Thunderbird

20 Apr 2004

Following on from the branding of Firefox, comes the new logo for Mozilla’s email client, Thunderbird. When Stephen Desroches sketched out the orginal idea for Firefox back in December, he had in mind how this affects the other applications, and Thunderbird was sketched out too:

original sketches by Stephen Desroches

After Firefox 0.8 came out, I started work on fleshing theses sketches out, trying various bird types. Early on we decided to keep the envelope metaphor, and include a globe. At this point I couldn’t find any reference to a real Thunderbird, so I didn’t have a starting point. I tried a few approaches:

my working sketches

These are my working sketches – #1:Too evil! #2: Dove =
too fluffy! (although it stood for mail in many countries)
#3: Too different in position to Firefox #4: Too hunched! #5:better, but still a wierd shape. Generally, the perspective on all but the first sketch looked a bit odd.

Finally I’d found a reference to a mythical Thunderbird in Native American art, which had a crest. I really liked this idea, and added it to the final sketch. Sketch #6 is a basic vectors sketch using #5 as a basis, but adding the crest and improving the posture.

Native American Thunderbird

Finally we had something we had something that the team were all happy with.

This time I was using Illustrator CS to create the logo. I started by creating the main colour palette – a range of tones as new swatches, I usually do about four: ‘Darkest. Dark, Mid, Light’. With each colour, I checked the option for ‘Global’. All gradients were then created using these swatches. This allowed me to adjust the colours for, say, “Mid tone” and it would then update all the instances of that colour – even those used in gradients.

my working sketches

Here are the final icons:


Final icons

More importantly, Thunderbird also gets Kevin Gerich and Stephen Horlander’s brand spanking new pinstripe theme for OS X. When you compare this interface with the Windows equivalent, you can really appreciate the attention to detail. They’ve gone to huge lengths to make this look and feel as much of a native app as possible. I only converted to Apple Mail from Entourage back in January, but I’m giving Tbird a spin to see if I’m tempted over. So far I particularly love the 3 column layout option. At the time of writing, the new icon artwork has only been checked into the Windows version – OS X will come soon.

Now that Firefox and Thunderbird are both ‘done’, the task is go back over both of them, tweaking and polishing before the final release candidates.

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