As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Fedora design team has been working on a refresh of the Fedora logo. This work started in a Fedora design ticket at the request of the Fedora Project Leader Matthew Miller, and has been discussed openly in the ticket, on the council list, on the design-team list, and within the Fedora Council including at their recent hackfest.
In this post, I’d like to do the following:
- First, outline the history of our logo and how it got to where it is today. It’s important to understand the full context of the logo when analyzing it and considering change.
- I’d then like to talk about some of the challenges we’ve faced with the current iteration of our logo for the past few years, with some concrete examples. I want you to know there are solid and clear reasons why we need to iterate our logo – this isn’t something we’re doing for change’s sake.
- Finally, I’d like to present two proposals the Fedora Design Team has created for the next iteration of our logo – we would very much like to hear your feedback and understand what direction you’d prefer us to go in.
Wait, you’re doing what?
Yes, changing the logo is a big deal. While the overarching goal here is evolving the logo we already have with some light touches rather creating something new, it’s a change regardless. The logo is central to our identity as a project and community, and even iterations on the 13-year old current version of our logo are really visible.
This is a wide-reaching change, and will affect most if not all parts of the Fedora community. If we’re going to do something like this, it’s not something to be done lightly. This isn’t the first (or second) time we’ve changed our logo, though!
A history of Fedora’s logo, 2003 to 2019
I have been around the Fedora project since 2004, and for most of that time I’ve been the primary caretaker of the Fedora logo. I’m the author and maintainer of the current Fedora Logo Usage Guidelines document and created and maintain the Fedora Logo History page, and I have maintained the Fedora logo email request queue and lead the Fedora Design Team for most of the past 15 years. I’ve witnessed and took part in most of the decisions that have been made about our logo over the years. The information we’re going to go through for the most part should therefore be regarded as accurate, and where I thought it would be helpful I’ve linked to primary source documents below.
Here is the very first Fedora project logo used in Fedora Core 1 through Fedora Core 4, for at least two years (I believe a simple wordmark using an italic and extra bold / black version of a Myriad typeface):
A couple of years later came the initial public proposal for a complete redesign from Matt Muñoz (at time time from CapStrat) in November 2005:
With some feedback back and forth, this was the final result:
- The lighter Fedora blue used in the infinity symbol was darkened and made less cyan
- The color of the ‘fedora’ text was originally in the dark blue and was swapped for the lighter blue in our current version (this actually results in poorer contrast.)
- Both blues in the final version were shifted more towards purple from a cyan tint.
- The shape of the ‘f’ in the infinity mark was changed too – the ends of the f were blunted and the crossbar of the f was made longer.
- Proportionally, the Fedora infinity logomark was made smaller in proportion to the Fedora wordmark.
Note too, this was 2005, and we only had a handful of high-quality free and open source fonts available to us. This logo is designed with a proprietary font called Bryant (the v. 2 2005 version) designed by Eric Olson. That is one of the reasons we decided to redesign the original sublogo design created for the Fedora logo, which looked like this:
These sublogos relied on the designer having access to Bryant, which would necessarily restrict how and who on a community design team (which was just forming at the time) could create new sublogos for the project. They also rely on having a wide palette of colors distinguishable yet harmonious with the brand, without an understanding how many sublogos there might actually be, so scaleability was an issue. (I would guess we have hundreds. We have sublogos for different teams, different geographical groups, lots and lots o’ apps…)
This is what the Fedora Design Team ended up creating as a replacement for this design, which uses the free & open source font Comfortaa by Johan Aakerlund (who kindly licensed it under an open source license at our request):
Note that even the current sublogo design shown above was not the only one we’ve used – we originally had a sublogo design that used the free & open source font MgOpen Modata created by Magenta, and that was in use for around four years (example design that used it.) We fully / officially transitioned over to Comfortaa (first suggested by design team member Luya Tshimbalanga) back around 2010. MgOpen Modata did not have support for even basic acute marks which was problematic for our global community, because on the design team, we felt the shape of the letters better coordinated with the shapes of the Bryant lettering in the logo. (We had considered multiple other FLOSS fonts as you can see in our initial requirements document for the change.)
This has to be said: A soapbox
I just want to say that the fact the design-team and marketing mailing lists among others have been on mailman for so many years, and because we have Hyperkitty deployed in Fedora, researching all of the specific facts, dates, and circumstances around the history of the logo was quick, easy, and painless and resulted in my being able to link you up to primary source documents (and jog my own memory) above with little effort. I was able to search 15 years of history across all of our mailing lists with one quick query and find what I was looking for right away. I continue to be acutely and deeply concerned about the recent Balkanization of our communications within the Fedora project, but am grateful that Hyperkitty ensured, in this case, that important parts of our history have not been lost to time.
