“Simplicity is not the goal of Lean UX Branding. It is the by-product of a good idea, modest expectations, iterative executions and ruthless cutting.”—Will Evans & Thomas Wendt, Lean UX Branding
“Lean is about being an athlete, not a skeleton.”—Unknown

We don’t have a logo.

I recently received an email from one of the organizers of LAUNCH Festival in San Francisco. If you haven’t heard, LAUNCH was where Dropbox and other notable startups have made their debuts and subsequently secured funding from investors. The LAUNCH organizers proposed a generous offer to Lean UX SF: 50 free LAUNCH tickets for community members. All we had to do was help promote the festival. They also asked us for a logo so they could in-turn promote our community’s participation in the festival. Problem: We didn’t have a logo.

Tap the community.

We also don’t have a budget. But we do have community. Within community an ecosystem of innovation thrives. Through inquiring the community about a logo, we were able to discover elements about our identity. We applied a classic technique from Lean thinking, mathematics, psychology, and the arts called “fully exploring the potential space”. I quickly sent a message out to the Lean UX SF mailing list:

Logo Contest!
The creator of the winning logo design will receive a free ticket to the upcoming LAUNCH event in SF as well as all sorts of fame and notoriety!
- Mike
p.s. No parameters or constraints.

That last part “no parameters or constraints” was not lackadaisical, it was quite intentional. In order to “fully explore the potential space” we had to leave the door open for the Lean UX SF community to explore their identity rather than the organizers exerting their own vision and assumptions. In other words, we were operating in the absence of a clear hypothesis about what a Lean UX SF logo might look like. Rather, we operated under a different hypothesis altogether: The community will guide us toward the best logo.

Modest expectations, iterative improvement, and ruthless cutting.

The email went out to over 1,500 members. Approximately 20 people submitted logos. A few people submitted multiple logos. The more the better! Within a couple of days we had over 25 logo submissions to explore and —unfortunately—24 options to “ruthlessly cut”. It was easy to see a wide range of symbolism and metaphor expressed in all of the ideas, and each one represented a potential expression of the community’s identity. I expressed gratitude and provided feedback to each person who submitted a logo, and the diversity in ideas exceeded my wildest expectations. Each person’s willingness to iterate based on constructive feedback reflected the maturity and professionalism of the community.

Which one?

We don’t have a budget for branding. The LAUNCH festival date was fast approaching. Two factors drove the initial selection process: Execution and Appropriateness. The execution mattered—a lot—because good execution would mean fewer iterations to discover the final logo, which would have to look polished: Being “Lean” doesn’t mean we’re perpetually stuck in sketch mode.

Appropriateness mattered a lot too. While Lean UX might be described by some as a process, that’s not entirely true. The logo would ultimately serve as a signature for a community based on a shared set of values, not a prescriptive or one-size-fits-all process. Also, the logo had to be versatile: it could one day be placed on websites, placards, t-shirts, frisbees, hoodies, etc.

We put it to a vote. The results were too close to call. We put it to a “final” vote, still too close to call. It started to seem like voting served more as a vehicle for conversation about the ideas rather than making a decision. We decided to hold an “electoral vote” (gasp!). I asked my most trusted design critics to choose for us from a set of four finalists. Finally, with a tie-breaker vote by a smaller group of people there was a clear winner.

And the winner is…

The winning logo design was created by Zac Halbert, a recent transplant to the SF Bay Area and Lean UXer. When Zac submitted the idea he said:

“My thinking is that this is a clean look that is representative of a bay area design sensibility, reminiscent of larger organizations like the fire department. A field as new as ours can always use a little bit of borrowed credibility.”
Lean UX SF logo (color)

Other than just “liking” it, we also felt that it fits within the criteria of every good logo:

Simple
It’s a circle enclosing one of the most recognizable landmarks in North America, The Golden Gate Bridge.

Memorable
A clever integration of the letters UX and the bridge might cause a person to pause, look, and inspect it: thus imprinting the logo into their memory (cue evil laughter).

Timeless
Zac’s inspirations for the logo (a stalwart organization such as the SFFD, and the resilient Golden Gate Bridge) plus his typographical choices build “timeless”-ness directly into the DNA of the logo.

Versatile
The logo can be printed in one color, it’s vector-based, and we could print or display it in reverse for hoodies, frisbees, placards, pub glasses, etc.

Appropriate
Again, Zac’s inspiration came from larger, more “credible” organizations. Lean UX SF is a community organized by UX practitioners and Lean enthusiasts. Zac’s concept echoes the sense of belonging and camaraderie our community nurtures.

Check out some of the other fine logo designs here:
Lean UX SF Logo Ideas – Finals

Come to a meetup!
sf.lean-ux.com