Wikimedia’s User Experience team invited me and a few others into the office to be part of focus group concerning a proposed new iconography.
With free pizza proffed, the UX team Jared Zimmerman, May Galloway, and Yufei Liu, (pictured right) launched right into the need for these new set of icons, or “marks” as they are calling them.
- The current logos don’t scale to 16 pixels square, and don’t overlay well.
- To distinguish links to wikimedia sites on non-wikimedia sites.
- Other sites have “social media” icons which if a brand is big enough replace a text link. Think facebook “f”, or twitter’s “t”.
- Also, there was an intriguing mock-up which displayed twitter having a special preview of a link to Wikipedia, much like they treat youtube links specially.
- Attribution to wikimedia content is verbose and cumbersome, and could be wrapped into an iconic link.
I’m convinced. Just like there are “post to facebook” buttons polluting the internet, there may as well be “read on Wikipedia” icons to restore some balance to the universe. Even though it’s minor, the attribution point is also valid. When I want to attribute commons – like I do on other parts of this blog – well all that copypasta is half of my repetitive strain injury.
Before continuing to show you what these marks actually look like, allow me to appease the User Experience team by disclaiming these disclaimers about the designs you are about to see.
- Not replacements. The marks are not meant to be replacements for the current logos (don’t call these logos). They are in-addition-to what we already have, and for others to use when pointing links to or mentioning Wikmedia.
- Not final. The marks shown here are not final, they are open for community review and scrutiny. I trust them because they sat quietly as I bombasted how the Wikpedia mark looks like it’s from M*A*S*H.
- Not forced. The marks will not be forced on the community. There will be a Request for Comment, and the outcome of that RfC will decide the fate of this project. Wikimedia Foundation is not making anyone do anything.
With that said we can proceed to analysing the design language, of which there are two.
The first of the two languages, which in these images are the upper row, is called “Tangram”. A tangram (oh look there’s a link to Wikipedia, which wordpress could render with a small mark next to it) is a Chinese toy or puzzle, that consists of rearranging certain primitive shapes. All the tangram marks can be made by rearranging four shapes (sadly not pictured here). The tangram series is more “metaphoric” to use the UX team’s words. Although the Wikipedia mark, still a “W”, is not metaphoric as a notable exception. It’s also the simpler of the two series. Often times making out the meaning is a bit more oblique, but easier to see once the meaning is pointed out, which I do in the captions.
Path, shown in the lower row, is the more complicated set of the two. The UX team still says that these will work at 16 by 16 px. They are described as having a sketchier feel, and were explained to preserve the circular nature that exists in the current logos. Path’s meanings are more literal, and thus easier to decipher at first glance, which Jared Zimmerman said, almost regrettably, will bias people to like them better.
Now you may enjoy your sneak peek.
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