In January 2018, I started working closely with Celo Founders Rene, Marek, and Sep to design the Celo logo. As I educated myself on Celo’s mission and objectives, I began to feel the gravity of the project.
Tactically, my task was to create a logo for a core team building a protocol and a mobile payment solution of a someday greater ecosystem of Celo projects. Once the Celo platform is available to the public, the logo becomes a community asset that anyone can responsibly use all around the world.
From a design perspective, logos are the most integral and solitary representation of a whole brand and entity. This project would set a precedent for how Celo’s design will be perceived and set a bar for the brand and design experience.
With all of that in mind, the goals I focused on were
- Create Meaning Understand and choose what parts of Celo’s technologies, mission, and value to visualize in the logo.
- Design for Timelessness This logo needed to bear the weight of an ambitious mission in to the indefinite future.
- Utility This logo needs to build trust with customers, be a respectable graphic for an international community, and allow anyone in that community to use it themselves.
Building a logo in-house was an incredible experience. Having worked with companies that outsourced their branding and having been a designer who crafted a logo remotely, I understood the frustrations of feeling unaligned to a logo’s purpose and story. I chose to seize a unique opportunity by deeply integrating and thoroughly understanding the entity I was designing.
This article shares key points from that experience and touches on the following:
- Celo The name and it’s origin
- Scope Visual considerations, strategy, and use cases for the logo
- Exploration and Process Research and sketches from the design process
- Design Decisions Choosing the logo’s color, aesthetic, composition
- Final Logo Assets Final graphics and how we use the logo today
Start with “Celo”
Celo, pronounced /ˈtselo/, means ‘purpose’ in Esperanto.
An International auxiliary language created by Dr. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof in 1887.
The spirit of Esperanto and auxiliary languages, equips speakers with a means to connect, engage, and build trust with someone who speaks a different native tongue.
Monetary systems as we know them today similarly lie within a country’s borders. One’s personal value is usually sent, saved, or spent in one currency at a time and difficult and expensive to exchange in to other currencies. Celo’s platform attempts to rethink how we use money by allowing people to bring their value anywhere, convert from one currency to another quickly and inexpensively, and reliably save value anywhere in the world.
The word “purpose” is a part of the Celo value — Unique Purpose. Celo believes financial independence will enable more of the world’s population to seek their own purpose through prosperity and monetary freedom.
Before researching and sketching I had to understand how the logo would have to perform.
Internally, Celo’s mission particularly focuses on the world’s unbanked or underbanked population who commonly use older smartphones and feature phones. These phones have dated pixel densities and color displays that could butcher complex logos.
In the future, Celo’s platform will be released to designers and developers to create Celo financial tools and currencies with. These projects would have their own brand colors and co-branded logos to go along with ours.
To maximize utility for the Celo logo, the design needed to be recognizable in low-resolution, translate well to black and white, and adaptable for others to use creatively.
We visually engage with money day-to-day through currency symbols and visualize them whenever we think of money.
Currency symbols are recognizable and often thoughtfully designed. Could I play to people’s existing mental models by designing a symbol to be used broadly? Maybe starting here would inform a glyph design or typographic style to adapt to the wordmark.
While designing, Celo was developing a stable token pegged to the US Dollar — the Celo Dollar. In addition, we foresee the creation of local and functional currencies, as well as currencies pegged to other local fiat. I was mindful of strong currencies such as the Dinar, Franc, Yuan, Pound, and Euro and printed them out to pin up in my creative space.
A closer look at different currency symbols quickly taught us
- Countries whose languages are character or script based often have a currency symbol based on the Latin alphabet.
- The first letter of the currency’s spelling is often the foundational form of the currency’s symbol.
- Both upper and lowercase alphabet letters are used but more commonly uppercase.
- Currencies often have accents added to letters such as dashes, slashes, vertical and horizontal single and double bars
I started with a “C” and played around with different accents. I tried italicizing and bolding the base letter and shrunk and elongated accents to create matrices of options.
After exhausting a few rounds of early ideas, I took a step back to examine our early research and sketches.
With a quick scan, new cryptocurrency symbols lacked a timelessness that I wanted to achieve. The spirit of my quick sketches were too visually similar to existing local currencies.
I believe I needed to shift my focus toward designing a “C” that adapted subtler references from currencies. I could always leave space for accents but they should not be apart of the Celo “C.”
