Refining logos of Wikimedia Projects — a Brand Exercise
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 —
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.
This design exercise was conceived after my team worked with Mike Monteiro and Mule Design to make some tweaks to the Wikimedia Foundation branding.
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.
The open circle in our existing logo, it represents a sense of gathering with arms wide open to accept new people.
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.
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.
My process revolved around using these shapes to represent each of our projects.
The open ring rotates and is a consistent part of sibling identities.
An online repository of free-use images, sound, and other media files
Free textbooks and manuals
Free knowledge base. WikiData is a rapidly growing project to host structured content
Free travel guides
Collection of quotations
Directory of species
Free learning materials and activities
Dictionary and thesaurus
Wikimedia Incubator is a place where potential new projects can be proposed, written, and tested
A technical playground for developers and designers to experiment with our projects and content
Wikimedia project coordination
Once we have the brand marks, the word-marks could take cues from the foundation brand as well.
MediaWiki is the software that powers all of our projects. It’s been a while anyone gave some love to MediaWiki’s branding.
Christoph Niemann’s Abstract-O-Meter is a very easy way to explain how to design shapes that can be digested easily by viewers.
Following the same lead, we get
🙏 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.