Rebranding the W3C
Last week, I got an email from Dean Jackson asking me if I would be interested in potentially helping the W3C for a small job. We also discussed a potential rebranding of the W3C logo, although just for fun - not for real use. Dean even suggested I write a blog entry on the work.
What an interesting idea, I thought. But is he crazy?
Given the ups and downs of emotions that always come from uncensored feedback produced by an audience sitting in the ether of the internet, I hesitated at the thought of blogging how I would design a logo specifically for the W3C. I mean, after I was both roundly criticized and praised for the latest iteration of Design by Fire — which I had admitted was nothing more than a quick knock-out to get back control of my blog to produce more content than spend time code tweaking — how could I face that barrage again?
I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. Besides, whatever I came up with should be better than their current logo above. Ultimately, I won’t be the judge of that.
The idea that these characters in mark-up could create an object as well formed as a cube was powerful to me. And yet, when looking at the cube, the characters don’t quite reveal themselves unless you know to look for them. There’s a sense of playfulness and exploration with the shape.
School of Paul Rand
Everyone has certain designers they look up to. One of mine has always been Paul Rand. I’ve always found myself attracted to the corporate logos he has created, along with the sublime playfulness always present in his work. Like many other designers, I was quite annoyed to see one of Rand’s best logos replaced by an unworthy successor.
In Rand’s book, From Lascaux to Brooklyn, he outlines the evolution of a logo idea for Okasan, a Japanese securities company. The original logo is nothing but a thickened, perfectly circular “O”.
Rand notes that in the word Okasan is “OK”, a word “full of meaning and universally understood.” He takes the word “OK”, turns it on its side to discover a simple anthropomorphic figure, something that is easy to discover and remember for the viewer. It’s also easy to draw. Sharpening the letters then rewrapping the figure in a circle reminiscent of the original logo finishes off the design.
An elegant, simple idea that is further strengthed by the unique application of the name of the company to support the logo.
Why am I passing along this example? The evolution of this logo as presented by Rand is the genesis for this blog entry. While I’m not the best judge of my own work, I found the idea I used for the W3C idea to be similar in approach.
Finding an idea for the W3C elsewhere
When Dirk, Bob and I were planning our new design firm, the original name Dirk and I had come with was Syntex Studios. A combination of the words “synthesis” and “technology.” Obviously, it wasn’t the best choice as the word has an awkward, almost sinister sound to it. We finally agreed on Involution Studios, which means “a state of being involved.” This name works for what we want to do and accomplish on so many levels while also being reminiscent of innovation and revolution.
But while the Syntex name was around, I toyed around with ideas for a logo for it. To me, the word “syntex” was similar to “syntax” so I explored ideas down that line of thinking. What is syntax? Well, the word has a few specific definitions, but I settled on the concept that syntax for a technology design firm would have something to do with code. Specifically, with mark-up code.
So I looked at a bunch of mark-up for a while.
And like others who look at a lot of mark-up, invariably one always sees the three characters that create the foundation for mark-up out of all the verbosity in code.
The “greater than,” “forward slash” and “less than” characters.
Evolving the concept
After spending a great deal of time with pencil and paper, I somehow found myself following this simple evolution of an idea using these three characters.
In the end, I discovered a three dimensional cube could be built from the characters. The idea that these characters in mark-up could create an object as well formed as a cube was powerful to me. And yet when looking at the cube, the characters don’t quite reveal themselves unless you know to look for them. There’s a sense of playfulness and exploration with the shape.
Further refinement yields this.
The final result is a subtle nod to using a start tag as the top of the cube and an end tag as the bottom. It also produces a less busy shape that is more pleasing to my eye.
The code cube
Once I had the cube, it became apparent that as a dingbat it could be used in a playful fashion.
The dingbat can be rotated, allowing it to placed near other shapes based on what looks best given the context. I found the 20 degree rotation the most aesthetically pleasing as a default.
It can change color, allowing for one central color to be used as the main brand but also other colors if needed. For example, one section of a website could be color coded based on content and the cube could adjust to match.
Finally, the dingbat can be used with the name to create a single logo but it also works well on its own. If merchandising was an option — t-shirts, baseball caps, pens, and such — the cube makes for a good mark to use on those items all by itself.
Repurposing the cube
However, in the end, the dingbat seemed to have little to do with what we felt were the core values for Involution Studios. Our company isn’t about code or development, even though it plays a role in what we do. So while the dingbat was a novel approach with an interesting backstory, it seemed to have little to do with our firm. We dropped it as a candidate for our company.
Weeks later, after Dean and I went back and forth a little over email, it dawned on me that while the cube made little sense for Involution, it actually made a great deal of sense for the W3C. So I pulled out the cube and went to work on it in conjunction with the letters “W3C.” After playing with many different font variations, I went with Trade Gothic Bold Condensed No. 20.
The W3C is by nature a somewhat conservative organization that is built on strong foundations for their technology. Trade Gothic is a font that helps project that image.
The font itself might be a bit too conservative. After all, the W3C also represents innovation and forward thinking in the world of technology. So to take the edge off of Trade Gothic I bevelled the corners of the font.
The final type face is clean, strong and powerful, yet with a hint of softness. (Editor’s Note: This low resolution sample is difficult to see the difference. I will post a better visual example later.)
The final result
Combine the dingbat with the type treatment and here it is, one idea for a rebranding effort for the W3C.
Since I wound up not using the code cube for Involution Studios, I have offered this logo to Dean Jackson and the W3C for free if they want to use it. A gift from one designer back to a group that has helped make possible a future in this exciting field of high technology design. Even though I grumble and rant about the W3C from time to time, I have the upmost respect for everyone in the organization and all their hard work. I feel this logo would put a stronger, more recognizable and professional face on the organization as it moves forward into the future.
