Snakes on a Stick

AMA Identity Refresh

Since I'm into symbols, a little trivia: contrary to popular usage, the symbol you see to the right, associated with the AMA (and health/healthcare, for that matter), is not called a caduceus. That serpent-entwined stick is actually known as the Rod of Asclepius, referring to the ancient Greek deity associated with healing and medicine. The caduceus, on the other hand, is the name of the staff carried by Greek mythology's Hermes. Two serpents entwine themselves around this crozier; a pair of wings sprout from the top. Watson and Crick could have saved themselves a lot of time if they had studied Hermes' double helix more closely. The caduceus is more a symbol of commerce and negotiation—the balance of exchange and reciprocity.

Speaking of healing, the American Medical Association asked me to diagnose and treat their aging corporate identity system. Like other growing, complex organizations, the system was overtaxed and out of shape. The prescribed treatment involved a refresh of the core signature art; design of a set of more flexible, alternate signatures; a palette of graphic modules for composing branded communications; and a comprehensive set of supplemental brand-identity guidelines including design demonstration models. Asclepius would be proud.