ZipRecruiter Logo Refresh

The Tale of the Handsome Younger Brother

“Our new logo is like the handsome younger brother of the original — someone could easily mistake one for the other if they didn’t know us well.”

Introduction

Hello, I’m Andrew Little. I’m proud to be a designer at ZipRecruiter (and I also happen to be the younger of two brothers). This peek into our process is meant to be fun and interesting for anyone to read—even if you’ve never heard of Avenir or don’t know what a node is. So buckle up for a journey inside our logo refresh and the mystical collaboration process of the ZipRecruiter Design Team. /giphy EXCITED!

http://giphy.com/gifs/vMEjhlxsBR7Fe

Our new logo is like the handsome younger brother of the original — someone could easily mistake one for the other if they didn’t know us well. Thus we deemed it a refresh, because we stayed with the same concept and color scheme. Our brand has now aged gracefully, rather than going through an identity crisis.

The backstory.

ZipRecruiter is one of the more notable tech startups out of LA and is now one of the major players in the online hiring and HR space along with Indeed, LinkedIn, and Monster. At the time of writing this article, ZipRecruiter has helped over 800,000 businesses in North America, has millions of job seekers, and is still picking up steam. The original logo has been around since 2010 when ZipRecruiter was just a scrappy handful of people working in a dining room. It’s been the face of the brand as multiple office locations opened and over 300 employees were hired. With a bright outlook and big plans for the future, the logo was looking a little tired. Good thing the ZipRecruiter Design Team was up to the challenge of giving the brand a little facelift, in typical LA fashion. Take a look at the transformation below.

Collaboration by ZipRecruiter Design Team. Logomark/logotype by Blake Crosley and Andrew Little. Animation by Erik Arildsson.

The problem.

While it was conceptually strong, the old logo felt… old. Ward Poulos, the founding designer and owner of that initial dining room, said it best in an email: “The original logo has legibility issues, too many typeface variations, an unnecessarily complex icon, and does not accurately reflect the fact that ZipRecruiter is an established, marketplace leader.” If he had a mic I think he would have dropped it.

So, we started with the chair.

Our design team agreed that our chair was overly complex; the biggest problem with the it was that those complexities are lost at small sizes (ie. on our mobile site). Several of us casually played with variations, simplifications, and totally different depictions of chairs over a period of months. Finally one stuck. It was a simplification of the original made by Blake Crosley our Creative Director. We settled on this handsome little guy.

“The new mark is still true to the original concept representing the ‘empty chair’ that ZipRecruiter aims to fill… [is] friendly and approachable… [and] scales better.”

The new mark is still true to the original concept of the “empty chair” that ZipRecruiter aims to fill. We wanted it to feel friendly and approachable and not so literal. It accomplishes this with simpler, rounder features. The result is a more iconic mark that scales better. Here are the specifics of how that was achieved: the arms of the new chair are more open and the seat and chair back are more defined. The base of the new seat is made of two circles, and the handles have been removed. The legs were cleaned up by the use of straight lines and uninterrupted curves, eliminating the implied fourth and fifth wheels. Overall the new chair is much more geometric and avoids unnecessary detail.

New chair (green) over the old chair (maroon).

Then came the typography.

The typefaces used in the original logo were Frutiger Bold Italic and Frutiger Condensed by Linotype. The old type treatment, like the old chair, didn’t hold up well at small sizes and was feeling outdated—especially the italic “Zip.” We wanted to use one typeface and were initially playing with using Gotham by Hoefler & Co as the foundation for our new type treatment. We ultimately decided that Gotham was too wide for our 12 character name. We settled on using Avenir Heavy by Linotype as a starting point.

“Avenir also just so happens to make the 12 characters in ZipRecruiter look quite nice.”
ZipRecruiter set in Avenir Heavy.

Avenir means “future” in French. Its form is built on the foundation of geometric, sans-serif typefaces like Futura, but subtly breaks from the geometric approach for the sake of legibility. For example, Avenir has a higher x-height, added stroke contrast, and imperfect circles—like the bowl on the letter “p” above. All of these improve legibility which was important to us. Avenir also just so happens to make the 12 characters in ZipRecruiter look quite nice.

P.S. If all of that went over your head don’t feel bad. That was some heavyweight type nerd jargon.

Finally, to make the logo our own, we made several adjustments to the letters in our name — some more subtle than others. All of these changes were made collaboratively during one of our Thursday morning design meetings in a room affectionately named Happy Churn. Everyone was throwing out ideas as Blake made the changes live on the screen.

To start, we completely rounded the bottom of the “u” by using the curve from the bottom half of the dot on the “i.” We then slightly rounded all of the corners in every letter to make the type more friendly and visually connected to our new logomark—the chair.

