Mozilla Open-Sourced Parts of Its New Brand Identity. Here’s How That Went

Visual character with room for change

For the last six months, Mozilla has been working on a brand identity upgrade, and it's kept a running log of this process. But it also took it one step further, releasing open-source guidelines for anyone who wanted to jump in and help compose a new logo and visual cues. 

"Rather than conduct a brand refresh behind closed doors, we just thought maybe there's a better or different way to do this," Mozilla creative director Tim Murray said in August. 

The results were slated to be presented this month … and it's surprisingly on schedule.

Here's the final result:

In the short life of the social 'net, there's a pretty robust history of brands that have tried "open sourcing" parts or all of their user-facing bits. Many of these brands have (not shockingly) been agencies. 

In 2007, Nonesense released an open brief for its website. And in perhaps one of the least happy lessons in this approach, Modernista! in 2008 transformed its website into a kind of social frame that just pulled data from other places, like Wikipedia and Twitter. 

Given that the internet's favorite preoccupation is trolling, this didn't go well. A year later, Skittles copied the model, with the same dire results. 

Things often go wrong when you ask people to help you out, in part because it's usually a lazy way to source creative intellectual property. Notably, Sainbury's asked artists to help "refurbish" its canteen last year—for free!—so artists asked it for free food.

Mozilla was careful in explaining it wasn't going to make the same mistake. In a section that's actually marked "Wait, are you asking designers to work on spec?," the brand explained:

No. What we're seeking is input on work that's in process. We welcome your feedback in a form that suits you best, be it words, napkin sketches, or Morse Code. We simply want to incorporate as many perspectives and voices into this open design process as possible. We don't take any single contribution lightly. We hope you'll agree that by helping Mozilla communicate its purpose better through design, you'll be helping improve the future Internet.

What this means is, Mozilla published iterations of its design process, asked the public to troubleshoot them (basically using the negative aspects of "openness" in a positive, controlled way), and then took that feedback into account. 

The results are laid out neatly here, but below you'll find a breakdown.

 

The Logo

Murray calls the logo a "nod to URL language [that] reinforces that the Internet is at the heart of Mozilla. We are committed to the original intent of the link as the beginning of an unfiltered, unmediated experience into the rich content of the Internet."

The original "contemporary slab serif font" used here is called Zilla and is free for anyone to use. (We have yet to find where we can download it, but that's probably coming.) It was created by Typotheque in the Netherlands, which was also the first type foundry to release web-based fonts.

"We chose to partner with Peter Bilak from Typotheque because of their deep knowledge of localization of fonts, and our commitment to having a font that includes languages beyond English," Murray adds. 

The brand also took guidance from Anton Koovit and FontSmith.

 

Color Palette

The color palette is inspired by the highlight colors used in Firefox and other Mozilla browsers. "Color flows into our logo and changes according to the context in which the logo is used," says Murray.

The style guide is still a work in progress, with color pairings and intensities yet to be defined.

 

Language and Architecture

 

The core Mozilla messages, as well as program, event and team names, will be written and represented below and to the right of the logo. "It will now be easier to know that something is 'from' Mozilla and understand how our global initiatives connect and reinforce one another," says Murray.

In keeping with openness, this system also makes it easy for volunteer communities to choose colors and imagery unique to their identities, while making it clear that they are part of the overall Mozilla community.

 

Imagery Online and Out in the Wild

 

Imagery evolves and reflects the internet's diversity, so Mozilla wanted to find a way to incorporate its ever-changing nature into its identity coherently. 

"Dynamic imagery allows the identity of Mozilla to evolve with the Internet itself, always fresh and new. Static applications of our identity system include multiple, layered images as if taken as a still frame within a moving digital experience," Murray writes.

Here's how this plays out online:

In an office setting:

And even on humans!

That about covers it. The new identity will roll out in phases, and Mozilla is still taking feedback. (You can share some in the comments section of this post.)

By and large, it's an identity that matches the brand—and its philosophy of an open web—while remaining in step with a space and culture in states of constant disruption. The attention and planning that went into incorporating external input, without losing control and falling victim to social schadenfreude, are also admirable. 

We hope SETI takes cues from this if it ever decides to step away from that whole question-mark S thing it has going on.