How searching for a background for our new logo led to a journey into the psychology of clouds.
When we changed our name to EPiK we instantly wondered what could symbolize and express the brand visually. The name EPiK was inspired by the fact that we look at brands like stories and some our workshops are based on the way Hollywood looks at ideas and analyses its scripts. One item that first grabbed our attention was the classic movie ident. While you can dismiss them as simple corporate branding they are masterpieces in emotional scene setting. In a few seconds they command your attention, relax you for the entertainment to come, stimulate a sense of power, optimism, excitement and anticipation.
What struck us straight away was how many of the idents from the studios shared common aspects. One of these was the use of clouds, usually at sunset and seemingly after a storm. The more we analysed it, it was a perfect metaphor for story telling and life itself – the balance of light and dark aspects, the sense of something constantly changing and the horizon where hope will always shine….
In The Atlantic journalist Rebecca Rosen goes as far as to call them ‘The most useful metaphor of all time’
“Clouds get traction as a metaphor because they are shape-shifters, literally. As a result they can stand in for many varied cultural tropes. Want something to represent the one thing marring your otherwise perfect situation? Done. Want to evoke the nostalgic feeling of childhood games of the imagination? Done. Maybe you want to draw a picture of heaven? You’re in luck.”
Cloud 9, silver linings, clouds of despair, under a cloud…In the UK in particular we are used to using weather terminology as a metaphor but clouds have a lexicon all to themselves.
Stories are about giving life meaning. And cloud gazing exposes our desire to search for meaning in everything we encounter. It also shows our brains remarkable ability to fill in the gaps when it comes to the most abstract of stimuli. It is a natural psychological ‘ink blot test’ Do you see a dog, a crocodile or a man with a spear? Is it a friendly image or threatening?
Joni Mitchell perfectly captures the different worlds we can enter through clouds.
Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way.
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way.
Clouds have long been associated with the divine, the angelic and distant fairytale worlds. We can all see ‘Castles in the air’ and dream on them. Perhaps it’s why they are the background symbols to some great classical art. Constable’s landscapes inevitably frame the idyllic British countryside under characteristic towering cumulus clouds of the changeable English summer.
Constable understood the emotional power in clouds. To him they were “the key note, the standard of scale, and the chief organ of sentiment” in a landscape painting. While he documents the hardworking everyday life in the countryside the horizon is welcoming you to a world of light and optimism where everything is moving and changing for the better.
Clouds are our own story unfolding before us – with no two episodes ever to be repeated. They are the ultimate ‘me’ time and despite the distractions and entertainments available to us in our modern technically obsessed world, nothing is still quite as satisfying as lying on the grass watching the clouds roll by. When Wordsworth imagined himself wandering as a cloud, he almost succeeded in making loneliness seem attractive. A sky full of moving clouds was undoubtedly the Palaeo man’s Netflix.