[ux] Thoughts on a rebranding

Philip L. mail at phlammert.de
Thu Sep 22 16:24:57 UTC 2016

Hey UX team,

I know we’ll meet in a few hours and it’s always a bit stressful to read
new mails right before the IRC meeting, but here are some thoughts I
don’t want to wait with sharing.

We just internally released the style guide. There were some confusions
and questions, Isabel, Elio, Ame and me already could cleared up in
various mails and the Berlin meetup. I am not sure if we communicated
well that this is just the beginning of a process—even though it does
not look very promising if it took us a few months to end up with a
four-pager. Let’s go on with the corporate identity and design work.

In that case we need to clarify, where we want to go to and when. Some
folks already want to adapt existing designs to the style guide. I’d say
for now only new projects or products and media should make use of the
style guide 1.2. I’m afraid in Seattle you will declare this status as
somehow advanced. I’m sure in discussions there will be more questions.
And explaining and defending the style guide might create exactly this
impression of a static result. People will be confused if we make
changes in the nearer future. In today’s meeting we should find a
consent for the Seattle meeting that represents our attitude to a
rebranding. And if we know where we can and want to go with this brand,
you should take the chance and discuss it with the tor team members. We
should not make a redesign without a preliminary endorsement. And of
course we would need the support by officials during the processes.

Isabel’s introductory mail already had some general corporate design
what, why and how statements. I’ll describe in which cases I think a
rebranding is still necessary.

*The onion symbol*
Although the onion symbol is somehow iconic and established it lacks
quality for a few reasons. The style of the onion is inconsistent,
because the bulb has an outline while the sprout does not have. Outlines
are mostly not contemporary. In some cases they make sense. For defining
shape or for contrast reasons. Nevertheless there were version with
another white contour for better contrast to its background. The main
color is beige because the cut-out part is bigger than the skin part. It
should have more purple. Especially the high contrast of beige-purple
makes the performance difficult for any background–may it be white or
black. For this contrast reason the main shape of the symbol is not very
distinct–have a blurry look on it while closing the eyes a bit. The
layers of the onion are copied and transformed very unfortunate. The
sprouts have very sharp endings. This is a detail that disappears in
small sizes, but still occupies space. Rounded endings would work in
both small and big sizes. And actually onions don’t have pointed sprouts
like that :) And there is more. The sprouts do not really look like they
are growing out of the bulb. The dynamic of each sprout makes them
appear like they were only put in like loosely flowers in a vase. And
maybe two sprouts are enough to show they are more than one. These
little sprouts again are details that disappear in small sizes. Less
sprouts could be thicker.

*The T-onion-r logo*
Some logos look distinct by adding some detail to a single letter or
replacing it by a symbol. But „Tor“ is a really short word. The three
elements don’t form a union. And as the word is really short the whole
form does not have a distinct dynamic/alignment. A word of four or five
letters has a clear horizontal alignment. Even two letters can have a
clear alignment or silhouette like in HE, nm or Xom. But the uppercase T
with the lowercase r and an onion somewhere in between does not define
any alignment. And the silhouette is a little awkward, because it does
not define a rectangle or something that stabilizes the view. In a
longer word that would not be important, because the sequence of letters
forms a clear dynamic. In our case it is not given. The T is a character
that is open to the left, the r is open to the right, the x-height is
only defined by the r. It would work better to have a lowercase t and a
r with a long foot serif like known from most monospaced fonts. Maybe it
could be an extended font to make it more horizontal. If we put the
onion in front of or behind the word it would become even more horizontal.

*The browser icon*
Is anyone lucky with it? We should make a few sketches and designs to
see alternatives. Something that is more distinct than a globe–even
though it uses our colors. This color application example makes the
globe look like a retro futuristic radar. This makes clear that we
should not use the green purple combination unconditionally. I’d say the
new onion on a gray circle should not be the final result.

*The colors*
We really need to examine the ones we have. Let’s try out layout
examples. Before we do that we should know with which logo we want to go
on with to make contrasts work well.

*The web design*
The web design as well as presentation sheets could be a good playground
to proof colors and elements we have. I have no idea if anyone is yet
working on a new website layout or who might be responsible for this. We
should help redesigning it from scratch.

Erm, yeah, that’s it so far :) See you in two hours!


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