I hope this history of the Fedora logo demonstrates that our logo and brand over time have not been static, nor is the logo we use today the first logo the project ever had. Understandably, the notion of changing our logo can feel overwhelming, but it is not something new to us as a project.
The Fedora logo today probably seems benign and unproblematic to most folks, but for those of us who work with it frequently (such as members of the Fedora Design Team), it has some rough edges we deal with frequently. I would classify those issues as technical / design issues. Let’s walk through them.
It doesn’t work at all in a single color
The Fedora logomark necessarily requires two colors to render:
- a color for the bubble background
- a color for the ‘f’
- a color for the infinity
This makes a single-color version of the logo impossible. (Note single color means one color, not shades of grey.) This has caused us a number of issues over the year, from printing swag with the full logo on it when the vendors only allow single color on particular items (in these cases, we use only the ‘fedora’ wordmark and have to drop the infinity bubblemark, or pay much more money for multiple color prints) to causing issues with our ability to be iconified in libraries of Linux and open source project logos.
This recently caused an issue when an attempted one-colorization of our logo (the infinity symbol was dropped, against our guidelines) was submitted to font-awesome without our permission; because the distribution of that icon library is so wide and I didn’t want the broken logo proliferating, I had to work over my Christmas holiday to come up with a one-color version of the logo as a stopgap because that library doesn’t have a way of removing a logo once submitted.
The solution above is problematic. I say this having created it. It’s a hack – it’s using diagonal hash marks to simulate a second color, which doesn’t scale well and can cause blurriness, glitching, and artifacts on screen display, and also particularly at small sizes won’t work for printing on swag items (the hatch lines are too fine for screen printing processes to reproduce reliably across vendors.) It’s truly a stopgap and not a long-term solution.
It doesn’t work well on a dark background, particularly blue ones
You’ve probably seen it – it’s unavoidable. I call it the logo glow. If you want to put the Fedora logo on a dark background – particularly a dark blue background! – to get enough contrast to have it stand out from the background, you have to add a white keyline or a white ‘glow’ to the back of the logo to create enough contrast that it doesn’t melt into the background.
This is against the logo usage guidelines, by the way. It adds an additional, non-standardized element to the logo and it changes the look and character of the logo.
If you do a simple search for “fedora wallpaper” on an image search engine, these are the sorts of results you’ll turn up, exemplifying the logo flow – I promise I didn’t search for “fedora glow”:
Part of the reason the logo has bad contrast with dark backgrounds is because the infinity bubble is necessarily a dark color. This is related to the fact the logo cannot be displayed in one color. If our logo had a symbol that could be one-color, then display on a dark background is a fairly trivial prospect – you can invert the color of the logo to a light color, like white, and the problem is solved. Since the design of our logo mark requires at least two separate colors in a very specific configuration (you can’t swap the background bubble for a light color and make the infinity color dark), we have this challenge.
I have also seen third parties invert the logo to try to deal with this issue – this is against the guidelines and looks terrible, but perhaps you’ve seen it in the wild, too. On duckduckgo.org image search, this was in the first few hits for “fedora logo” today (note it also uses the wrong, original proposal ‘f’ shape from November 2005):
Typically on the design team we’ve dealt with this using gradients in a clever way, whether inside the dark blue bubble of the logo itself, in the background, or a combination of the two. Here is an example – you can see how we positioned the logo relative to the lighter part of the gradient to ensure enough contrast:
While this solution is workable and we’ve used it many times, it still results in artwork (sometimes even official artwork) ending up with the glow. The problem comes up over and over and constrains the type of artwork we can do. Also note the gradient solution will not work for printed objects, making it difficult to print a good-looking Fedora logo on a dark-colored t-shirt or any blue-colored item. The gradient solution is also far less reliable in web-based treaments of the logo across platforms, where we cannot guarantee where exactly within a gradient the logomark may fall across screen sizes.