If they choose not to use it, so be it. Corporate logos and brands are a tricky business. It’s very difficult to make everyone happy and find consensus. I’m sure many of you reading this probably don’t care for the logo. Such is the life of a designer. There are plenty of other ideas rumbling through my head if the W3C wants to engage me in rebranding themselves.
Regardless of the outcome, I still found the evolution of this particular idea enjoyable and immensely satisfying.
[Note: New refinment added 09/05/04 to fix object proportions and too much use of solid color.]
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I somewhat like this concept, although something about the dingbat is just a little “off” to me. I can’t really pinpoint it… but it’s there, ya know what I mean?
I really like that decomposition of the OKA SAN logo, love it.
I really love how the greatest logos are made from the simplest of objects. I was once told the sign of a great logo is if someone can draw it in the sand and have it be recognized… if only I could reach that level of success with mine :)
I *love* the logo, but don’t dig the choice of typefaces… the “3” is too symmetrical IMHO. Good work regardless.
Nice job, Andrei! If I’m being totally honest, I don’t love the logo (but I certainly don’t hate it, either!), but I do love the concept and I did love reading this blog entry. The logo is much, much better than their current one and certainly does reflect the nature of the orginazation. In reality, it’s probably perfect. A logo that would really “wow” me probably isn’t appropriate for the W3C — who generally don’t “wow” anyone with anything. :)
No disrespect, of course. They are a vital group. They just simply go about things in a quiet, conservative manner — and your work reflects that.
While I’m not particulary fond of the dingbat, the concept is quite excellent. Turning the cube a little more counterclockwise (so that the forward slash is perfectly vertical) might help it a bit. Even so, I agree with Kyle; something looks off. Can’t quite put my finger on it, though.
The font, on the other hand, is perfect for W3C. I noticed the slight beveling almost right away and appreciate it.
Overall, it’s good to see your thought process in approaching something as tough as branding and logo design.
I love the article and it was intresting to see how that came to be, but I am not very fond of the logo. It is too 3D to be next to the 2D type. I suggest creating a flat emblem or being like UPS and keeping it simple. For something that represents such a big thing I think that the logo needs to be bold and simple like the “O”.
I absolutely love the logo. If only you had as much luck with our Fantasy Football draft as you did with this logo, we’d declare you the winner of the season before week 1. (Note: Draft… not Andrei’s fault… server problems kept him in the lobby).
I think the mark definitely has some RANDomness, which is a great thing, and yet it’s quite original unto itself. How many ways can you do a cube? Apparently, one more. One really good way more.
I can only guess as to what is making a few others think something is “off”, but my suspicion is that it is the angle. I think the angle looks perfectly fine, but perhaps tilting it a few degrees so that the line closest to the bottom is parallel to the x-axis would satisfy the peanut gallery?
By the way, can I just say that if the W3C rejects this logo, I will continue to defame them as the stodgy, emotionless, and ineffectual group they have always been. And if they accept it, I will continue to praise them as the progressive, passionate, and vitally groundbreaking group they have always been.
I love the logo.
Designers will always say “it’s fine but i’ll do it that other way” and never will be 100% happy. But you have kinda already acomplished 90% ;)
Sorry for my bad english :S
I did find one fatal flaw upon further review:
The logo doesn’t validate.
Shame on you! :)
Although the logo, takes some getting used to, I now agree with many of the previous posters in that I think it is fits the W3C perfectly. Its definately a far cry from their current logo, which (IMHO) is a good thing!
Andrei, you’ve done a great job and I hope to see your work used by the WC3 but I also hope you get a chance to go back to the drawing board. While your work is indeed better than what is currently being used, I think they should give you more time to evaluate their needs.
Consider that the standards organization oversees more than HTML, the basis for your inspiration. Even CSS, another W3C project and the first cousin to hypertext markup language, has it’s own unique format and structure. The task becomes even more difficult when you consider W3C’s other initiatives like PNG and SVG which aren’t even languages at all.
On top of all that, the brand also needs to scale to accommodate future languages, formats, and programs that might be unknown or even unheard of today.
In this manner, the W3C is the ISO of the digital world. I don’t think the ISO brand is going to win any design awards but I do think the W3C is in a similar boat.
It’s a very interesting project and I hope you’re able to catch their attention with the work you have already done. Then go back and come up with a modified design that will knock Paul Rand off the map.
Good luck, this could be a nice home run for your the new studio!
I figured out what was bothering me. When I look at the dingback I instantly see a hexagon with some f-ed up line going through it making it unsymetrical. It takes a lot of hard work to see the cube, and in fact - if you didn’t tell me it was a cube I would have assumed it was some messed up hexagon.
If you can find a way to make it not look like a hexagon (and more like a cube) I’d be a lot more down with it. Also the thickness of the lines is a bit much for my tastes… it increases the boring quotient by at least 10% with those thick lines. Actually, are you going to publish that? Start again man.
I’m a bit lost here trying to figure out what a cube has in common with the W3C. The cube reminds me too much of a diagram of a molecule.
It’s abstract, and a bit funky, but it has no relationship to the subject.
I would focus on the W3C tagline “Leading the Web to Its Full Potential”, and drive toward something that is expanding and moving forward. A box is something you close up and tape shut.
Then again, what do I know, I think the new UPS logo is one of the best designs in the last ten years :)
I really loved to see how you evolve concepts from a simple thought to a fully fleshed-out idea. Very inspirational.
I’ll probably have to let myself sit with the logo for a while before I could even begin to decide; logos, with them being so well known, often look strange when redesigned just because we’re used to seeing a specific branded mark. A lot of us have small issues with change. :P
The most brilliant part, as far as I’m concerned, is the use of blue (2 of them, actually). Great job! If they don’t use it we’ll threaten to start putting <marquee> elements in random locations in our markups ;)
This entire process reminds me of how I started playting with 3 “W”s and tried to make an “abstract flower” out of them… man, that sucked!