Next, we angled the top right edges of the ascenders on the “p” and “r.” (A type nerd might say we “opened the crotches” and then laugh like a 6th grader.) The crotch adjustment was mainly stylistic but is also meant to keep the space from closing up at small sizes. Stay with me, this is serious stuff.

The last major change made in that meeting was to slant the top of the “t” for style and flow — we like the way it opens the space between the dot of the “i” and the top of the “t.” It’s also a nod to the original logo. We made many other little changes to the letters to unify them. We’ll go into some of that later.

The final type treatment with Avenir overlaid in pink.

The sales pitch.

One might imagine that though we executed very thoughtfully on this logo refresh, we might run into some opposition once we proposed the new logo to the company. People can be nostalgic. Heck, lots of Zipsters (ZipRecruiter employees) wear ZipRecruiter tees multiple days a week to the office. After all, hadn’t the old logo been just fine for the past six years? We certainly were not broadcasting the fact that the design team was working up a new logo because we knew that this kind of thing warranted a calculated and considerate unveiling… or did it?

“In a stroke of pure genius Blake opened the door to Happy Churn and said, ‘Hey Ian, come look at this.’”

Now back to that Thursday design meeting. We had literally just finished making the tweaks described above. Less than a minute had passed. We were sitting around the conference table when Blake noticed our CEO Ian walking by. In a stroke of pure genius, Blake opened the door to Happy Churn and said, “Hey Ian, come look at this,” and proceeded to show him the design we had been collaborating on just moments before.

This is essentially what Ian saw, minus the ®.

Ian stepped into the meeting room, looked at the screen and within a matter of seconds said, “I love it. That looks way better! Let’s send it out,” and proceed to walk out of the room. A satisfied look spread across Blake’s face. “Well I guess that’s done!” Blake smirked as the rest of us cracked up.

And that is how it’s done. Good design should sell itself right!

Vector nerd indulgence.

If you’re not a designer, developer, or have never drawn vectors, the rest of this piece may be too nerdy for you to handle. You have been warned.

Original typography, Avenir, and our new typography in progression.

The clean up process.

After we sold it to Ian, the logo was still a little rough from a vector standpoint. Because we started with a typeface, and didn’t draw the letters by hand, we had to outline the letters to alter their shapes. Creating outlines in Illustrator produces tons of unnecessary nodes (points) along curves. This can compound when you combine shapes together, which we did with the “p.” (We actually flipped the “c” over and combined it with the “p.”) These extra nodes can cause problems when a browser tries to render an SVG, especially when the browser has to scale for small web/mobile views. To make sure our logo would render as quickly and smoothly as possible, the curves needed to be redrawn. That was my job! I get pretty excited about this kind of thing.

Nodes before and after clean up.

Ahhhh. Doesn’t that feel better? Notice how many nodes were removed without losing form. This not only helps with more reliable scaling, but also allowed us to adjust the curved letters to be more truly circular—without creating a lumpy mess in the process. This is most apparent in the “p” and “e” but even a trained eye would have to look closely.

Quick note about drawing curves: If you’re a designer, you probably have a healthy appreciation — if not obsession — for the mathematical perfection of vector shapes. There are two main things designers tend obsess about when it comes to drawing bezier curves (beh-zee-ay): optimization and elegance. No matter which side you find yourself on, the single best thing to add to your vector practice is to draw all curves using only vertical and horizontal bezier handles (with few exceptions). This is an essential practice for designers. To learn why you should do this and how to pull it off read this excellent tutorial. For examples of notable designers’ bezier handles go here.

Detail: simplifying the “p.”
“[D]raw all curves using only vertical and horizontal bezier handles… This is an essential practice for designers.”
Detail: vertical and horizontal bezier handles.

And that is how we refreshed our logo.

There were certainly many more little tweaks and subtle considerations in the final stages of the refresh but even I would get bored recounting them all for you. Hopefully you learned something new and possibly even gained an appreciation for some of the borderline OCD practices in the world of design. If you enjoyed this little peek into the ZipRecruiter Design Team, the party has only just begun.

Links by order of appearance:
https://www.linotype.com/1270238/frutiger-family.html
https://www.linotype.com/
http://www.typography.com/fonts/gotham/styles/
http://www.typography.com/
https://www.linotype.com/1245613/avenir-family.html
https://www.linotype.com/1245613/avenir-family.html?site=details
https://www.myfonts.com/fonts/bitstream/futura/
http://www.typographydeconstructed.com/ascender/
http://www.typographydeconstructed.com/crotch/
http://learn.scannerlicker.net/2014/04/16/bezier-curves-and-type-design-a-tutorial/
http://theagsc.com/blog/tutorials/so-whats-the-big-deal-with-horizontal-vertical-bezier-handles-anyway/