1. No theme of mountain climbing or theatre stage, and careful interpretation of "next stage" - I am not looking for a literal translation of "getting to the next stage." If that is inferred by the design without being too obvious, that would be ideal, but not required. I am equally open to an abstract brand mark not connected to the idea of "next stage."
2. No "NSC" as the brand mark - not interested in any design that utilizes NSC.
3 The yellow/gray pattern attached is for color palette suggestion only, with black and crimson as additional colors for consideration - feel free to depart from it, particularly to make it more masculine but refined.
4. No preference on brand mark being pictorial or abstract, but that brand mark is going to be critical to defining the brand.
5 I desire the following finished designs - a more horizontal logo with/without slogan, a more boxy logo without slogan, a reverse type logo, and a stand-alone brand mark - all based on the same concept.
6 No preference on serif vs. sans serif - I am going for more modern vs. traditional