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The Hatching of a Logo

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2021 Update

Our logo has been updated since the publication of this article, here is the new one:

Download vector files and other versions from here: https://ulule.frontify.com/d/EX3dK8qsXgqh/branding-guidelines

Thank you :)

Now if you want to read the original article, here you go:

If “choosing a name is the most important act” (Confucius), then choosing a good logo can’t be far behind. To assist us in this delicate task, we enlisted the aid of Julie Potvin (mon-jardin-sucre.com), a talented Canadian graphic artist who lives in Paris. To keep a record of the early sketches made during the very first weeks of creative brainstorming at Ulule, we decided to share the various stages of the logo design process here. This is the chronicle of how we went from the first scribbles to the logo perched at the top of your screen…

The brief

We gave Julie the essential elements of the brief verbally, providing links to a few examples and illustrations. The most important part was explaining the spirit of Ulule: a service designed for project owners (individuals, nonprofits, or businesses), which exists to help them raise money, refine the scope of their projects, and hone their pitch at an early stage, using a platform that fosters exchange and mutual assistance. Easy and enjoyable to use, open to other social networks, transparent in the way it functions, and (last but not least) as manageable as possible for project owners.

We decided to skip the list of keywords. We preferred to use the time we would have spent on that required step for discussion instead.

A random list of other elements of the brief:

- The mascot we had in mind: an owl. Why an owl? Because in French, “ulule” means “hoot,” it’s a likeable animal, it has night vision, and other cool stuff.

- It was important to be able to significantly reduce the size of the logo (for favicons, social network icons, etc.)

- We wanted to be able to alter the logo slightly for different parts of the site. - And, finally, it had to work well in a very light, airy and tasteful design.

Upon receiving these basic specs (and various FAQs, mockups, etc.), Julie set to work, and got back to us a few days later with the ideas and sketches below.

Initial ideas and sketches 
Idea 1: 3D glasses

Julie: “The owl is often represented wearing glasses, probably to indicate wisdom. But since our owl is young at heart, original and full of ideas, he is wearing 3D glasses.

We said “go for it.”
3D glasses are fun, and everybody knows what they are and appreciates them. In addition to reinterpreting the owl’s glasses in a way that gave it more depth (ha ha!), we liked the idea of using the red/blue palette throughout the site as well.

Although you can already see a trace of Ulule in these early efforts, we hadn’t yet decided this was the logo, which led to a second series that was a real hoot.

Idea 2: The heart

Julie: “While researching owls, I noticed that barn owls have a heart shape on their faces. So I made this barn owl highly stylized so that the heart would stand out.

On our end, we weren’t as wild about the barn owl as we were about the typical owl, which has ear tufts. The smoother body, and the symbolism of the heart and the egg didn’t really work for us.

The barn owl seemed more serious, and we thought it would be harder to adapt to the needs of the site.

Julie suggested a third option that was less graphical and played very noticeably with typography.

Idea 3: Fun with typography

Julie: “The letters that form the word “ulule” resemble eyes and beaks. The shape behind the words looks like two owls’ heads next to each other. In the color version, the two heads overlap. They represent Internet users who come together, who have a shared project.

We liked Julie’s concept, the color combination, and the words and images suggested a mosaic of ideas that were perfectly appropriate for emerging and evolving projects.

Nonetheless, we wanted a logo that was more stylized and would show off the mascot. That way we’d be able to play around with it and you’d be able to adapt it too. It seemed to us like this would be harder to do with a complex logo.

So Ulule would be a typical owl wearing 3D glasses. Perfect.
But we still had to finalize the typography…

Choosing a font

Once we’d picked our logos, we still had to decide on the typography to use on the site and to accompany our owl as he flitted around the network. Julie provided several preliminary options to accompany the logos.

This first attempt was headed in the right direction, but we weren’t there yet. Right off the bat we nixed the fonts that were too thick or angular, to stay consistent with the light, airy look of the logo… and of the site we had in mind.

Julie then chose two other fonts, after providing us with this list of criteria:

Serif required for the “u” so it won’t be confused with a “v.” The mental effort to read it is a fraction of a second longer, but it matters.

Serif also on the “l” to avoid their looking like two bars cutting the logo into three sections.

Rounded, to echo the shapes of the owl and give you the look of a 2.0 brand.

Slightly stretched horizontally, so it doesn’t fight with the owl, which is quite round, and to have more space above it for a centered logo.

Modern.

Original, with something special about it (for both fonts, this is the “e”).

Which brought us to this:

Two attractive fonts that were rounded and pleasant to the eye. We picked the first one, which seemed slightly more legible, less fanciful, and with a touch of professionalism, which we wanted to come through.

Placement and last minute adjustments

With all of this, we now had what we needed to create the logo. There was only one point of disagreement left to be resolved between Julie and us: we wanted the owl centered above the name, but Julie wanted to place the name to the left of the owl.

Like a true professional, she gave us what we had asked for.

But not without adding these wise comments:

Yes, I know you asked for a centered logo, but I took it upon myself to send this alternative version. As I told you, the horizontal format is more practical on the web and this font works with almost any placement because it complements the lines of the logo so well.

It’s all there: the roundness, the very round “e” that echoes the body and eyes of the owl, the very geometric lines consistent with the spirit of the owl, the horizontal bar of the “e,” which anchors the word nicely.

This placement is also more original. You have the impression that the owl is taking flight, which goes very well with the site.

And Julie was right. This is a good lesson: clients of the world, listen to your graphic designers. They’re often more experienced than you are.

It looked like our Ulule logo was finally finished. Everything was in place and we’d thought everything through, right? 
Wrong. There was one more little problem. If you take another look at the first logo, you’ll see where we went wrong.

Done? Did you see it? Then let’s continue.

It was while studying the graphic style sheet that Julie saw the problem. With our approval, she had switched the color of the eyes, thinking that the blue/white/red order looked a little too much like the French flag. However, after some digging, she found out that 3D glasses don’t work well with the colors reversed: they create a concave rather than a convex effect.

As for our foreign friends, it hadn’t occurred to any of them that it looked like the flag, and they thought the blue was too light anyway. “Only the French would see the colors of France in it. For the rest, blue + red are nothing more than colors that go well together.” That’s enough to make you swallow your national pride!

The unveiling!

And now, the climax: the final logo, the fruit of our winter meditations. Unveiled at last on March 20, 2010 on the site’s homepage, just in time to ring in the spring.

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