Prototype Your New Logo

The story of one startup finding its character

This is a story about my new job. I was hired as a UX designer and then I was asked to design a new logo, and so it goes…

I explained with hesitation and forewarning that I’m really terrible at this kind of work. I had read about how Google, Medium, and AirB&B crafted their new identities with a team of people after months of hard work. I certainly didn’t feel qualified to be “branding” anyone’s company in comparison, but I thought to myself: “what could be worse than drawing a pair of balls and giving them a name?”

In the way these big companies talked about their brands, it helped me define how I would talk about this one. I noted some positives and negative take-aways from each and used them as my guide for branding-jargon (read: bullshit).

Airbnb launched a symbol for their mission of “belonging anywhere.” It was distinct and approachable and was mainstay-ready for the brand awareness space. Although very successful, it had also been described as a “red and white heart-cum-orifice.” Its own story couldn’t distract from the adolescent in all of us.

Medium found their personality through extensive exploration. They created a playful “more flexible” variation of their old M mark. The concept felt forced, like a Fine Arts graduate waxing philosophical: “a series of interconnected ideas or shapes that, when joined together, form a new thought” — right?

Google’s pre-Alphabet identity was conceptualized as: “working for you” by way of magic. The new mark has an energy that engages the user, and an overly-eager “e” glpyh, but it somehow stripped the brand of its poised reliable figure. The new mark felt like a chintzy set of refrigerator magnets, but represents a new era of design for Google, and will likely last for another ~16 years.

Enter Koding(en):

Koding started as Kodingen, in 2009, as a way for two brothers to collaborate on the same codebase, from across the country, at the same time. They couldn’t afford the coding.com domain, so settled for kodingen which is hybrid (english / turkish) slang for: “I’m coding.”

It wasn’t until a pitch on Shark Tank that they realized a name change was imminent. The idea grew, and the company became koding.com (the more affordable coding.com). The company kept its roots and began to develop the more robust product that it is today:

A place for developers to pre-configure VMs with anything they wanted, from anywhere in the world, and collaborate with their teams in real time.

Since conception the logo hasn’t changed much: A few simple lines of code that were used very literally, alongside the wordmark that carried all of the brand’s character. 6 years and 4 revisions later, it was still missing the imagination and heart of the company.

The new logo needed to be more recognizable and they wanted to appeal to a new generation of developers. When they spoke simply about Koding, they explain that it’s one part team collaboration and one part coding in the cloud. The new logo needed to address the half of their product that previous versions had not: collaboration.

And so began a very expensive exploration of what looked to me like stock vector graphics paired with free fonts:

Exploration Round One
Exploration Round Two
Exploration Round Three

Eventually I noticed this thing: a plain-text-emoji that’s not very common in chat, but existed long before glyph pairings were called “emoji.” It’s playful and rides the line between chat emoji and a developer utility. It’s the terminal prompt. It’s usually customized by developers to display in their own unique ways. Coincidentally the very nature of the Koding product is to be highly customizable. This thing had been staring us in the face all along…

It seemed so obvious! I knew the team wasn’t immediately going to share the same excitement, so before we ordered shirts and put a new sign on the door, I helped them spend time with the new logo. I understood that the whole team needed to really love this thing, so I prototyped it. I stamped it on water cups, I had a small run of stickers made for company laptops, I screen-printed some stuff for around the office, and made iPhone wallpapers for the founders.

Stamped Water Cups
Screen printing Notebooks

At their launch party I very casually placed it around the office, in plain sight, so that guests might ask about it. They even had a red-carpet style backdrop for photographs that I sprinkled with the new logo. It “looked” very official at the party. Those who noticed had very positive remarks, and most importantly the team slowly began to love it.

What I learned from the big brands, was that it only takes time for people to shut up, and then a little more time before they really appreciate the change. The new mark needs to grow on people; it won’t start to feel like something special until it becomes familiar, and until you’ve forgotten about the change.

So there you have it, their new logo (which they love, thank the gods):

Final Logo Mark by Eric Lobdell
Glyph + Documentation

I’m a UX / UI designer in San Francisco. I really enjoyed this process, and I hope you enjoyed this read! You can find more of my stuff here