The shape of things to come: Nightingale’s new logo

I would like to introduce you to our new logo:

Nightingale logo-transparent background

On first glance, this is simply a bird perched atop a coil. Let’s start with the bird: we named our company after a Nightingale for a variety or reasons. In the Winter of 2019 as we were finishing up our schooling, we—my partner Shane Trudell and I—had decided to start a counselling enterprise together. But what would we name it? We spent months going back and forth, but without settling on anything. As two people both with an academic bent, we tried all sorts of names, and, in retrospect, they were all too clever by half. Or to use another phrase that never fails to make me smile, it consistently felt, upon reflection, like a hat on a hat.

One day in late 2019, Shane called me up and said, “how about Nightingale Counselling.” I immediately said yes, and we’ve had that name since. Shane, being the much more poetic of our partnership, thought of the name in reference to John Keats’ poem, Ode to a Nightingale. I knew the title of the poem, but… I didn’t know anything about its content. Sitting down with it all those years ago, I was immediately struck by a number of features:

  • it was melancholic,
  • it spoke of aging and sickness and death,
  • it spoke of the passing of the seasons, i.e. death and rebirth, disappointment, and possibility
  • it spoke of both remembering and forgetting,
  • it is about the narrator’s relationship to himself.

Of course, a nightingale is also a bird and that symbolism also seemed important in naming our enterprise. Birds symbolize flight and movement and possibility. But they also symbolize stability and patience. They meticulously build nests, and after laying their eggs, they must sit patiently day after day waiting for their offspring to emerge. And, of course, birds sing. The nightingale is so named, because this species, unlike most, expresses it song during both night and day. Taken as a whole, it felt like the name Nightingale spoke to both the sad and tough challenges that those coming to counselling face but also the possibilities that counselling provides.

So Nightingale did and still does feel like a good name for the work that we do. The novel part with the new logo is the object on which the nightingale perches. That object is a coil, and it is something I have come to call the shape of life. Some folks think in images and some folks think in abstractions and some folks think… in myriad different ways. I often think in terms of the shape of things. This idea, the shape of life, came to me after reading the following passage many years ago as I was writing my thesis.

Recursivity is not mere mechanical repetition; it is characterized by the looping movement of returning to itself in order to determine itself, while every movement is open to contingency, which in turn determines its singularity. We can imagine a spiral form, in its every circular movement, which determines its becoming partially from the past circular movements, which still extend their effects as ideas and impressions. This image corresponds to the soul. What is called the soul is the capacity of coming back to itself in order to know itself and determine itself. (Hui, Recursivity and Contigency, 2019)

There is lots to chew over in this paragraph, but we don’t have to get too far into the philosophical weeds to extract a basic meaning that fits with my theme around the shape of life. The author, Hui, starts with the word recursivity. That word simply means a return to itself. But if something simply returns to itself without change, then it would exist in an infinite loop. And I think that kind of looping effect—one without change—is familiar to us: that is, the feeling of stuckness. This is something that clients bring into session with extreme regularity. 

But we’re not after stuckness; we’re after the shape of life. The shape of stuckness is a two dimensional loop that simply treads the same path over and over. The shape of life, on the other hand, also incorporates movement or, in dimensional terms, depth. The coil or spiral is a shape that both represents a return—recursivity—but also growth or change. This idea of return isn’t some impenetrable philosophical abstraction, but is something that we all experience on a regular basis. Every day we wake up in the same bed needing to wash our bodies and brush our teeth and get ready to do some kind of work, whatever that may be. That is a return. Some returns are part of the way time is structured, e.g. weeks and months and years conclude and we return to the beginning of the next week or month or year. New Year’s Eve is a celebration of a recursivity.

Some returns are of irregular amounts of time, for instance starting a new job or relationship. Some jobs or relationships take days to complete and return and some last 50 years and more. Irrespective of the duration of the return, the shape remains. This is the shape of life.

And this is our new logo: a nightingale, representing the challenges and possibilities, the sorrows and joys, of clients and counsellors alike, perched on this symbolic shape. Hui calls this the soul and this is what counselling ultimately offers: self-knowledge and the capacity for self-determination.

Nightingale logo-transparent background

This image corresponds to the soul. What is called the soul is the capacity of coming back to itself in order to know itself and determine itself.