Evolution of a Mascot
A visual history of the greatest icon mascot in the history of the entire universe*
*I may be exaggerating.
With little fanfare and even less foresight, I made my first two icon sets available for sale on the 22nd of June, 2010. The blog post was titled Symboliconographogram — a nonsensical amalgamation of the words symbol, icon, pictograph, and pictogram.
Three months later, I thought better of the name, and purchased the domain Symbolicons.com. A month after that, a brand new website dedicated to selling my icons was launched. At the top of the site was a robot. His name was Bob. And I created him by accident.
At some point during the design process for the first version of Symbolicons.com, an idea started to take shape. I wanted something visually interesting at the top of the site. Something beyond just showcasing my icons. Something memorable. Something with personality.
I started sketching ideas. I had hand icons. A shirt icon. A face icon. What if I combined them? Made something greater than the sum of its parts? And so I did. But the result was, quite frankly, horrifying. I had made an icon version of Frankenstein’s monster.
So I went back to the drawing board, searching for inspiration. And I found it among my icons. One kept catching my eye. A simple robot head with round eyes, a square jaw, a tiny antenna. It had echoes of the Iron Giant mixed with Bender from Futurama. It had character. It had personality. And it was sitting next to the icon of a car.
It felt like a switch had flipped, or a gear had engaged, in my mind. I though of the robots I had loved as a child. I thought of GoBots and of Transformers. Of Autobots and of Decepticons. Decept… icons.
I had found my mascot. He wouldn’t transform into a car, or vice versa, but instead would be made from a car. And so the first version of the Symbolicons mascot was just that. A robot icon made by combining a robot head icon, a car icon and a wrench icon. A Roboticon.
Bringing Bob to Life
Bob the Roboticon was featured prominently in the first version of the Symbolicons.com website. He held a lightbulb, a coffee cup, and was apparently powered by a bird trapped in his chest cavity. In short, he was the perfect representation of my icons: solid and practical with a touch of whimsy.
As time went on, and I released new icon sets, Bob continued to get minor upgrades. The lightbulb became an iPhone, and he gained headphones, an icon ticker, and chest dial.
The next version of the website took things even farther. I decided to add some animation.
Around this time, I also started toying with the idea making a vinyl toy out of Bob… even going so far as to get a couple 3D renderings made (by the awesome Timothy Reynolds) to test the viability.
At one point, I started a new site design that would have featured a new version of an animated Bob… but life got in the way, and the site never came to fruition. The animation was fun, though.
In my mind, Bob had come to life. He was synonymous with Symbolicons… until I forgot about him.
What About Bob?
As time went on, and Symbolicons continued to grow with with more icon sets, and added t-shirt designs, the single-page format of the existing site started to feel constraining. So I did an entire site overhaul and adopted a more of a traditional online shopping experience. Multiple products that you could click into for more detail.
The new design dropped Bob altogether. The new Symbolicons experience was cleaner, but it had lost some of its fun. In hindsight, I believe it had lost its heart. In fact, just last year, I was speaking to someone about my work, and I happened to mention Symbolicons. What they said was revealing:
“Oh, I love Symbolicons! That dancing robot was awesome!”
And you know what? That dancing robot was awesome. I thought so, too. So when I decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign earlier this summer for Symbolicons Pro (you can pre-order here), it was obvious that I needed to revive Bob in the process. The new version would have more life, more personality, and be more fun.
The New and Improved Roboticon
To design the new Bob, I went back to the basics. If the original version was inspired by the Iron Giant and Bender, this new incarnation added a dash of Pixar’s Eve, with movements inspired by BB-8. A new, digital icon-based display on his chest could be used to show his feelings.
I also added pupils, eyelids, and the ability to grin. But his basic structure remained. That chunky jaw. The antenna. The pot-belly that came from the original car shape.
Bob has even found his way back into the Symbolicons logo.
And the best part? His new form allows for greater flexibility when animating. He’s prominently featured on the new Symbolicons website, and as time goes on, more and more animations will be added. And who knows, maybe this time I’ll actually make a vinyl toy.
What started as an accident has become one of my favorite creations. I love him. I hope you do, too.