Regarding Greg’s comment about the W3C being more than XML-based standards, I agree in theory, but in practice you’ll see that many corporate brands are related to defunct products or stuff like that. The W3C can rebrand if their focus switches to schema-like syntaxes ;-0
I’d like to see this dingbat on a “valid XHTML” button!
It might not validate as XHTML, but it does validate with success against the CoolLogo 6.9 standard. The DOCTYPE is secret the the standard is real :-P
It’s somewhat of an abstract concept: Code, or the foundaitons of code, create something tangible and real. In this case, that real form is a cube. In that regard I think the code cube has everything to do with what the W3C stands for.
I probably should have explained that better in the text.
Be careful… I might have ban your IP. 8^)
Actually, SVG is very much an XML style mark-up language that creates vector graphics. But I get your point.
I wasn’t attempting to be explicit with the cube. In fact, if you never saw this article, you might not see the tags in the creation of the cube object. (Kind of like many people don’t see the arrow in FedEx until it is pointed out to them.) It would be just a cube, and the cube would have to be evaulated on whether it made any sense for the W3C or not.
The fact there is this backstory and meaning to the cube is what makes the object interesting, imho. Consider the Paul Rand example: What does a little stick figure have to do with securites exchange? Yet, the thought process that went into the logo somehow makes it appropriate, and one can see that the business of securties exchange in many respects is about people.
While a bit more of a stretch, the cube represents a real object, something that exists in reality. In this case, that reality is constructed from the foundations of mark-up code. I think that has weight in what the W3C is all about across thhe board, not just HTML as one of the specs they have created.
But I’m biased, obviously.
While I can agree with a lot, or see various sides of a debate, I’m not so sure I can agree with this.
A great effort ! Love the dingbat.
I must agree with Greg on the scalability across other languages and platform thing. In that light the logo should be able to convey the message without the use of text.
Talking about scalability: if you use text, like you did here, the size of W3C compared to the tagline and dingbat is to big to scale down (IMO).
This I do agree with. The proportions of the dingbat when accompanied with the type is definitely off. It does need some adjustment.
I am curious about this process. We always hire outside help for any branding work we encounter in our business. I have always wanted to learn more about it, and this blog has probably given me more insight into the process than all my conversations with creative directors ever had. I had no idea who Paul Rand was before I read your post, and I have now just spent 2 hours Googling and reading about him.
I have some questions. What is the roll of a dingbat when it is associated with a corporate name? It seems Paul Rand preferred to incorporate the company name as part of the dingbat. Yet other companies have done away with the company name altogether when using their dingbat: Apple and Nike being the two most famous examples that I can think of at the moment.
As an Aside: Paul Rand’s most famous designs all have a very similar look about them. I am assuming this is an example of the “Swiss Style” that is alluded to in his bios. These logos are as much Paul Rand as they are IBM, so would a Paul Rand logo be appropriate if you are not a large North American multinational company?
Take his NeXT logo, for example. It really seems out of place compared to his other work. For more reasons than the use of perspective, I think. Maybe this is a case where his style was at odds with the Start-up nature of NeXT.
I realy don’t know if that was your hidden meaning, but what i saw first was not a cube, but old HTML brackets (without forward slash) shifting into XHTML (with the slash). It was probably because the blue lines took my attention over the gray ones, and if you look it that way, it has a sense—W3C is transforming (blue lines) HTML into XHTML and the difference is trailing slash (blue).
As one of the pot-stirrers, I have to thank Andrei for donating his time and work in this way. We’re very lucky to have a community that cares about the way we present ourselves, is willing to make suggestions and, in this case, follow them through.
I have to admit that I very much prefer Andrei’s logo to the existing W3C logo. However, the W3C works on a consensus basis (for everything if possible), so I wouldn’t be surprised if there are months of discussion before any rebranding :(
I hope we (both W3C and me) get the opportunity to work with Andrei in the near future.
I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw that you chose Trade Gothic Bold 20 as the W3C font. I’ve been using that for since the inception of Blocklevel. The font itself was pointed out to me by a good friend of mine (Hello Holly!) who fell in love with the font at first sight.
It’s a good font that is both modern and conservative. The Bold 20 face also likes to be kerned tightly, especially in print. I hope it serves you well.
Dean, keep fighting the good fight. I assume that everyone on the various W3C boards has seen what Jon Hicks, Steven Garrity and the rest of the gang at Silverorange did for Firefox and Thunderbird with their new logos and art direction.
I hope this isn’t off topic and I haven’t read through all the comments, So I apologise if this has already been said.
Whilst you are at the logo how about a design fab five re-working of the W3C home page, it would be really nice to point potential clients at the W3 website, having pushed standards, and not have them recoil in horror. Though I guess this is where this is all leading.
I like that design a lot, too! My only question is, will it scale down small enough to be put on those tiny little validation logos? :-D
It wouldn’t need to — all you would need there is either the dingbat or the W3C text.
Redesigning a logo of an organization as well known as the W3C is an unenviable task for any designer as it offers a no-win situation I believe.
With that said, the problem I see in the logo when compared to the Rand treatment is that you took a simple piece of code and made it even more difficult. Rand took “OK” and simplified it to the point that now it looks like a human so even if you didn’t notice the OK part you at least noticed the human part. With your cube the mind is left wondering what exactly it is supposed to be.
The beauty of keeping things simple is that you can form an image immediately and after further study might be able to find something even deeper. Sort of like the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo. In any case as you stated it is nearly impossible to do any worse than their current logo and I am glad to see someone stepping up to the plate to help out this organization. All the best.
Sorry about the double trackback. It looks like my journal software is not working properly with trackbacks.
