Skyfonts is “the simplest way to try, install, and manage fonts”. It allows you to install and try fonts from the big font services like Monotype, MyFonts, Fonts.com, Google Fonts and more. In essence it syncs a huge library of faces, and as a MyFonts fan I can buy a font and have synced automatically to my desktop and start using it straight away.
So where do you start with a identity for a service like this? There are a lot of clichés such as clouds, and sync arrows that would be nice to avoid. Mindmaps are very useful here for looking at different angles on an identity. My thoughts were initially centred around the pangrams used to showcase typefaces, and the most well known of these is ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’. Using this as a starting point I sketched out some ideas around the fox, which felt like a strong visual to hang this around.
Pencil sketching is always the starting point, but these sketches aren’t always ‘pretty to look at’. Sometimes, a client will never see this stage, but it’s important to get the ideas out of the head and down on paper before they’re gone. In order to create something that the client can consider, these are often redrawn in either pencil again, or as a simple, clean vector illustration. Colour is often ignored at this stage, and initial ideas are mostly seen in black and white. In this example however, the subject matter decided the colour early on. More time is spent on the ideas than the execution, as its important to not spend too much of the budget early on.
This version was influenced by a loose Japanese style, and added a sweatband to convey that this was a quick fox. Normally a logo wouldn’t have any particular proportion constraints, but as this would end up as an icon, it had to work within a square boundary, which would leave a lot of whitespace top and bottom. For this reason, I looked at versions that would show just the head, leaving the full leaping fox for other contexts. Here’s the second iteration of that approach:
The next approach I explored was how this could be constructed with a geometric pattern. I tried various directions with this, some seemed more serious than others. In some, I was able to reduce the fox head to a downward arrow to subtly convey the function of Skyfonts:
It also looked too aggressive though, so we tried making this direction cuter, more friendly:
I was very keen on this approach, but one of the clients’ concerns was that there is already a large brand that uses a red fox as its mascot (Firefox of course). Trying the fox in other colours didn’t work either (‘Brown’ is quite key to the idea!)
So we revisited one of my initial ideas: a simple capital S, with syncing arrows. I was initially quite resistant to this as I felt that syncing arrows were overdone. However, this is an application that will mostly be seen on either the Mac OS menubar or Windows system tray. In this case the simplest and most obvious logo was the best, more of icon approach. Yes, this is a lot more ‘safe’, but in the context, it works best.
The final result was then animated by my favourite animation collaborator, Julian Frost, who I worked with on the Skype Emoticons project. When syncing is in progress, the two S shapes intertwine with each other in the most delightful way.