Designing the Octothorp Logo

Logos (which we recently learned are also known affectionately as ideograms) are essential for a brand for many reasons, one of which is the fact that they transcend language. They are a visual embodiment of the spirit and imagination of a collective group or organization.

Octothorp was our textual identity —

a whimsical tribute to the lingual origins of the prolific hashtag.

But, how could we illustrate this?

To the drawing board!

“Got your attention / I guess it’s time for me to mention / It’s all about the wordplay”

This was our first logo, imagined by our friend and artist, Karina Sobhani. Do you see the double wordplay? Octopus meets octothorpe. We loved it.

Not only would we be a tribute to the symbol, but with this logo, we’d also pay tribute to the most interesting, intelligent, and diverse of all invertebrate creatures.

POC V2–8 legs

For accuracy’s sake, we iterated on the first concept by adding octo-legs to our POC by doubling the legs with a line each.

POC V3 —and then there was color

To emphasize the play on words, we wanted to bring the octothorpe out from under the shadows somehow. We played around with color, eventually settling on a oceanic blue (and/or dark Twitter blue) to highlight the octothorpe (hashtag) made by the tentacles.

By this point, we felt comfortable with this version of our proof-of-concept, and decided to pass it off to a digital graphic designer to help us refine it.

From sketch to specs

Grace Robertson, a graphic designer and product designer at Gawker Media Group, graciously (pun, intended) agreed to help us with our octo, but she needed a few more specs first.

In addition to the original POC sketches, we sent her an example set of logos that inspired us and had a look and feel that we wanted to model ours after.

Secondly, we sent her font samples of typefaces that we thought would pair well with our design. Ideally, sans font with a clean, soft, and even feel.

Existence from
District Thin from
Example of an ideal logo/font pairing

With that, Grace went off to her digital drawing board…


…emerging a few weeks later with these beautiful, vivid designs.

Logo explorations

Opt 1: Cute eyes, outlined pair of second legs, gradient blue for the #​
Opt 2: Happy Face, shadowed second legs, slanty blue #​
Opt 3: Same face and Second legs as Opt 2, Rounded addition to # 
(my favorite and seems very clear to show a #)

This was our favorite too. The blue contrasted well with the black, making the hashtag really pop out of the screen. We also preferred the symmetrically rounded corners on each edge, and the 3D depth for the additional four legs hiding behind (vs. just lines like in Opt 1).

Our only feedback to Grace was to help us refine the facial expression. Our original sketches had a slanted, coy gaze that seemed to look towards the hash. We liked the playfulness of the eyes alluding to the hidden logo within a logo, and the subtle upward smile (vs. the wider grin in Opt 3).

Type explorations

1. Super edgy and retro-action feeling, dance-y
2. Similar to Posters. Friendly vibe that matches the illustration
3. Sleek and wide setting, similar to sketches. Shows modernity
4. Tall and condensed and full of energy, similar to illustration’s legs 
(my favorite option)
5. Similar in feeling to 2, but condensed to create more visual tension

Again, Grace’s favorite was our favorite as well — so we went forward with option #4 as our final typeface.


Grace “frankensteined” the versions a bit, and came back with six more options, coupled with our chosen typeface underneath.

Though our original sketches had the eyes slanted, we realized the importance of reflecting that octopi actually have their eyes evenly spaced near the bottom of their head. Wanting to stay true to their anatomy, we decided on lucky number #3!

One last hot fix: add a gradient thickness to the smile (vs. just an even line) to give it that coy expression.