Tactical Magic Conveys Brand Identity in Creative Forms

Published by the Daily News

By Tom Wilemon

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tactical Magic compresses what a business is about into simple forms.

The brand identity firm crafted business cards that fold into miniature shipping containers for SBOX Storage. For Memphis Car Audio, it created logo-emblazoned floor mats that resemble manhole covers. For Fulmer Helmets, the firm depicted the thrill of a motorcycle ride with designs that convey energy and motion.

“It is easy to make an impression and create a smile, but the point is to create a lasting brand impression,” said Trace Hallowell, the founder and managing partner of Tactical Magic.

Tactical Magic offers ad agency, brand consultancy and design services from its offices and studios at 1460 Madison Ave. Founded in 2001, it is owned by four partners, Hallowell; his wife, Mary Hallowell, who is chief financial officer; Ben Johnson, design director; and Brian Borgman, designer.

Glory on the streets
The firm recently produced two graphic designs for Fulmer Helmets. The “Glory” design is a stylized cutout from the American flag. The “Kat” design has a purple leopard fur motif.



The work is follow-through business for Tactical Magic, which previously designed Fulmer’s logo and other graphics for motorcycle helmets. The firm’s first design, a black-on-black graphic, titled “Nocturn,” became Fulmer’s best-selling helmet.

Scott Holbrooks, vice president of Fulmer Helmets, said the “Glory” design shows promise of being another good seller.

“My sales guys tell me that they carry one in on calls to dealers and they’re ready to buy onsite,” Holbrooks said.

There’s nothing new about putting the American flag on a helmet, but the treatment is different with the Tactical Magic design.

“There are so many American flags in graphics, but they are all very shiny and bright and glossy,” Hallowell said. “This is just a totally different take – very Old Glory.”

Kat, which was designed with women in mind, is proving to be surprisingly popular with men so Fulmer is ordering more of the helmets in bigger sizes.

Creating identities
However fun the creative endeavors may be, Hallowell said a great deal of work goes into recognizing and communicating a brand identity.

“You can think of us as an ad agency or design studio because we largely do that kind of work, but we will call ourselves brand identity specialists,” Hallowell said. “When it comes to what differentiates us from the competing marketing communications firms, (it) is this devotion to brand identity, which starts with the strategic side, establishing a competitive position to leverage from in the marketplace.”

The firm prides itself on several awards, including an international citation by Communication Arts for a project that is spotlighted in the first chapter of the college text “A Handbook of Basic Design Principles Applied in Contemporary Design,” written by Timothy Samara.

The project was a logo for Lunar Productions. The chapter in the text shows how the designers initially worked with moon images before coming up with a logo largely based on the 1969 lunar landing module. Johnson jokingly refers to the logo as an action avatar.

“We’re awfully proud to think that thousands of designers all over the country that are learning the craft and learning the process are seeing us right there in chapter one of their design textbook(s),” Hallowell said.

The economic slump, which was being felt in the advertising industry before credit markets froze last autumn, has caused Tactical Magic to practice what it preaches. The firm has been more aggressive in self-marketing.

“We’ve become an attractive resource for people who are looking for lean ways to outsource,” Johnson said. “People are really focusing on their core competencies right now, internally. Our team has been asked to kind of be an outside resource for firms that are looking for strategic help, creative help, design help. We are a lean resource for that. We can really kind of free them up to do what they do best and not have to worry about the communication bit.”

Read more about the "Glory" and "Kat" helmets.

"A house of brands is like a family, each needs a role and a relationship to others."
- Jeffrey Sinclair