The Golgotha Skate Park at Hume Lake is a standalone recreation option within the larger conference center experience. While lawyers called it legal suicide, Hume sought to create a home for the thousands of kids standing on recreation sidelines unwilling to participate. Our response was to build an open-air skate park filled with pine scents and 360˚scenery. Students flocked to ride the mile-high rails, and the success of the park demanded visual representation.
“Pools of blood-red paint slowly descended the page into jagged teeth, and the best part of the whole project was playing in a tactile medium again.”
The Challenge: Skater kids had a new niche on the hill, but we wanted the connection to last long after they rode off into the blazing valley sunset. While many brands get giddy when consumers reach for logo’d decals and flash drives, we sought something much larger, more vague and almost impossible to achieve. Stickers, shirts and deck sales never entered our success metrics. We wanted to tattoo the indelible memory of a true sense of home on the hearts of skaters. Golgotha was created as a meaningful place for belonging and to retain this meaning our identity had to embody each and every shared experience of fun, depth, power and life change that happened there. This kind of connection depended entirely on one value: authenticity. And none of the design team were skaters.
Blood tells a story, and sacrifice proves commitment.
The Solution: Skaters trade war stories like Vietnam vets, showing one another the scars of their antics like gang tats. Each wound has an accompanying blow-by-blow tale to captivate the curious. This was the idea we wanted to tap into as first sketches came out filled with skulls. I could almost hear the tsk tsk of donors over my shoulder and knew there might be great pushback to branding the park with a skull logo. Moving from from sketches to execution I discovered that the visceral quality of blood just couldn’t be captured inside the computer, and I wanted a stronger tie than just using a deep red. Moving into the medium of acrylic paint, I started playing with the way the viscous red moved…letting it pool and drip on paper as a way of imitating blood. Stitching scans together enabled me to assemble the logo from a variety of skull attempts, none of which had initially satisfied my needs. My favorite part of the project was watching the pools of blood-red paint slowly descend the page into jagged teeth. Playing in a tactile medium again reminded me that the computer is just another tool, and not always the correct one for every job. Faster doesn’t always create better.
One of my all-time favorite identity projects was the Golgotha Skate Park logo for Hume Lake.
The Result: These “fun” elements of dripping, bloody teeth made my superiors very uncomfortable. We continued our passionate encouragement to stay the course knowing that a good brand doesn’t just represent a product or service, it stands as a promise in a relationship between two parties. Ultimately, the party most responsible for defining a brand shifts from maker to consumer—and what others believe about you (and your business) and how they feel about it determines whether they will buy. This consumer-driven awareness drove our passion. We had designed something for teenage skaters and knew it communicated strongly with that demographic. What ultimately turned the corner for our superiors was the realization that there was such a strong story potential in the bloody skull. To parents, superiors and supporters it was iconic of the death and pain they identified with Christ’s suffering on the cross; to the to the staff it symbolized the sin-debt paid on Calvary; and to the skater kids it represented home—a place they could let loose and be themselves without fear of not fitting in.
The success in our eyes was seeing how the story of a bloody skull logo led directly into conversations about Christ. His work saved us from ultimate death. This dripping red skull became a strong talking point among closing discussions after each skate session. The message behind our brand was still communicated, and in a way that both skater kids and camp donors could accept—as long as they were each willing to look, listen and engage the brand.