With a renewed perspective, I scanned again and a Euro symbol that I pulled from image search really spoke to me.
The Euro Symbol
The Euro symbol’s foundation is built off an geometric, sans serif “C.” There’s a 78º cut that begins at the top opening of the letterform extending into the symbol’s distinct double bars. With a closer look, a majority of the design is based on this angle.
I started chiseling the Euro symbol’s features from sans-serif fonts like Gotham, Futura, and Univers. I was attracted to Futura’s extremely geometric skeletal frame. And against Futura Std Book, I found an ideal uniform thickness for the “C’s” stress.
Ultimately, we preferred the lowercase “c” to keep the logo approachable, a characteristic we intentionally wanted to embody in our brand.
The rest of the letters came intuitively. With Futura Std Book as a reference,
- “e” is based on a perfect ring, with a horizontal bar and the same final as the “c”
- “o” is a perfect ring
- “l” took to it’s new parallelogram form, cut at a smaller angle than the “c”
Adding the Euro symbol aesthetic offered timeless sensibility. The wordmark was now visually linked to a relevant institution.
Celo is currently developing two digital assets — a stable-value asset called Celo Dollar and its deflationary counterpart Celo Gold:
Celo Dollar A stable-value digital asset pegged to the US Dollar. USD is a currency that many countries understand the value of in relation to their local currency. This is a great starting value point for Celo’s target customers.
Celo Gold Our deflationary digital asset that absorbs the fluctuations in the stable asset’s value with the help of the Celo protocol. Celo Gold’s value changes as the Celo protocol programmatically buys and sells Celo Gold to contract and expand the monetary supply of Celo Dollars, to keep the peg to USD.
In addition to the wordmark we wanted to develop a glyph to go alongside it. The glyph would communicate without using written language and be used for apps and an abbreviation of the entire logo.
I wanted to arrange these two currencies and tell stories about their connectedness, purpose, and interdependence. So I simplified them to their most simplified graphic form.
Currency >> Coin >> Circle
I worked in black and white for a few cycles before adding color to make sure our logo could tell the same story in one color as it did in full color.
The ring sketches offered depth and connection that filled circles could not. Rings can be connected like a chain. One ring can revolve around another but they cannot separate without being broken.
Now to add color. With digital assets like “Dollar” and “Gold,” it was imperative to color one ring green and and the other gold. The Celo protocol, represented by Celo Gold, is a foundation to build assets like the Celo Dollar. Rendering green a natural fit as the top ring and gold as the bottom.
A few critiques later I decided on the rotated 45º rings with the multiply effect for these conceptual and visual reasons.
- Overlapping areas Visually multiply both of the two colors to create a distinct sharp shape similar to the angle cut of the Celo “c.”
- Equally Important Both rings have a purpose for their position but no ring is visually in front of the other because of the multiply effect.
- Storytelling The composition tells the story of Celo Gold’s value conceptually rising towards the Celo Dollar, a symbolic and humble beginning to Celo.
I started high level research by scanning Wikipedia — Shades of Green and liked Paris/Emerald Green.
With further research of emerald as a stone, I found the following passage on the its historical meaning.
“Long before De Beers showed us a diamond ring and asked to be our one and only, there was another pretty stone that made everyone’s heart skip a beat. For most of Western (and Eastern) history, emeralds were the currencies of the realm.” — Stoned — Jewelry, obsession, and how desire shapes the world
Wikipedia’s example already reminded me of a modern green used in contemporary apps. I slid Paris green to a slightly brighter and more saturated location on the color picker to bring modernity to Celo’s green.
For gold to compliment Celo Green it had to be slightly more saturated and brighter as to not compete with green or be too dark and muddy. I cross referenced existing color palettes and color theory and with trial and error we found Celo Gold.
Celo’s Full Color Logo is used in branded background colors like white, light gray, light tan, and dark.
Celo’s Light Logo can be used on top of Celo Green and Gold.
Celo’s Full Color Rings are best used on top of our brand light and dark background colors.
Light Rings can be used on Celo Gold and Green.
Dark Rings can be used on light brand background colors
The Rings perform best on Celo applications and small screens, to understatedly brand content and attribution.
Community Project Adaptability
Once Celo is open sourced and available to our community, its members may use light and dark logos on their projects.
The Light Logo and Rings are used on darker backgrounds.
The Dark Logo and Rings are used on lighter backgrounds.
For those interested in Celo, C Labs is hiring ✌🏽