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We got a new logo: A story about growing up

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Back in August we updated our logo, toning down the robot that has been with us since 2007 to just being its characteristic eye. The new logo was designed with help from Dutch Icon, who took the most iconic part of the robot and reduced to something new, but with respect for the legacy.

The new logo has been very well received by the design community, but also spurred a lot of questions about why we replaced the robot (which we didn’t actually do).

There were two reasons why we updated the logo, both of which I will explain in detail during the post:

1. We wanted a more practical logo, that was easier to apply in different sizes and situations.
2. We thought it was a natural part of growing up as a company. The business is evolving and so should the brand identity.

I know that second reason might make the hairs stand up on the back of the necks of some the Internet die hards, but before you scroll down to the comment section, read the post and give me a minute to explain the rationale.

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The evolution of the robot

The adorable Iconfinder robot, which now serves as a mascot rather than the main logo, was originally designed back in 2007 by Turbomilk who wrote a nice case study on the project. The idea was to create a character whose job was to scout the web for icons. Last year we decided to give the robot a full service and give a facelift. This was done by the very talented guys at Softfacade, who also did a very nice case study.

Today, the Softfacade’s interpretation of the 2007 robot functions as a fun and beautiful mascot for stickers, t-shirts and backgrounds on the site e.g on our 404 page.

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We wanted something iconic

So why is the robot no longer the main logo? We needed something simpler. Something that could work in small sizes. Something more – dare I say – iconic.

We wanted something that could be used across the board – from the front page of Iconfinder to a button-link like we’ve gotten used to seeing for Dribbble, Facebook and Twitter. That way, designers can display a nice looking link to their profile page on Iconfinder.

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This way contributing designers have an easy way of promoting their stuff, just like they do with Dribbble and Behance.

Reducing complexity down to an iconic eye

Although we wanted to update the logo to a have a more simple form, it was important to us to honor the legacy of the Iconfinder brand. We wanted to keep the new logo recognisable to all the users that already knew Iconfinder, and at the same time create something fresh and modern.

We experimented with different ways of making the robot more simple, but taking a complex character and just simplifying the lines and shape turned out to be a bad compromise. What we ended up doing was to keep the most iconic part of the robot and reduce it to a much more simple form.

The most iconic part of the robot character was the eye, and so we worked to cut away all the complexity and reduce it to one simple form.

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We kept the font from the old logo and combined it with a frontal view of the robot’s eye to make the logo you see today. Because we are designers, that’s of course not the whole truth – there’s actually two versions; one for light backgrounds and one dark backgrounds. The latter sort of wraps the eye in an outline to preserve the shape, making it easy to work with on all colors.

Without the bite it’s just a tomato

With the eye in place, we set out to make it a logo. We wanted a simple shape, but also a shape that would be our own. The problem with having a simple shape is, that it quickly becomes generic rather than identifying the company. The most famous example of this is probably the development of the Apple logo. Rob Janoff, who designed the Apple logo while working for Regis McKenna, first drew a generic apple, but found that it lacked personality and could be mistaken for other fruits with similar shapes – like a tomato.

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Source: http://robjanoff.com/applelogo/

The solution, as we now know, was to take a bite of the apple. For the Iconfinder logo we had a similar challenge. The eye had to be distinguishable from a generic eye while also preserving the legacy of the robot. Our solution to this challenge was to add the lights from the robot, and adapt them to the new form.

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A part of growing up

But why change the brand identity at all? Well besides the practical reasons, like the link buttons and compatibility discussed earlier, it was a matter of growing up. It sounds boring and corporate, like leaving the leather jacket in the closet and putting on a blazer. But, we think it’s a natural thing for a lot of companies to do.

It used to be that creating a company meant serious business from day one. So, unless you were selling ice cream, your brand identity looked like the big boys. Of course you didn’t have the money to hire Paul Rand, but you tried your best to look like you belonged at the grown up’s table. Your logo could still evolve over time, but it was more a question of refinement.

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Source: http://www.shell.com/global/aboutshell/who-we-are/our-history/history-of-pecten.html

Then came the Internet, and everything had to be different. Like any rebellious youth movement, the new companies tried to look different from the dinosaurs of the past. Microsoft and IBM were out, Yahoo and Google were in – and so was the quirky style that now characterizes the early Internet.

After the dot com bubble burst, a new wave of companies started to pop-up. The SasS companies, as they were called, were the mix of old school business tactics – like selling stuff for money – and new wave Internet stuff – like having a funny name and sticking it to the man. Great examples of this phenomenon are companies like Mailchimp. They also started out with a funny mascot as their logo, but have matured over time. Their brand have evolved evolutionarily into having a more grown up profile. The cute MailChimp monkey now resides in the top left corner of the software, reminding us where they came from. The same goes for the Iconfinder robot. We keep it around for stickers, shirts and as an element for the site because it’s a big part of our DNA – but, just like the guys at Mailchimp, we are also growing up so we can provide you guys with an even better service, on all levels.

then-and-now

So no, the Iconfinder robot is not retiring. It now fills an equally important role as company mascot.

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  1. Very well written article. I first realized it had changed when I saw the favicon. Then I looked around to see it was an overall thing. I kind of assumed you changed it to have something like other site like you mentioned. I feel it will become iconic just like you want. It is unique, and it stands out. It works very well as an across the board logo. It fits just about anywhere, and the dark color version and white version help it stand out.

    • We believe that when a logo works without colour, it will work with any colour. We are adding more colour to our overall designs though.

  2. In the dark background column, it seems that you’ve decided for the fourth icon, from top to bottom… but I really prefered the second one! It looks like more, err, more… Oh heck, I liked it very much! :-D

    Congratulations!

  3. Evolution! It’s clean and I definitely feel its from a major player over there in silicon valley. I would wear this on a t-shirt too. Hook us up with some if gear!