Twitter’s New Logo: The Geometry and Evolution of Our Favorite Bird

by on 11th June 2012 with 22 Comments

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Recently, Twitter unveiled its brand new logo. It’s certainly not the first time this has happened, but the company seems insistent that this is going to be the last change we see for a while.

Join us as we take a look at the new logo, discuss why it’s better or worse and analyze the interesting geometry that was used to create the icon. Is there some hidden magic in using circles to create your logo? Read on to find out.

Twitter Unveils a New Logo

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On June 6, 2012, Twitter pushed out a blog post revealing the future of their brand: the new Twitter bird. Shown above, the thing that you’ll notice instantly about this new take on the feathered frontman is that he’s taking flight. No longer content to glide in a horizontal position, this bird is going places.

No Words

Along with the unveiling of the new icon, the folks at Twitter sought to clarify any confusion about how the brand logo will appear henceforth:

“Starting today you’ll begin to notice a simplified Twitter bird. From now on, this bird will be the universally recognizable symbol of Twitter. (Twitter is the bird, the bird is Twitter.) There’s no longer a need for text, bubbled typefaces, or a lowercase “t” to represent Twitter.”

It seems that Twitter has joined the ranks of Apple, Nike, Starbucks and Target in the club of companies that are so big that their brand is instantly recognizable without a single letter of text.

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This simplifies things nicely. The previous versions of the logo were often shown with or without the text, which may or may not have appeared in the same position in relation to the logo.

I personally love it when logos reach the stage of being a simple, ubiquitous icon. If effectively produced and executed, your brain instantly links the symbol with the word. You don’t see a picture of a check mark, you see the word Nike, even if it’s not explicitly written out.

The Death of Larry?
As a side note, historically speaking the Twitter bird was named Larry (yep, Larry bird.). However, given the above statement, “Twitter is the bird, the bird is Twitter”, it seems to be that the name Larry will be laid to rest. I could be wrong, but I’m guess that the new bird is Twitter, period. No extra moniker is needed, implied or used in any way.

The Evolution of a Bird

Though the Twitter logo has gone through a ton of changes, many of which included no bird at all, by my count, there have been five major iterations of the actual Twitter bird formerly known as Larry.

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Interestingly enough, many of the illustrations that I can find of the original bird actually face to the left, though it seems Twitter played with facing him in either direction. Eventually though, Larry decided that right was right and has been looking that way ever since.

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The second version of the bird wasn’t a gradual step but a complete redesign from scratch. This set the bird on the path of slow evolution that brought it where it is today. As you can see, the second and third iterations are actually fairly similar in shape, they mainly sought to make the bird more cartoony and friendly.

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The next step was to drop all that silly cartoon detail and revert to a silhouette look. During the process, the bird’s shape was streamlined. The feet were removed, the wings redrawn and the beak was made to be less awkwardly curved. Interestingly enough, in this step, the bird was made to look less like it was moving upwards, a step that would be reversed and taken to new heights in the next version.

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Now we come to the newest iteration. Aside from the change of direction, there are several other notable changes. The wings have one less feather or ridge, the fluff on top has been removed and the enlarged cartoon head has been scaled down considerably and smoothed out into a circle.

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The Round About Way to Build a Logo

There’s something about the geometry of the new Twitter logo that’s pretty interesting. Twitter isn’t trying to hide it but boldly showcases this characteristic in the launch video.

What if I told you this was the new Twitter logo?

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If you haven’t seen the video, you might think that I was smoking something. This is a mess of circles, not a bird. What gives? Take another look and all will become clear.

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Here’s one final look that makes it really easy to see how that mess of circles actually defines the shape of the bird.

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As you can clearly see, the new Twitter logo is based heavily on perfect circles. But wait, is this a parlor trick or something intentional? Could you do this same thing to any logo with lots of curves? Lets test this on the previous bird.

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The answer: yes and no. In some ways, the previous bird also used portions of circular arcs to define the geometry, but when you really get in close, there are plenty of curves that simply don’t match up and are instead somewhat irregular. It’s important to note that every part of the new logo can be defined using one of two circles (one small, one large).

Other Circle Centric Logos

Twitter is definitely not alone in their attempt to bring beauty and simplicity to their logo through the use of circles. The first time I personally saw this type of logic being used to define a logo was in the somewhat nonsensical launch deck for the new Pepsi logo:

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As you can see, the logo at the top is largely defined by ovals (this works with other shapes too!) while the newer logo near the bottom clearly uses circles in a similar manner to what Twitter has done.