I like the logo. I noticed the difference in the corner tapering right away. It looks quite professional.
That being said, I have never been one for going with just one idea of a logo. Some of my best logos have been the tenth or eleventh incarnation.
If the W3C does follow through with this, I’d love to see other ideas pursued.
Andrei, can you tell what the reasons were not to use the ‘cube’ logo for your own company, and why these reasons do not apply to the W3C? After all, a logo should fit the organization at hand, so reusing an idea that has already been developed would miss out on the characteristics unique to this organization.
I agree with Kim on the iterative nature of logo design (or any design branch). I would be really surprised if Paul Rand hasn’t sketched a single other design for Okasan before he thought of the final thing.
To pose an additional challenge: develop two additional logo concepts to the same level of detail and post them with the reasoning behind them. You might just be surprised by your results (and the reactions).
A fantastic concept - but in the end result the grey isn’t strong enough, and there’s too much blue. Maybe use a black for the ‘World Wide Web Consortium’ text and the angled bracket characters, and use a darker blue, or at least one with more red or green in it. (Or maybe not! Once you’ve changed the colour of the aforementioned elements, perhaps there’d be no need to change the blue! I can’t tell just by looking.) I can see that working pretty damn well.
Oh, and a final comment: you can’t do much worse than the redesign of the validator, now, can we? :)
“[Involution Studios] isn’t about code or development, even though it plays a role in what we do. So while the dingbat was a novel approach with an interesting backstory, it seemed to have little to with our firm.”
Given that the W3C is all about code, technology and development, I felt the concept had a lot of merit for it. It’s not like I was repurposing the dingbat simply because I had it. It was because it struck me as being entirely appropriate for the W3C.
I started sketching a few ideas, but then remembered I had the code cube that I never used. It was a happy acciddent. (But if the W3C were to hire me, I would obviously think about the problem more.)
As for Rand, you might want to read up on him. He was notorious for presenting clients with only one logo solution and getting paid for the privelege. He never showed clients multiple options. In fact, in his book A Designer’s Art (IIRC), he equates offering multiple sketches to a client to having the client hire monkeys do the job. The point being the client hires him to think and solve a problem, not offer multiple choice solutions to appease the client’s desire to see that he did a lot of work on the project.
David, I agree there’s too much blue. Moving the cube placement and adjust W3C size works better as well. Something like this variation I added to the end of the article more appropriate.
Where to put the full name is the biggest hurdle I think. Somewhere not near this logo feels like the correct solution.
By the way… I take this is a tad bit of an insult. As if I don’t understand the process of design. People need to stop making assumptions about what I don’t reveal on this blog.
Rand defintiely seemed to favor using the name in the logo itself. Either way seems entirely appropriate, as long the company name plays a significant role in the logo. You’ll note both Apple and Nike didn’t drop the name until the symbol had been burned into the mind of consuming public.
Rand was a modernist and his style very much reflects that approach to design.
Rand did a variety of logos and not all for multinationals. In fact IBM and UPS weren’t really multinationals until much later after Rand designed their logos. I recommend buying “Paul Rand” by Steven Heller for a really good background on one of the great designers of the 20th century.
You should’ve stopped at “</>” in my opinion. Those three characters alone form a very nice logo. In any case the box is very cool too :P
Nice article Andrei, the process of creativity is interesting.
I like the W3C logo, but there is something that seems to be just stopping it from being great; although I can’t quite see what.
I prefer the uncolored dingbat, the colour distracts me from seing the 3D object, but I don’t think this is the issue.
I think maybe it’s the text and dingbat not feeling like a single element. Don’t know how this would be achieved. Maybe something like:
first up congratz on the opportunity…
second nice typeface….
third using the two colors in the cube is more effective when you do it symmetrically in my opinion eg, the same on top and bottom with the other color for the sides. I think it fails now as you have made it a-symmetrical and has no continuity and is a distraction.
just my 2¢
Andrei - is this a dream? What an absolutely overwhelming opportunity and well deserved at that. Your concepts for the logo are excellent and will serve the organization very well. I am very excited to see energy put into the W3C branding and by none other than you.
To start with the right thing: my apologies, I never intended it to get through harsh, let alone as an insult. Maybe I did wrongfully make an assumption on what you didn’t reveal.
Thank you for pointing me to the paragraph I apparently missed, and elaborating on the thoughts behind the match you made.
I’d really be interested in the other trains of thought you may have (that’s why I mentioned developing and showing more concepts :-). In my experience, hindsight straightens a design process; I’m interested in what goes on when a designer is in the midst of the process. Your posting left me with the feeling that ‘this was it’, instead of a real-time peek into a design stage.
That’s what I missed: the status of this design. Is it (see below) a presentation to your client, or a loose design concept, waiting for further development, shared at an early stage with your readers?
Thanks for the reading tip, I’ll try yo get my hands on that one. I agree that in the end you should present one design to the client (with the arguments and discarded alternatives to back your proposal if necessary).
Please don’t get me wrong here, I see the strengths of your proposal,though I feel it still hasn’t fully left the ‘geek camp’. Guess I was in a bit of a ‘critics’ mode earlier on. ;-)
No harm no foul Jeroen. As I said, I was only a “tad” insulted, which in my book means I was only a minorly peeved for the duration of the time it took me to read the sentence. I have a pretty thick skin for the most part. 8^)
As for other ideas and trains of thought, those will have to come at a later date. I got into about three ideas before I remembered the code cube. Maybe I’ll get time to post them some other time. We’ll just have to see.
This design is probably both a presentation if it somehow worked the first time out (with minor refinements) and also a blog entry on one thought process behind designing a logo. As the latter, its only as useful if people find the thought process interesting.
