On Logos, Brands, and Mascots

Every team and every project and every company, eventually, has to decide how to best represent and communicate their work to the world. Typically this is housed under the moniker of a “logo” but there’s something deep within my soul that is pretty averse to that word.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen so many terrible ones in my time, especially with the fly-by-night startups that popup (and then disappear) and that generally follow the soup-du-jour design mechanics and whatever is the culturally relevant design zeitgeist.

In other words, whatever is fashionable is simply copied and then regurgitated. Do you remember the time in technology world where everyone and their brother was shortening their name by removing vowels (like “e”), especially the ones that ended in “er”?

Think “Flickr” and that naming convention for every possible web-based startup ever.

Without shame, I too participated fully in those activities and even had a previous project that did exactly what I mentioned above. It even provided a small fiscal exit and was, all things considered, a successful venture.

And since then I’ve named (and renamed) hundreds of projects. Most of them are now long forgotten by the internet but I remember them and I cringe when I think about most of them.

That’s why I decided to name this current project “Pinpoint” and not become too married to it. In fact, in the first “Hello World” post I wrote this explicitly at the end:

I’m calling this project “Pinpoint” for now but I imagine this will change as I get more feedback and as the project and product gets more fleshed-out.

The product, as you can see in the June and July updates, is continuing to become more “fleshed-out” but I’m no more closer to the “final” name than I was when I first began.

This is partly because I simply haven’t thought much about it but the other half is that I’ve been thinking a bit differently about it and even thinking about moving beyond just the logo or brand icon and perhaps even thinking about a “mascot,” if you will.

Two particular and recent examples that I absolutely love is Docker and GitHub – both have memorable mascots, named “Moby” and “Octocat” respectively.

"Moby"
“Moby”
Octocat
Octocat

I love them for a number of reasons but perhaps most poignantly I love them because they make these exceptionally technical products approachable. They make them personable. In fact, they have given them personality and there’s a sense that there’s a story, a narrative behind it all that endears me to the company.

These two are universally recognizable, infinitely scalable, and uncompromisable in their uniqueness. What’s even more amazing is that GitHub’s “Octocat” wasn’t originally from their team – they purchased exclusive rights from the original designer from a stock image site (and even more ironically is the fact that the designer doesn’t even remember designing it!).

Oh, that designer also designed the original Twitter bird too. Go figure.

The question that’s been on my mind for the past few months is whether to head down the route of designing a mascot-like logo/brand icon from the very beginning and if that would be a good investment of my time and resources.

Naturally, this doesn’t “lock” me into anything long-term as many of the most iconic brands and companies have changed their look many times over. If you want and have a few free moments, check out these evolutions of 25 very famous brands.

I’d love to build a product and a company that has so much uniqueness, so much character and personality, that it would demand a characterization, a cartoon, a mascot of sorts. I’m not sure where I would necessarily begin, but, it’s something that has definitely been on my mind since the very beginning.

Thoughts?


Also published on Medium.

2 Replies to “On Logos, Brands, and Mascots”

  1. I’m a fan of Alexis Ohanian’s method of designing cute mascots before the product 🙂

    Ok, maybe not fully before, but I like brands that are personable and friendly, and like to work with brands like that.

    Do you think that branding decisions adversely limit the market that you’ll reach?

    1. Agreed… I mean, it’s hard to hate on Reddit’s mascot, Snoo…!

      In terms of adversely limiting markets… I’m honestly not sure. There are more intelligent people who know the psychology better than I do, but, I’d imagine that as long as the product is exceptionally useful then most people won’t really care.

      But, that’s my non-expert opinion!

Leave a Reply