It’s hard to center the mark visually in designs
The ‘bubble’ at the back of the Fedora logomark is meant to be a stylized speech bubble, symbolizing the ‘voice of the community.’ Unfortunately, it’s also a lopsided shape that is deceptively difficult to center. Visualize it as a square – three of its four edges are rounded, so if you center it programatically using HTML/CSS or a creative tool like Inkscape, visually it just won’t be centered. You don’t have to take my word for it; here’s a demonstration:
The two rounded edges on the right in comparison to the straight edge on the left makes the programmatically centered version appear shifted slightly to the left; typically this requires manually nudging the logomark to the right a few pixels when trying to center it against anything. The reason this happens is because the programmatic center is calculated based on the exact distance between the rightmost point of the image and the leftmost point. The rounded right side of the image has only one point in the horizontal center of the shape that sticks out the most, where as the straighter left side has many more points at the left extreme used in this calculation.
This is an annoying problem to keep on top of.
The ‘superscript’ logo bubble position makes the entire logo hard to position
One of the things that is unique about our current logo design that also causes confusion is the placement of the bubble relative to the “fedora” text.
It’s almost like a superscript on the text itself. While the logotype (text alone) has a typical basic rectangular shape, the bubble throws it off, pushing both the upper extreme and the right extreme of the shape out and creating some oddly-shaped negative space:
It’s almost like the shape of a hooved animal, like a cow, with the logomark as the head. The imbalanced negative space gives the logo a bit of a fragility in appearance, as if it could be tipped over into that lower right negative space. It also makes the logo extremely difficult to center both vertically and horizontally. Similarly to how we compensate for this as shown in the demo above for the logomark, we have to manually tweak the position of the full logo by eye to center it relative to other items both vertically and horizontally.
This impacts the creation of any Fedora-affiliated logo, sublogo, or partnership involving multiple logos (such as a list of sponsor logos on a t-shirt or on a conference program.)
It means our logo cannot be properly centered in a programmatic way. While those of us on the Fedora Design Team and other teams within Fedora are aware of the issue and compensate for it naturally, those less familiar with our logo, like other projects we may be partnering with or vendors, or even any algorithmic working of our logo (in an app or on a website) is not going to be aware of it. Our logo is going to look sloppy in these scenarios where automatic centering is employed, and for those who catch the issue, it’s going to demand more time and care that should not be necessary to work with the logo.
The position of the logomark is also so atypical that it’s been assumed to be a mistake, and some third parties have tried modifying it to a more traditional position and proportion to the logotype to ‘fix’ it. Here is an example of this I found in the wild (again, from close to the top of hits received from a duckduckgo.com image search for ‘fedora logo’):
The ‘a’ in ‘fedora’ can look like an ‘o’
Bryant is a stylized font, and the ‘a’ in Fedora has on occasion been confused for an ‘o.’ It’s not a major call-the-fire-department type of issue, just one of those long simmering annoyances that adds to everything else.
Technical Issues Summary
Ok, so… that was a lot of problems to walk through. These aren’t all obvious on the surface, but if you work with the logo regularly as many Fedora Design team members do, these are familiar issues that probably have you nodding your head. The more ‘special treatment’ our logo requires to look good, the more hacks and crutches we need to create to help it look good, means the less chance it’ll be treated correctly by those who need to use it who have less experience with it. No single one of these issues is insurmountable, but together they do all add up.
On top of that, there are two more challenges we deal with around our current logo. Let’s talk about them.
Closed source font
For a very long time, I’ve personally been irked by the fact that a logo that in part represents software freedom, a logo that represents a community so dedicated to software freedom, is comprised of a wordmark with a closed, proprietary font. We have wanted to swap it out for a FLOSS font for a long time, and I’ve tried and failed to make that change happen in the past.
In historical context, it makes sense for a logo created in 2005 – even one for a FLOSS project – to make use of a closed font. In 2019, however, it makes less sense. There are large libraries of free and open source fonts out there now, including fontlibrary.org and google fonts, so the excuse of there not being enough high-quality, openly-licensed fonts available just no longer stands.
A logo is a symbol, and a logo using an open source font would better represent who we are and what we do symbolically.
Where we are now
“All right,” you must be thinking. “That’s a hell of a lot of problems. How can we possibly fix them?”