Something else in the dingbat is a hidden W, which just makes it more appropriate for the W3C. It’s brought out by the colour highlighting, but the left stroke is broken, so it’s probably not worth emphasising specifically IMHO.
Good work Andrei. I don’t think the tag cube is quite there yet but it’s a really interesting idea. I think the W3C should open this up to other designers as a competition, since we all benefit from their presence and use their specs/validators every day. Could be a fun way to find the perfect logo.
With this in mind, I felt so inspired on an otherwise boring Sunday that I went ahead and had a little fun myself. I hope you don’t mind.
Well, taking this point:
and adding this point:
means you solved the problem in a great fashion. Look at the dingbat and you don’t see just the cube, you see the pieces. Essentially this design lets you ‘view the source’ of the logo. It’s a cube, yes, but it’s built using the foundation W3C oversees, and while it’s a cube by design, it’s also something else, something really quite amazing.
What some people are seeing as “off” is actually just a reaction caused by their expectation of “what a cube must be” because they expect the lines of a cube to be as they have always been. This is what I felt as well, honestly, but that’s not a bad thing at all. When I realized that it was my expectation of the symmetry of a cube that was the source of my reaction, I also realized that you had something truly powerful on your hands. After all, when you are asked to think outside the box, sometimes you have to redesign the box. I think you’ve done nicely, congrats!
The grey still looks pretty rubbish with that blue and that much white. I stand by the ammendments I made in my previous comment.
Andrei, I think the logo is great. I don’t necessarily want to comment further on that. Most people have concentrated their comments on the artifact, over the process used. I like that you used Rand for inspiration and I like your deconstruction of the OKassan logo. Very helpful.
What both that deconstruction and your own explanation for the new W3C logo seemed to be lack was the explanation of why? or what do you want to communicate with the new logo? What is the problem w/ the old logo? Is the problem just merely aesthetics?
I don’t think so. To me the issue is one of creative communications. What is the message that the W3C needs to communicate into its next era and how does or doesn’t the current logo do that, and how does your new design handle this problem as well.
You mention that the W3C is a conservative organization. you state that in a very negative light. Would it be possible that a new logo should express this conservatism—the good points about it—as being guardians of standards, but also bring to bear a new understanding of what that might look like moving forward with a dynamic face.
The use of HTML to make the cube, the use of hte Gothic typeface as you did seems to hold onto both the guardian and the anti-dynamism of the current organization’s brand. I’m not saying that you should go w/ design that is outlandish, but there is an aspect to the problem as I would attempt (pro bono) to deconstruct it against the logo presented here.
I know it is hard when we are asked to do something for free, but if I was to do this as a design exercise, I would still need to even for myself first and foremost come up with a brand and communications brief before I did any explorations of design.
You have clearly created a very well designed, attractive and functional logo for the W3C. Nice job!
I am struck by something that seems, to me at least, to be missing; the human element. I know a lot of people (or maybe a few, I don’t know) are talking about this idea. Hell, I just wrote an article on the subject. The Web is a tool, one that is based on a complex set of technologies that is evolving rapidly. But humans use it, created it and we continue to define it’s meaning.
The W3C is, in fact, a group of people, a community. Their current tag line or slogan (the primary message) is “Leading the Web to its full potential.” Huh? I was under the impression that humans lead other humans (or their pets). The term “lead” has certain connotations. “Leadership” is something we associate with society, individuals, nations, and things that are human in nature; they consist of the living. Terms such as “develop” and “create” are ambiguous as they could refer to living and non-living matter.
So, my point is that the W3C has a larger issue to deal with: their overall image, identity and messaging. The logo is a very important part of this and I think should communicate the human element, not just the technological.
My two cents, but very nice indeed.
Looking at the updated logo and keeping in mind teh thought process that went into developing the cube originally, if you flipped the cub once to the left the lines would nearly form the number 3. I think it would be sublte enough not to be glaring yet people would make the connection.
How does the Nike logo communicate? Most people don’t realize the swoosh is intended to be wings on the sides of your shoes. The Apple logo? It’s just an apple shape. The FedEx logo? With it’s subliminal arrow?
I explained my use of the code and cube, that code creates a form or shape in reality. Maybe I was being too subtle, but I said:
“The idea that these characters in mark-up could create an object as well formed as a cube was powerful to me.”
That seemed to be perfectly in line with how I think about the W3C. They create standards for code and development, we turn code into real things.
No need for a formal communication and brand decontruction in this case for me. Especially as pro bono. It was a synthesis of events and work that occured that seemed to make it fit.
Great job and even better post. It’s always nice to know how others think when doing a logo or a design, and you have shared more than enough.
Only one thing bothers me: the color of the cude. I feel that the gray used is not the best choice as I feel that it’s rather blurred. But I can’t say what you should have used instead.
Also, for a fraction of a second, I felt that you “cheated” when you announced you were going to create a logo from scratch and you turn up to use an old logo you did a while ago. But that feeling was gone after I had finished reading the whole post.
Have you considered skewing the cube so the “sides” are parallel with the slash? Like many others, I like the concept but something bothers me about the current iteration. I think the use of 4 distinct angles, when a wireframe cube would have only 3, is what throws me.
I think you’ve got a strong gene pool for “evolving the concept” but haven’t found the most fit phenotype yet ;-)
Andrei, I think you missed my point. I wasn’t asking you how you came up with the idea. That was clear. What was missing is, what do you want to communicate about hte brand.
Take Nike … the swoosh … well its a swoosh … it evokes speed, flight, etc. I don’t need to see a wing, it is a line in motion. The communication strategy is around excellence and performance.
If I try to apply a “brand” statement to the dingbat and total logo. I see a something technical and conservative. What we already know about W3C … I was suggesting in my post that what the w3c needs more than anything is to promote what we don’t know, or more importantly a mix of watchdog + technical innovation.
