I've started to put together some ideas for an Arkham Sanitarium project and thought you might find the process interesting, or at least entertaining. At this point I'm just sketching out some very rough ideas for a logo design, but the research part of the project is already well under way.
This page is a mish-mash of loose designs and notes. The logo sketches are very basic first impressions of the concept that will get refined over time. I've already decided that the caduceus, the winged Staff of Mercury, won't be part of the design. Why? A couple of reasons. First, up until the late 19th century the similar Rod of Asclepius (a snake wound around a walking stick or staff) was the accepted symbol of medical care. Conjecturally, the Sanitarium was founded before the change. Second, the caduceus has no historical connection to medicine, and it's adoption as a symbol was the result of a huge misunderstanding perpetuated by bureaucratic inertia. The Wikipedia article on the caduceus has an explanation of what happened.
You'll also notice some notes linking the Rod of Asclepius with the Yellow Sign. This is based purely on my own speculation that the inverted torch featured on the cover and spine of the initial printings of "The King in Yellow" is, in fact, the Yellow Sign. Here's a scan of the book from the Wikipedia article:
The symbolism of a torch consuming itself seems appropriate for the corrupting influence of Hastur in the Mythos. Outside of that, I think the inverted torch is a stylized depiction of the Yellow Sign, hence the notable lack of mass insanity among readers of the original book. The actual symbol looks like a tentacle (always with the tentacles!) spiraling around a spike- an almost perfectly inverted depiction of the Rod of Asclepius.
Finally, I started fiddling around with incorporating the Greek letter Psi, one of the symbols of psychiatry.
More rough sketches, with a couple of potential latin phrases. By this point I'm getting discouraged with my initial idea of having a shield shaped logo.
Some more iterations of the logo design. I've grudgingly returned to the round shape I wanted to avoid, but it certainly looks better than any of the shield designs. At the bottom are a few notes about how the accepted physical location of the Sanitarium in Arkham came to be. I'm increasingly convinced that both Lovecraft and Wilson drew on the history of the Dexter Asylum in Providence for that and other historical details.
There you have it- the rough beginnings of the Arkham Sanitarium project. With an emphasis on the "rough", as my misshapen sketches and horrifically bad handwriting attest. This is different from most pure design projects in that the attractiveness of the final logo isn't the sole criteria of success, at least to my mind. It also has to have a solid grounding in the history of both the real world and the fictional realm of the Mythos.