About three months ago, I had a conversation with our project leader Matthew Miller about these issues. He is familiar with all of them and thought maybe we should see if the Fedora Council and if our community would be open to a change. He kicked things off with a thread on the fedora-council list:
“Considering a logo refresh” started by Matthew Miller on 4 October 2018
From there, we agreed that since the initial reception to the idea wasn’t awful, he opened up a formal design team ticket and myself and the rest of the design team started working on some ideas. As we just wanted to address the issues identified and not make a big change for changes sake, I started off by trying the very lightest touches I could think of:
With these touches, you can see direct correlations with the issues we’ve walked through:
- The current logo
- Normalize mark placement – this relates to “The ‘superscript’ logo bubble position makes the entire logo hard to position” above
- Brighten colors – better contrast
- Open source font & Balance Bubble – the font change relates to “Closed source font” above, and balancing the bubble relates to “It’s hard to center the mark visually in designs” above
- Match bubble ‘f’ to logotype – so they feel related
- Attempt to make single color – failed, but tried to address “It doesn’t work at all in a single color” above
- Drop bubble – relates to both single color and imbalance of the bubble mark
- Drop infinity – another attempt to make one-color
- Another attempt at one-color compatible mark
We started working on infinity and f only designs to try to get away from using the bubble so we could have a one-color friendly logo. In order to give a bit more balance to this type of infinity-only mark, we tried things like changing the relative sizes of the curves of the infinity:
We tried playing with perspective:
And we tried all different types of creating a “Fedora-like” f:
These were all explorations in trying to tweak the logo we already had to minimize change.
We also had a series of work done on trying to come up with an new, alternative f mark that was less problematic but still looked ‘Fedora-ish’:
I invite you to go through Design Ticket #620 which is where all of this work happened, and you can see how this work unfolded in detail, with the back and forth between designers and community members and active brainstorming. This process took place pretty much entirely within the pagure ticket, so everything is there.
Eventually, as all great design brainstorming processes go, you have to pick a direction, refine it, and make a final decision. We need your help in picking a direction. Here are two logo candidates representing two different directions we could go in for a Fedora logo redesign:
- Do you have a preference?
- How do you feel about these?
- What would you change?
- Do you think each solves the issues we outlined?
- Is one a better solution than the other?
The most useful feedback is stated as a problem, not a solution. E.g., if you suggest changing an element, to understand your perspective it’s helpful to know why you seek to change that element. Also note that while “I don’t like X” or “I like Y” is a perfectly valid reaction, it’s not particularly helpful unless you can dig in a little deeper and share with us why you feel that way, what specific technical details of the logo (shape, contrast, color, clarity, connotation, meaning, similarity to something else, etc.) you think triggered the feeling.
Please also note this is not a vote. We would love your feedback in order to iterate and push the designs forward. If this was a vote or poll, we’d set one up using the proper software. We want feedback on why you like, don’t like, or otherwise react to what you see here. We are not going to tally “votes” here and make a decision based on that. Here is an example of a very productive and helpful set of feedback that resulted in a healthy back and forth with a new direction for the designs. Providing feedback on specific components of the logo is great brain food for making it better!
This design has a flaw in that it still includes a bubble mark, which comes with all of the alignment headaches we’ve talked about. However, its position relative to the logotype is changed to a more typical layout (mark on the left, a bit larger than it is now) and this design allows for the mark to be used without the bubble (“mark sans bubble”) in certain applications. Both variants of the mark are one-color capable.
The font is a modified version of Comfortaa that is hand-kerned and has a modified ‘a’ to lessen consfusion with ‘o’.
As the main goal here was really a light touch to address the issues we have, you can see that items like the Fedora remix logo and sublogos are only lightly affected: the ‘remix’ logo text is changed to Comfortaa, and the ‘fedora’ logotext in all sublogos is updated.
You can see in the sample web treatment, you can make some neat designs by clipping this mark on top of a photo, as is done under “Headline Example” with the latest Fedora wallpaper graphic.
This candidate I believe represents the least amount of change that addresses most of the issues we identified.
As with candidate #1, the font is a modified version of Comfortaa that is hand-kerned and has a modified ‘a’ to lessen consfusion with ‘o’.
The mark has changed the ratio of sizes between the two loops of the infinity, and has completely dropped the bubble in the main version of the logo. However, as an alternative possibility, we could offer in the logo guidelines the ability to apply this mark on top of different shapes.
As with candidate #1, the main goal here was really a light touch to address the issues we have, you can see that items like the Fedora remix logo and sublogos are only lightly affected: the ‘remix’ logo text is changed to Comfortaa, and the ‘fedora’ logotext in all sublogos is updated.
This logo candidate is more of a departure from our current logo than candidate #1. However, it is a bit closer in design to the various icons we have for the Fedora editions (server, atomic, workstation) as it’s a mark that does not rely on contrast with another shape, it’s free form and stands on its own without a background.
We would love to hear your constructive and respectful feedback on these design options, either here in the blog comment or on the design team ticket. Thanks for reading this far!