A Logo That Honors Science and the Great Lakes  


great lakes shore

Monitoring change in the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes Observing System needed a logo that reflected the gravitas of the work they do: making current and historic data accessible to those who need it, from scientists to boaters. Observing the Great Lakes through the lens of changing data is one way that we protect public health safety and preserve the world’s largest source of fresh water.

Great Lakes Observing System
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Event Logo
Identity Standards

The logo we were hired to replace.

The Challenge

The Great Lakes Observing System’s (GLOS) existing logo conveyed the lakes and water, but the organization felt the logo didn’t relate to the work, which addresses technology, information and science. When used in small sizes, the full name of the organization could be difficult to read. As the organization was growing, it wanted an identity that projected their expertise and capabilities with confidence.

Discovery and Exploration

Invisible Engines worked with Great Lakes Observing System to develop a strategy for the identity that would help them connect to a wide audience. We learned that the people who access data through the GLOS web site might include boaters who want to check the conditions of the lakes, municipalities keeping an eye on algae bloom, scientific researchers or even students. Keeping the data public and accessible is key to GLOS’ misssion.

We outlined some of the key concepts that a successful solution would include:

  • Data/Science
  • Collaboration
  • Utility/Clarity/Logic
  • Strength/Power
  • Innovation

GLOS wanted to be sure that the logo would show a connection to their parent organization, the International Oceanic Observing System, a division of NOAA. At the same time, they needed and wanted their identity to be unique.


great lakes shore

The concept that the client found most compelling was the idea of data as bars. An interesting thing about GLOS’ audience of Great Lakes organizations and peers. This audience was keenly attuned to the portrayal of the Great Lakes and their size in relation to each other. As a result the bars were designed to be proportionally accurate.


“When we received the first draft we were thrilled to see how they had translated our rambling conversations into tight, easily consumed logos. We worked together to make changes to get a final product that staff, and ultimately the board, felt really represented the combination of environment and technology that is unique to our organization. In addition to being a smart visualization, the new logo complemented our parent governmental organizations without being just another version of them.

GLOS has been living with the logo for a couple of years, now, and it’s serving its mission really well.

Anyone who has worked on a logo knows that a single image is tasked with a huge amount of communication, and we’re happy that Invisible Engines was able to imbue our logo with our story, readable at a glance.”

– Kristin Schrader, Communications Director

Supporting GLOS’ Work With Youth

Invasive species. Algae blooms. The effects of climate change. The issues that face the Great Lakes require fresh solutions that are driven by data and innovation. The Great Lakes Observing System’s Data Challenge asks youth to become problem solvers, using their creativity and the data that GLOS makes accessible. Invisible Engines worked with the team at GLOS to create a visual identity for the challenge.