I think its a job well done. I like the thought process behind it. My only comment is one of height: I always find that “squarish” logos can cause trouble for me, particularly on the web. The moment you want to go small with it you are dead because it can only be downsized to a point. I’m not sure all the ways the W3C logo is used, but if it ever needs to be small you could run into some trouble. Possibly playing with ways to make it a bit “more rectangular” would help if making the logo smaller is going to be a need.
Great work! I like it.
Scaling is a problem.
At normal sizes, - not the 350 pixels by 200 shown - the type reading ‘World Wide Web Consortium’ is unreadable. The condensed face makes this worse.
The cube has linear elements that exist at 4 distinct angles. Antialiased reproduction of angular linear elements favours 0, 45 and 90 degrees. Other angles reproduce with varied accuracy. The logo as shown is very susceptible to this problem, since antialiasing for the the different line angles happens with varying distortion. This is worse at small sizes as the minimum resolution to provide antialiasing - the pixel - approaches the size of the element to be antialiased.
Both these issues can be encapsulated in the idea of dynamics. Music can be analyzed according to the relationship between the loudest and quietest sounds contained within it. The practical result of this is that some music can’t be reproduced at volumes below a certain level - you stop hearing the quiet bits.
In logos and graphics, dynamics is the relationship of the thinnest to the thickest elements. This logo has relatively high dynamics, and so it has to be ‘played louder’ - reproduced at larger sizes - than the web normally allows.
The current W3C site reproduces their logo at 48 pixels high (without whitespace). On most web pages, vertical space is at a higher premium than horizontal (since screens are generally horizontal ). Leaving off the ‘World Wide Web Consortium’ logotext, reproducing the cube and the ‘W3C’ without vertical whitespace makes the cube indistinct and weak. With whitespace top and bottom as shown, and/or with the inclusion of the logotext the problem is much worse.
Edward Tufte suggests information designers always keep dynamics to the minimum useful level - this allows the expressive use of the range that remains. He was referring to colour and contrast, but the same is true in the linear dynamics of graphics. especially logos, which are reproduced at multiple scales. Reversioning logos for varying scales corrodes the brand-identification of the logo.
I admire the courage of revealing process, and I trust that these comments will only be taken as constructive.
I like what you’ve done in the slightly reworked version. I think there’s more balance in the placement of the cube now, and the grey ‘C’ lets the ‘W’ and ‘3’ become more connected, making it more apparent (if not obvious) that they should be read as the triple w. Nice!
And to jump on your little UPS logo rant: you can leave your online condolences at Logo R.I.P. There’s even a page for the NeXT cube. :-)
I like it — it’s professional, clean, talented, and visionary. It shows sincere thought to structure and look — a vast improvement over the original, it also showcases your talent as a unique designer with skill that doesn’t come from copying the mainstream of other works.
I like the logo visually. Very nice. The only nit-pik comment would be that the W3C is about much more than html markup, but, that said, that’s mainly what people associate with it, so perhaps that’s not a bad thing.
As with all logo design work, multiple versions for multiple sizes would be created to correct hinting at smaller sizes. In this case, the lines of the cube would be thickened to give the cube more weight at smaller sizes
Further, as I stated in the article, the dingbat can move, so at small sizes, one simply moves the cube directly next to the W3C to maximize height for the a more readable W3C. (So its as loud as is appropriate for the size.) Also, the cube can be left off and just use W3C if so inclined.
The approach provides for maximum flexibility for its application across multiple media and sizes.
And once again, I’m somewhat at a loss how to respond to posts from people that seem to beleive I have little understanding of these issues. Oh well.
I stated that I felt code creating reality was a very powerful concept. While it didn’t work for my own company, it seemed to make perfect sense for the W3C, as that’s is what the organization is primarily about. That’s what the logo communicates. The W3C creates code specifications and technology that others, like ourselves, create real products with. Code is an abstract entity, but it forms the building blocks for something real that we create.
Maybe I didn’t state that strong enough in the artcle.
That was not the intention of the comment. What I wrote was not a private communication with you, but a comment for a varied audience. Your abilities are not in question, but people who have solid skills like you usually have the confidence to deal with feedback.
Reasonable, but not all designs need to do this. For instance, Rand’s work (IBM, ABC, Cummins as example) has an intuitive grasp of graphic dynamics that elides the need for this. ‘Hinting’ like this is, in my experience problematic because despite the best efforts of designers, a great deal of the use of logo and identifiers ends up being at the de facto mercy of non-designers. Excessive variation or conditionalities produce confusion in these cases.
To quote my graphics prof, “If you can omit it, you probably don’t need it.”
My comments were about dynamics, and I don’t think that should suggest a solution that eliminates what has clearly absorbed a good deal of thought and development. The cube, taken to its full development, has much greater potential than the type to act as an identifier. Does the suggestion that the cube be eliminated in small sizes suggest your lack of confidence in it? That can be a useful voice to listen to.
While I know that you would be familiar with the arguments I put forward, that doesn’t invalidate them, I would think. For instance, I’m sure you also know that ‘thickening the lines’ on such a linear form sould be problematic. The cube is an interesting form because of the balance between and inner and outer spaces, and the critical connection between these spaces is the gaps where the grey caret forms approach the vertical axis of the cube. These appear to be round line caps, which ties you to a radius, and so thickening the lines would of course alter the width of the gaps, make the lines ‘stubbier’ , shutting the interior spaces off from the outer white space, and generally change the dynamics of the logo form.
My suggestion would be that this logo would be an interesting use of SVG, and not only because of the client. A resolution independent version would allow a more effective exploration of the form.
Design by fire implies a little heat…. ;-)
I can appreciate that. It just sounded like a design 101 lesson, and since this is my blog, you have to remember the context I read these things in.
