When Gary Erickson decided to create an energy bar company in the early 1990s, he turned to his friend and colleague Doug Gilmour for advice on logos. As the two sat in a San Francisco deli, Gilmour grabbed a napkin and began to sketch. His simple design--a climber scaling a ledge--instantly became the imagery associated with Clif Bar.
"You don't get into the bar without going through the packaging," Erickson recalled Gilmour saying. Erickson and his wife, Kit Crawford, launched Clif Bar & Company in 1992 and have grown it into a business with more than 20 products. The Emeryville, California-based company claims a 10-year annual growth rate of 18 percent and has a market presence in 17 countries across North America, Europe, and Asia, according to Clif Bar.
"I get a lot of credit, and my wife gets a lot of credit, but [Gilmour] is like the Steve Wozniak of the company," said Erickson, likening Gilmour to Apple's co-founder who worked alongside Steve Jobs. Gilmour served for 13 years as creative director of Clif Bar, where he was in charge of product packaging and coming up with new brands, like the Luna bars. Gilmour left the company in 2004.
Erickson, who also serves as Clif Bar's co-chief visionary officer, says he owes much of the success to Gilmour, whom he calls the company's secret weapon.
What's in a name?
In the beginning, there was talk of naming the company Gary's Bar, but trademark issues got in the way. During a drive one day, Erickson thought of his father, Clifford, who had introduced him to the outdoors and occasionally signed his name as "Clif."
Gilmour loved the idea and quickly got to work crafting the company's signature block letters--slicing circles and rectangles to form the rounded, block letters of Clif Bar.
"I feel like there are certain things that made Clif Bar successful, and that logo has become an iconic brand, like the Nike logo," said Erickson.
Gilmour went on to create the packaging for some of the company's most successful brands--including Luna, Builder's, Mojo, and Shot, which shows an athlete poised in the running blocks before a race, instead of the traditional imagery that shows someone crossing the finish line.
No longer a "secret" weapon
Gilmour played a huge role in Clif Bar's success, but there was a time when many people didn't know who he was. Because Gilmour parted from the company before it had expanded to 1,200 employees, few were able to put a face to his name--though most were familiar with his work.
In December 2016, Erickson set out to change that and introduced Gilmour at a company meeting. "He and I have a magic thing together," Erickson said. "We're like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. We don't want to play with anyone else."
Now the band is back together, and while Gilmour doesn't have an official title with Clif Bar, he's helping Erickson with the company's new ad campaign. "I can confidently say I don't think we would be as successful without his contributions in the first 13 years of the company," said Erickson.