Since we ran a piece early this year on some of the clever ways designers have repurposed their rejected works, we’ve decided to keep exploring the topic. Every month, we’ve been bringing you designs that, for some reason or another, ended up in the reject bin. For even more killed off darlings, we’ve also got our very own design graveyard in the first issue of our Eye on Design magazine.

Previously, we spoke to Amsterdam-based agency Thonik about a failed attempt to brand the Netherlands government, and to Erik Brandt about his promising poster submission that got rejected by a jury. Today, Jon Key of Morcos Key tells us about a beloved concept that never quite made it to the finish line in the early days of founding his studio with Wael Morcos. In this story of the search for an identity system for HeartBeat Opera, we learn that from heartbreak, a phoenix might rise from the ashes. Over to Key.

“HeartBeat Opera became one of Morcos Key’s first clients in the summer of 2016. We were recommended by Chris Myers, one of my mentors in publishing and the arts. HeartBeat Opera was looking for someone to help take their current, not-really-developed brand into a fully realized identity and system.

“With every client, we begin the design process by listening and getting a sense of their mission, goals, and personality. This information is distilled through surveys, conference calls and workshops to understand the essence of the brand. We spent time sketching and creating five concepts that materialized into three distinct options for the first presentation.

“The first concept was inspired by the voice and the shape of the mouth. We wanted to create a mark that could react, change, and shift according to the various situations that the logo could be in. More conservative at first glance, the logo animates to operatic sounds and comes to life with context. We were very excited to create a typographic-centered concept around the letter O and the diverse range of shapes and sizes that could be created. We had a lot of heart for this particular direction.

Rejected Design: HeartBeat Opera identity. First concept.

“The client seemed thrilled by our first presentation of work. I think many institutions feel like a ‘real’ or ‘legit’ company when they first see a designed logo for their company. It makes all the work they have been doing thus far feel validated and finally alive.

“Our original feedback, though, included notes about going in a ‘more radical, daring direction.’ The client wanted to reflect their ‘personal, hands-on work’ and the company’s willingness to ‘get down and dirty’ and ‘irreverent’ with opera. They were interested in some of our previous work, which featured collaged and handmade aesthetics and neon colors, as a way to break from the more commonly seen conservative ‘O’ in other opera companies’ logos.

“We think the feedback was quite apt and illuminated even clearer distinctions between the HeartBeat Opera brand and their competitors’.

“The identity concluded in custom hand lettering, with a clashing bright spotlight that reinterpreted the O to better reflect the theatrical nature of the company.

HeartBeat Opera identity. Final identity.

“With every process and project, we learn more about specificity and listening. It also reminds us that the client is the expert and that pushing forward can yield unexpected and exciting work. From this particular experience, we learned to keep going. You might be surprized where the work ends up!”