Refining logos of Wikimedia Projects — a Brand Exercise

Nirzar Pangarkar
Feb 1, 2018 · 5 min read
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Hello 👋

I’m a designer at the Wikimedia Foundation.

The Wikimedia Foundation operates some of the largest collaboratively edited reference projects in the world. You’ve probably heard of Wikipedia, but you may not know about some of its sister projects — there’s Wikiquote (which has quotations), Wikivoyage (travel guides) and Wiktionary (It’s, you guessed it, a dictionary)

All of the projects of the Wikimedia Foundation are collaboratively developed by users around the world. All contributions are released under a free Creative Commons license, meaning that any project content may be freely used, edited, copied, and redistributed, subject to the terms of the license.

Each project has a unique visual identity. Often times these are evolved over time and results of community run processes.

This is what the logos look like for the current suite of projects —

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These brand marks represent our diversity. They were designed by our communities and reflect the way we operate openly and collaboratively. They were also created at different times (from 2001 to 2016) so they represent 15 years of approaches to visual design.

Getting started

This design exercise was conceived after my team worked with Mike Monteiro and Mule Design to make some tweaks to the Wikimedia Foundation branding.

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As you can see, we stripped away the colors to distill the logo for the Wikimedia Foundation into its basic form.

Like many designers, I often complete design exercises to apply new ideas to old problems. This time around I wanted to reconceive the logos for the Foundation projects. Can a contemporary graphic design approach keep them exciting and meaningful?

What would these graphical elements look like stripped down to their essentials? What common elements could tie them together?

My first thought was that I needed to find a shape or a system to represent our values around openness and communities. I started from scratch, soon realising it was right in front of me.

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A shallow depth-of-field picture of a MUJI notebook… I mean look at all the explorations I made
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The open circle in our existing logo, it represents a sense of gathering with arms wide open to accept new people.

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I further dismantled the foundation logo into pieces and tried to set few aesthetic guidelines. Thick strokes, sharp corners, and humanist circles.

Between this shape and the stylistic choices, we have enough to move to the next step. I started creating individual pictograms that will sit within the open ring.

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Our projects are international and are meant to serve everyone. We avoid using symbols that represent a single culture or context.

Symbols have become a vital part of contemporary design. They are meant to work at many sizes from small marks on envelopes to massive signs on billboards. This range requires good icons to be simple yet distinct: a viewer should be able to quickly understand its intent. Icons also impart emotional value: they connect broad ideas like “travel” to visual ideas like “suitcases” that imply all the hopeful, emotional possibilities of travel.

Constructing visual forms that are culturally agnostic becomes crucial.

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My process revolved around using these shapes to represent each of our projects.

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The open ring rotates and is a consistent part of sibling identities.

Wikimedia Commons

An online repository of free-use images, sound, and other media files

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WikiBooks

Free textbooks and manuals

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WikiData

Free knowledge base. WikiData is a rapidly growing project to host structured content

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WikiVoyage

Free travel guides

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WikiQuote

Collection of quotations

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WikiSource

Free-content library

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WikiSpecies

Directory of species

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WikiNews

Free-content news

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Wikiversity

Free learning materials and activities

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Wiktionary

Dictionary and thesaurus

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Wikimedia Incubator

Wikimedia Incubator is a place where potential new projects can be proposed, written, and tested

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Wikimedia Labs

A technical playground for developers and designers to experiment with our projects and content

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MetaWiki

Wikimedia project coordination

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Once we have the brand marks, the word-marks could take cues from the foundation brand as well.

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MediaWiki

MediaWiki is the software that powers all of our projects. It’s been a while anyone gave some love to MediaWiki’s branding.

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Christoph Niemann’s Abstract-O-Meter is a very easy way to explain how to design shapes that can be digested easily by viewers.

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Abstract-O-Meter

Following the same lead, we get

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Project Attribution

🙏 Thank you for reading through, feel free to put your thoughts below 👇

Note: This is meant to be an exercise and not a proposal to revamp Wikimedia Foundation project identities.

Down the rabbit hole

Facts, stories, and people from across the Wikimedia…

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