Firefox Identity Project

21 Aug 2018

I was only a few days into my summer holiday when my twitter replies suddenly went mental. Unexpectedly, a project I’d been working on with Mozilla had been publicly released for feedback. Now that I’m back the moment has kind of passed, but I still wanted to blog something about the project and the thinking behind it.

Firefox 57 launched in Autumn 2017 with a redesigned UI and the latest version of the Firefox icon, designed in-house by Sean Martell. This version fixes a problem I’ve had with it from the beginning: the odd spiky tail. The Firefox now has a curvaceous tail made of flame, rather than spikes:

The+current+Firefox+icon+designed+by+Sean+Martell

This version also removes various details and takes it away from being a Red Fox to more of an elemental being. I often think of it as looking more like a nebula than anything solid – I love it. This version also introduced the bright Photon colour palette which informed lot of the work to come.

It was around this time that Mozilla approached me to work on an identity for Firefox. Firefox has always been the main product, but the family is growing with apps like Send, Lockbox and Focus. The goal was twofold: Design a system to make all these products visually cohesive, as well as a ‘masterbrand’ logo and identity to encompass all the products. The goal wasn’t to redesign the Firefox icon as such, but there may be some changes in order to create a system.

To do this, Mozilla used three designers to explore three different paths: Sean Martell (Communication Design Lead at Mozilla), Ramotion, and myself. While we worked sort-of-seperately, each path inspired other paths, and together we created enough ideas to fill a large coffee table book. Hopefully we’ll able to publish some of these in the future, and explain the thought processes that led us to where we are now.

L-R: All+designers+on+the+project
Denis (Ramotion), Me (Hicksdesign), Sean (Mozilla) and Michael (Ramotion) at a meeting in the Mozilla Berlin offices.

Over time, the work was honed down to just two paths – Ramotion stayed on theirs, while the work that Sean and I were doing merged organically into one.

System 1 represents the path that Sean and I took:

System+1+icons+for+the+Firefox+Identity+Project

System 2 represents the path that Ramotion took:

System+2+icons+for+the+Firefox+Identity+Project

The unease that comes with such projects is the inevitable snark-fest that follows. I deliberately avoided the comments sections on various sites, but one response that I heard loud and clear was that the System 1 masterbrand logo was a rip-off of Gitlab. Yes, there are certain similiarities in a face-on geometric fox head, but it’s lazy to suggest it’s the same logo. I’d never even heard of Gitlab until that point, and neither would the general audience of Firefox.

I also read the Design Week article which reported Hicksdesign as being a ‘London-based branding studio’ (wrong on both counts, but hey, it’s a mention!).

The project is still not complete by any means, but we’re getting nearer to a solution. I’m sure the public release has given Mozilla plenty to chew over ;)

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