I beg to differ.
Due to the mechanics of printing, all logos require some form of adjustment at various sizes. Usually refinements in line weight and curve, even Rand’s. (See: Enron, UPS, Westinghouse) That is what I was referring to. In my cube example, the line weight of the cube has to be adjusted at various sizes so as to maximize density without losing proportion, whether it be pixel or paper based media. That’s just the nature of the beast and all logo work requires it.
Except in caes where the entities are intentionally designed to work apart. Think of the Nike Swoosh and Apple logo. Even my Design by Fire logo allows for the flame to live on its own. Once a brand reaches critical mass, the dingbat can often be separated.
In the case of the cube, the design is that the cube can be used playfully, not locked into a single location near the typeface. That is intentional, and in fact displays my confidence in the form to be strong enough to live on its own.
It is, but not to a degree that I find problematic. Even Rand’s examples in the UPS logo with the bowtie, the NeXT logo with the thin rotated type, or what he did for Westinghouse (my favorite logo of all time) have the issues you are talking about.
I’m thinking of writing up a secondary blog entry to this one to show the application of this logo, at various sizes, on various media, etc. Maybe that will make this all the more clear.
Nice job Andrei, all that’s left is to deal with the programmers and other such non-designers within or related to the W3C who insist on giving you feedback as if they were designers themselves…
Taking liberties with the Paul Rand “multiple design iterations / design-by-monkey” reference, I believe the opposite tends to apply equally: clients who assume they know enough about design to tell you what’s wrong with your logo are usually akin to monkeys :)
Wow, you are a bit of a glutton for punishment. I don’t know how you can take it. I guess in one sense a lot of these people’s opinions don’t really matter, but still it’s like death by a thousand paper cuts!
The thing that really irks me is that you take the time to show folks how you arrive at a concept and in return they answer with, “I don’t like blue, or grey or whatever.” You were good enough to create the concept, I think it’s safe to let you choose the color palette too.
I’m saving this article as an example to myself and every new designer I hire. I think it’s a great demonstration of the difference between a stylist and a designer. You sir, are a designer.
I think you’ve answered this design problem nicely, congratulations.
BTW, I apologize if I missed this in earlier comments or in the article, but I liked the way the cube worked as in W-cubed, like to the power of three. Works on so many levels, nice!
Nice post!. Now i try re-design the logo for my biz.
But it’s criptic for new users?
Glad someone finally point that out. I don’t want to explain everything all the time.
And yes, this was again another happy accident that I noticed back when I was toying repurposing the cube. The original logo I had done was simply W3 with the cube next to it, but Dean felt the organziation couldn’t deal with dropping the “C” so I added it back in. Muting the C with the gray adds that nuance back in.
BTW, thanks for the kind words.
Look what happens when you allow the uneducated, like me, to post comments…yikes! :)
I really like the concept behind the cube/dingbat and appreciate you posting the thought process behind it. For someone like me, that loves graphic design but can’t design to save my life, it’s really nice to see a post like this. Thank you for taking the time to do it.
From a purely visual perspective, the dingbat placement is what throws me off when I look at it, particularly when the tag line is included. It just seems to be floating out there, not related to anything else in the logo. Maybe it’s just me, but creating a tighter bond with the rest of the logo (with some alignment perhaps) would help it not feel awkward.
Also, one question: With the new coloring (I like the gray “C”), would you also recolor the tag line to match? Or have you dropped the tag line completely?
I am impressed, very much so, by your creativity with the cube and your step-by-step thought process. Now, what can you do with BirdieBusiness, your Uncle Mike’s proprietary logo?
If this message gets thru, as did NOT previous attempts, perhaps we can start a family dialogue.
Best regards to you, your spouse (?) and your mother and father and sister.
MVH in Bethlehem, PA
this, from the guy that said (loudly):
“FUCK THE W3C!!!!”
selective memories for all…
I said, “[Expletive] the W3C.”
Get it right if you are going to quote me.
What, no Comic Sans? Okay, seriously, I love the graphic elements. The color is good. The font is a little to be desired though. Why not pick something a little more articulated and techy (more boxy)?
wow that logo is awesome.. i love it, its so simplistic, yet not all at the same time.. very cool!
Nice work, but in my humble opinion all dingbat’s lines a too thin or it’s only seems to me? :)
Love the information about Rand and also his and your detailed processes for addressing this task. I think the evolution of the Okasan logo and your W3 logo here are equally impressive. As was said, what’s especially great is how things seem to evolve from nothing. Taking the obvious, those simple staples of markup, and evolving something so perfectly appropos for the W3 as a well-formed cube is the kind of thing that just makes you go “hmmm…” And hopefully smile a little too. :)
I must say though, I take issue with the rounded ends to your strokes in the dingbat, as well. To me, they communicate a fluidity and softness that I don’t feel anywhere else in the design. The font is very crisp, the strokes themselves invoke the cube, etc.
Though, that feeling of smoothness and fluidity might be worth evolving. That is, if you feel at all that the W3’s image lacks that, as many do, myself included sometimes.
I knew I’d seen that cube before. Its the grumpy cubes from Terrahawks
Never mind redesigning their logo, when are they going to get you to redesign their site?!
Like the logo, but maybe prefer it turned a little clockwise so the slash bit is definitely and deliberately not vertical. At the moment it looks like it’s supposed to be vertical but not quite right. I don’t like the placement of the dingbat relative to the W3C either - the two bits don’t really relate to eachother to my eye. I’d like to see one with the logo on the same line, left or right, as the W3C - even if it’s a little “boring” that way.
Such a logo is often going to be used on websites, where vertical space is at a premium. If you have to fit into a certain-sized box, I’d rather have both lettering and dingbat side-by-side at their biggest possible size, than offset and both reduced.
