OmniTI are instantly recognisable to almost anyone interested in open source development, scalability or security. Their client list reads like a who’s who of the Web. Many of their people are core contributors to open source technologies like PHP; some are co-creators of popular frameworks like CakePHP and Solar; they speak at many industry conferences and have written eight critically-acclaimed technical books; they’re probably one of the most technically erudite and accomplished consulting companies working on the Web today.
They asked me to work on their identity to mark their tenth anniversary and the separation of the email part of their business off in to a separate entity. This is an insight into the process and how the final design was created:
Scope & objectives
In June 2007 the initial scope asked for a redesigned mark that would still be recognisable to people already familiar with the brand. That meant retaining many of the elements of the original, including the typeface, over the course of five iterations. This was the existing mark at the time:
These are the objectives of the redesign we arrived at during the specification stage:
- Simplify the mark “O” and incorporate it into the type to render well for the Web at small and medium sizes as well as large.
- Make the mark as easy to understand as possible with the correct enunciation.
- Clarify the typography for the Web and provide “balance”.
- Make the form colour–independant and suitable for all formats: print, screen or otherwise.
- Make the mark unique and suitable for trade mark purposes.
Type & typography
Identifying the original typeface was straightforward. It was Century Gothic from Monotype Imaging: A Bauhaus-inspired geometric face designed specifically for digital systems, based on 20th Century, which was drawn by Sol Hess between 1936 and 1947 and in turn inspired by Futura. Century Gothic shipped with Windows from Win98.
After reproducing the original type treatment, I quickly capitalised the name properly in order for it to be read more accurately. I converted the text portion of the mark to black and white, and began to play with anti-alias at low screen resolutions to show a quick revision to OmniTI before starting in earnest:
The weight of the capitals looked incongruous to me, but the quick revision gave us all food for thought. It set the tone for the direction the design would move in, and I got stuck in to the main body of work: Trying to find a way of simplifying the existing flaming comet and incorporating it in to the leading “O”.
Simple & Complicated Revisions
Iterating the existing mark forced me to go back to starting principles. Much of the form needed to be retained, but it had a significant problem: If this was an identity seen mostly on the screen, then the existing mark was too complicated, effectively breaking at lower sizes, and forcing OmniTI to use a comparatively large version for the “comet” to be rendered properly.
The first two revisions were deliberately simplified as far as I could make them with some movement retained in the stylised “O”, but stripped completely of decoration:
These revisions were deliberately provocative on my part by being extremely simplified and pushing the limits of the brief. However, having something tangible gave everyone room to think and react. It made the boundaries of the brief slightly clearer and allowed me to continue with more of a feeling for the direction we needed to go in.
From the super-simplified, the next two iterations re-introduced the trails from the original mark as flames, and swung the design in an opposite, more complicated direction:
This was deliberate, too. I’ve sometimes found that good results come from a design process that swings like a pendulum or an elliptical orbit around the final outcome. To find the right balance between the requirements it sometimes feel right to push the design out to the aphelion along certain lines of thought, then let the collaborative process pull it back to the perihelion where all the conditions are met and it works. That’s what happened for OmniTI. Collaborative discussion with them and their quality feedback was crucial to this approach.
The final iteration combined the two approaches, with a more geometric comet that has echoes of the original, but more simply drawn. The letterforms were unlocked from the pixel grid, but with the anti-alias tightened. The acronym capitals were also adjusted. This was the result:
During the OmniTI web site redesign (a case study
will follow soon ) the logo was re-coloured to match the palette:
All of the iterations and development of the final brand mark were heavily influenced by the feedback of Chris Shiflett, Theo Schlossnagle, Brian Vaughn and the rest of the OmniTI folks who gave their time and opinions. This collaboration was crucial to get the end result. My job was to guide them through the technical design process and hold all of their requirements in my mind while the pixels and vectors appeared on the screen.
It was a real privilege to be trusted with their brand. I think we achieved a good result from what is often an emotive exercise, and I’m particularly happy that we managed to build on the work that came before to reach the final design.