By far, the most popular use of this type of logo design has to be the Apple logo. The mockup below from banskt.com might just change the way you see this logo forever.

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Others have noted that this is not an isolated incident in the world of Apple. The iCloud logo uses similar conventions.

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The Golden Ratio

More than simply being circular, the logos above share another interesting trait: they all heavily use the concept of the golden ratio. Does the new Twitter logo follow suit?

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As far as I can tell… almost. The proportions of the smaller circle seem a tad too small to precisely align with the golden ratio (particularly noticeable on the head) but it’s close enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some intentionality present there on the part of the designer.

What Does It Mean!?

Now that we’re extremely familiar with the proportions and geometry behind these popular logos, an extremely important question arises: why? Why does the new Twitter logo conform so strictly to perfect circle geometry and why are many logos of this kind so bound to the golden ratio?

Upon seeing this kind of thought being put into logos, countless designers immediately become intimidated. Did you miss something in your design education? Are you a bad designer if you don’t follow this strategy when building a logo? Fortunately, for the most part, the answer is “no.”

“There’s really nothing more to it than that, despite what you might hear from hippie designers who think absolute perfection is as easy as using a magic formula.”

The real reason behind these ideas isn’t anything complex and mysterious, the simple truth is that using this method can resulted in a well balanced, consistent piece of artwork. There’s really nothing more to it than that, despite what you might hear from hippie designers who think absolute perfection is as easy as using a magic formula.

If Twitter had randomly drawn the curves by hand for the bird, the degree of curvature might be inconsistent from line to line. Using two circles as the primary guides however, the entire logo has a sort of clean, simple look that makes it works great as a brand icon.

The Lesson

The lesson here is that when you’re perfecting a logo design, you should always be thinking about proportions and to some degree, mathematical relationships. Make sure the spacing is consistent and logical and that both your curves and angles are consistent in the places where they should be and intentionally different everywhere else.

Popular logo designer Graham Smith recommends using “guides, grids and pretty circles” not as a starting point in your design process but as a way to add that finishing touch that really completes the project nicely and showcases things like how to use the space around the logo.

Though there are exceptions where you might start with these tools, I’m inclined to agree. This strategy is meant to be a tool to help refine your work, not inhibit your creativity. When you’re sketching logo concepts, don’t sweat it if you draw a line that won’t conform to a perfect circle.

What Do You Think of The New Twitter Logo?

I find it fascinating to look deep into the thought processes and design strategies of talented creatives and the new Twitter logo is a great example of a piece of work that has a lot to teach us. I initially hesitated when I saw they they stripped away some of the character from the bird, but the deeper I dug, the more I began to appreciate the new design and see it as a great way to (hopefully) conclude the evolution of our favorite social media icon.

Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts. Do you love the new bird? Hate it? What do you think of all this circle/golden ratio stuff? Is it a load of hooey or a helpful way to approach logo design? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Comments & Discussion

22 Comments

  • http://www.zazani.info Eleni

    Very interesting article! Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.giometri.com egiova

    As your asking, here is my opinion:
    The new logo has the advantage of appearing both more dynamic and more formal than before, without losing its engaging look. So we can say it’s a success. The proportions of the logo, and your demonstration, demonstrates that some designers have taken their work very seriously, and they have nothing left to chance. Good article, I will take the “post-production of a logo”, which is an interesting contribution to the design process.
    Undoubtedly, many designers think that inspiration is essential. It’s true, but not enough. This is what makes design so exciting.

  • JustSomeDesignerBloke

    What Twitter and most designers act like it took:

    “Using our love for ornithology, aeronautical engineering, dragonflies, dragons, flies, quantum physics, Nikola Telsa, and Euclidean mathematical variances that permeate all tangents within the multiverse, we based the new logo on simple circular entities or masks thereof. This provides a subconscious sense of unity and cleanliness within objects that bind and coalesce. The bird is more mature now, darker with less feathers, to represent how it is now more confident and aged, refined, and agile. This represents our business model of evolution, expansion and progression. The ratios of the spaces also represent stages of 3s, 1s to 3s, 23, golden ratios, and are divisible by the number of neurons within the average adult human’s brain. This will cause for all synapses in a person’s brain to fire in a 3-4-3-15-3-1 pattern when they look at the bird. This will create a sense of trust, and further convey our move toward growth and 140-character limits. We also chose the exact shade of blue that we did because 200 functional MRI studies we did on the International Space Station showed that…”