Still, what do I know? I’m just a programmer! :)
i don’t think the logo is very good at all. it’s like something a first-year community college student would design for their grandpa’s RV dealership. the idea of the slash/code making the logo is good (and easy, and predictable, and generic), but your implementation is just awful. i kept scrolling down the page, following the concept, and waiting for something good. then - i got to the comments. what? that was the final logo for the group responsible for some of the most important aspects of the Internet?
so did you mean to say “[Expletive]* the W3C,” [Expletive]** the W3C,” or “[Expletive]*** the W3C?” you are evasive at all turns, even when your detractors have valid points (see above). you’d do well to listen to other people sometimes… and not just dead, famous designers that you dare to compare yourself to.
* = starts with an “a”
** = starts with an “s”
*** = starts with a “c”
Such courage of conviction from someone unwilling to post their real name to take accountability for their words. Ah well. If you can’t see how posting such an opinion anonymously further weakens your criticism, not my place to enlighten you.
Like I said, some people would like the logo, some wouldn’t. Way it goes. Some people think Rand’s ABC Television logo looks amatuerish.
To each his own [anonymous] opinion.
I do listen. And yet, how can one listen to someone who doesn’t even have the fucking balls to stand behind his own opinion by putting his real name on his own words?
As for listening to others, I take into consideration certain aspects of critique that I find useful. Listening to others does not mean doing what they say. Especially in design. Doing what others say outright is design by committee, and design by committee will always fail to produce great design.
Amen. No shit and hell ya.
Been alot of this sentiment going around. Too much unvalidted opinion and way to much focus on consensus. You know, today I’ve thinking that too much time is spent in Web design on visual detail.
That might not be the case. It could be that designers who have too many other people chime in on their work (in comments, or because they aren’t empowered to push their own work through, or ?) spend too much time listening to what others have to say about their work—constructive, relevant, or otherwise.
I’m guilty of this. Damn it.
Anyway, I loved the post and the discussion. Andrei, you never fail to get me fired up—and I mean that in the best way. Wish I wasn’t so late to the discussion.
Oh and I think the logo is better than the old one, for what it’s worth, which isn’t much. ;)
As an absolute amateur I dare to write a comment. I love the idea of this logo. The way you came out with it is rather interesting. My only problem with it is that when I first looked on the logo (and I hadn’t read the article) I didn’t see a 3D cube there. I thought it was a hexagon. After I read the article and a step by step description I saw a 3D cube.
Can be that my vision is not creative enough ;)
Art and Design are about being happy with what you have produced, if you are happy with it then I don’t see why you should worry about other people’s opinions, you did it as a favour and produced a piece that you presumably are happy with yourself. Good Work, A Job well done.
Late to the party…
Andrei, fwiw, is there supposed to be an image of the cube logo above or immediately below the pullquote, beginning “The idea that these characters…”? Because without the final design presented, I had to follow the evolution of the design, which leaves me leaning more to the initial concept of < ⁄ > than its current evolutionary state, the cube design, which I feel is still a most needed genetic mutation or two before it is perfect.
So, maybe had I seen the cube first, I’d feel differently, but when I look at the cube, something is definitely amiss, but I don’t know what it is. All I can come up with is that it seems flimsy and unable to support any weight. Not that is the purpose of a logo/mark/dingbat/whathaveyou, but I wouldn’t trust the cube out on its own.
Then again, I have a fixation that if a cube isn’t Borg, what’s the point?! :)
You know, I tried using Andrei’s as a basis for creating my own… Well, it was tough work. I don’t like the cube, right off the bat. But I think everything is subject to interpretation when it comes to design concepts. It reminds me of either a TIE fighter or a bow tie, depending on how I crane my neck. I can say, Andrei, yours is way cooler than mine.
Of course, you could always open it up and let the critics design their own…see if they can do any better.
Great one, I like the dingbat too. When can we see this in ‘production’? :)
I think this is always an argument from people being criticized. In fact, it doesn’t matter.
I beg to differ, Julian. As far as I’m concerned, people who don’t attach their names to their words give off the impression they have something to hide or hold back. As such, the weight or sincerity of their criticism comes into question.
IMHO of course.
Well spoken. But, like “some guy” mentioned, I thought “what? that was the final logo?”. So his criticism had a true point IMHO.
Why not <W3C>?
The color scheme, composition, and “3c” in the logo immediately reminded me of one of my favorite logos: the one for 3com (www.3com.com). Although it is not as polished typographically or in overall execution. I’m not talking about the chrome effect of the 3com logo, it just has a more complete, contemporary and sophisticated finality to it.
I’m not certain of the history of the 3com logo, but I’d guess it took a huge team a long time to create. The idea that you came up with something on your own in perhaps a reasonable amount of time is simply brilliant.
The box can represent the restraint that a standard generally implies - a level of security (fitting neatly into a box). Having it slightly open connotes marginal flexibility and open to improvement and innovation.
What a great fit! As a donated logomark, I think the W3C would be lucky to use it.
Have you tried to integrate W three times inside the cube ? I guess it will rock !
Keepup good working :)
(ps in advance: nope, my info is no longer remembered here :/)
Excellent read, Andrei. I really love your approach to logo design and the way you write about it. Even when you’re writing about someone else’s work and efforts entirely, you make things so easy and transparent that I feel like I’m gaining a plethora of invaluable hints and tips from entries like these.
And a very nice outcome logo, too. The september 5th version is definitely better and nicer. :)
Good job. Just got word of you and Dirk teaming up. That’s awesome. I wish you well. I like the Involution logo. Glad the little W3C glyph went somewhere else. I think it is the color that is keeping me from seeing the cube. And the markup connection seems like an awkward visual stretch. A little.
Cubed? 3? Power of three? Did I just get that?
Nice work. Aloha.