Even though the show hardly needs to market itself at this point, the promotional logo for the theatrical sensation Hamilton has become a coveted pop culture symbol by itself. A simple truncated star on a gold background, featuring the triumphant silhouette of star Lin-Manuel Miranda in the place of the missing point, the image is impactful and instantly recognizable.
Post a selfie on Facebook or Instagram of yourself clutching a Playbill with that logo on it, and you will incite instant jealousy among your followers. To quote the show, you are in the "Room Where It Happens"—and that's no small feat. Currently tickets in the orchestra section are reselling on StubHub.com for more than $1,000, and prices will likely continue to go up; Hamilton won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama this week.
But what if that logo had been something completely different?
On April 26, Rizzoli will release the new book On Broadway: From Rent to Revolution, a portfolio of the works of Spotco, the go-to branding and advertising company for what can feel like every Broadway show, ever. Founded by Drew Hodges, Spotco designed the logos for Rent, Chicago, Gypsy, Avenue Q, The Color Purple, and, of course, Hamilton. The book is full of posters from musicals past and present, but perhaps more interesting, the publication contains dozens of designs that didn’t make the cut. “Everyone loves to see the ones that weren’t picked,” said Hodges in an interview. “That’s the joy of pulling these out. Normally we make all of these posters, and they just disappear.”
Hodges says that his firm, which has 115 employees, drafted almost 30 potential Hamilton posters over the course of eight weeks. The following eight, he says, “were our favorites.” Here’s why they still didn't make the final cut.
The Ink Stain Round 1
"It's Hamilton-as-writer, is where this idea came from," said Hodges. "Someone here was in love with the idea that you can do this fairly easily, just make something liquid that then forms these shapes." Hodges clearly liked it, but "it's less about the fact that this wasn't it, and the one we used really was."
The Ink Stain Round 2
"With the single figure, with the green ink, it evokes money and the treasury system," Hodges said. The problem, though, was that the image was too fuddy-duddy. "Whenever you get near the image of the actual man, it kind of takes you out of the tone of the show," he said. "It's just an old white guy, and we were trying to do something contemporary."
"It's a little thin, but it would have animated really well," said Hodges. "A lot of what we make has to move, and this would have written, but it's just too 'Revolutionary War.'" That's not to say Hodges disliked the design: "It's really stark and you can see the shape," he said. "But still, it's a little soft."
The Hand and Quill
"If you look at the one with the wrist and quill, that's exactly wrong," Hodges said. "Because it's cool, but it ends up being very specific: It looks like a 'rock and roll Hamilton,' and that would have pigeon-holed it into a particular place."
The Spray Paint
"That girl would have been a series of different figures in motion, because there's so much of a break dance dynamic" in the show, Hodges said. "The spray-painted flag is really cool; I'd never really seen it, though it feels obvious." The problem, Hodges said, is that "the handwriting is too modern. Again, it's pushing too hard to do 'rock and roll Hamilton.'"
The Dusty 'H'
"It's funny, I don't really have a reason for this," Hodges said. "There was a gunpowder thing, there was explosiveness, the Revolutionary War, and gold, all of that goes into this." There's also the tagline "A Revolutionary Musical," which Hodges decided to drop. "It's better for people to decide you're revolutionary than to tell people you are," he said. "It's just the ego of it."
The Old School 'H'
"I like the gold-metallic one," he said. "I think the idea of doing a classic, old H, and doing it in gold metal like you'd put it around your neck is a good one," he said. "But you know, we started with a wide group of options and drilled down, down, down."
"This is actually a Jay Z pose," Hodges said. "It's not him, but it's based on this thing where he stood there with a coat." The problem is that the writing itself was too thin. "It's very hard, you have to see these on billboards as you drive on the Long Island Expressway," he said. "It's just not easy to read. We needed it to work on transit, and from far away."
The Exclamation Point
"That one was a good one, I just don't think it's a good graphic, in the end," said Hodges. "But we were all intrigued by the language, we thought 'young/scrappy/hungry' were the lyrics that would become iconic."