    The reality of it:

    “We ditched the hatchling bird and made an adult bird. It’s simple, made of circles, no fuss or muss. We did some basic measurements to make sure it was scalable and usable in various media situations. We decided on a color that we’re not compromising. It’s now pointed up and taking off, just like Twitter. We’re growing up. Anyone wanna order more Thai food?”

    The latter isn’t dropping jaws, nor is it winning any Nobel Prizes soon, but it ironically sounds smarter, more honest, and it’s pretty much what took place. And I’m not saying it was a 5-minute job made out to be a 50-year endeavor, but it was way closer to the former than the latter. I sincerely have a hard time believing it was some extremely arduous undertaking.

    p.s. Pardon my insensitivity toward immutably-PC individuals, but the whole Pepsi logo explanation is just retarded.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/tomaszchemski Chemski

    @JustSomeDesignerBloke Your comment totally made my day!

    • http://designshack.com kimmy

      shut up :)

      • brooke

        No you.

  • http://www.gonzodesign.nl Gonzo the Great

    @JustSomeDesignerBloke .. brilliant mate!

  • http://www.microangelo.co.uk/ MicroAngelo

    If you look there are actually (at least) three different sizes of circle:

    1) the small one the size of the “head”
    2) the big one the size of the “front” of the bird
    3) the almost-as-big one used for the “back” of the bird

    To me it looks like the other larger circles used, e.g. for the beak, are actually #3 – you might have more joy fitting the golden ratio between #1 and #3 than #1 and #2 like you’ve done.

    Interesting nonetheless, and personally I think the new logo looks much better. Never liked the weird 50s style cartoon.

  • Nicho

    @justsomedesignerguy aha brilliant mate. I think most people will agree with you on that.
    Great article though, some good insights.
    And doesn’t this mean you have to change your page Joshua ? I can still see the “t” for sharing to twitter at the top left.

    Oh yeah and that pepsi thing is retarded.

  • http://berrry.com Berrry Website Builder

    Looking at the logo and how it has changed from the beginning you can definitely see that it is much more professional. I do however think that the loss of the birds hair does kill a bit of its character which is a little sad.

  • http://www.siteway.de/ Richard

    WOW. This is a great lesson in simple logo designs! Thank you very much.
    I like the new twitter bird (never liked the old ones), as well as the iCloud Logo.
    I try to use the golden ratio as well in pretty all of my designs it is nice to see, that others seem to follow a similar pattern.

  • http://savagebrands.com Raquel Gonzalez

    Simple. Subtle. Still Awesome.

    Based on the continuous evolution of the platform, it makes complete sense to evolve the logo. Kuddos to Twitter for making a clean jump into this memorable logo.

  • http://burstcreative.com Kevin

    I really like the simplicity and geometry of the new logo – I think it’s a great step forward. Since the golden ratio is proven and has stood the test of time, I’m surprised that this isn’t the go-to solution for solving design problems and getting great proportions. I often overlay designs with the golden spiral which leads to a more cohesive and complete product.

  • http://www.ibm.com IBM Fan

    Nice… and now the IBM logo please :-D

  • http://www.sdwhaven.com/ SDWHaven

    Great article! Thanks for showing all those interesting circular logo images. I didn’t really notice twitter had change so much identity wise.

    • http://designshack.com kimberly

      nobot cares?

  • uscricketer

    I assumed the Pepsi diagram was a joke. Am I wrong?

  • http://www.logodoctor.co.uk Logo Doctor

    .

  • http://www.logodoctor.co.uk Logo Doctor

    I’ll never be able to look at that bird the same way again!

  • AntoxaGray

    I like old logo more. Less geometric, more… fun.

    As for Pepsi.

  • http://www.veilcraft.bigcartel.com veiled

    check out bouleaus a painters secret geometry

  • http://dribbble.com/HHHSplus Nick

    The article is realy interesting.
    But the guy who put apple logo to the golden ratio grid were probably wrong.
    Let me show the thing http://d.pr/i/Wi5m

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