perry’s future as a part of our past, we leave behind half of the life of a great man.
The signature in the logo is Perry’s own, hastily written on the back of a crewman as he first declared, “We have met the enemy and they are ours”. The Caslon typeface was invented by Benjamin Franklin and the 15 naval stars represent the colonies that stood as official parts of our fledgling nation. There is far too much history in this piece to let its counterpart be forgotten. I would like to share with you the Perry 200 Commemoration logo’s wiser brother - a secondary unofficial version, a portrait of Perry post 1813.