Nothing gets us designers talking quite like the overhaul of a prominent company’s visual identity. In this article, Designlab’s Andrew Wilshere takes a look at three of his favorite rebrands of 2017 so far: Mozilla, a non-profit web project best known for the open-source Firefox browser; the British charity Alzheimer’s Society; and Southern Living, an American magazine and lifestyle brand.
1. Mozilla’s Protocol Revision
The Mozilla project began in 1998, with a mission to drive web browser innovation. It brought programmers together to work on a range of open source projects, providing free products for the public good, like the celebrated Firefox web browser. The release of Firefox was something of a watershed for the internet, and marked the beginning of the end for Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which at the time commanded over 90% of the browser market.
Mozilla’s old wordmark (see above, top) was very Web 2.0, set in Erik Spiekermann’s brilliant but ubiquitous typeface FF Meta, which Under Consideration describes as “the Helvetica of the early 2000s”. Last year, Mozilla commissioned the design firm Johnson Banks for a major rebrand. Consistent with Mozilla’s values, initial logo ideas were crowdsourced, and the subsequent brand development was itself conducted in the open.
Key to choosing the final direction, which Johnson Banks named “Protocol” (see above, bottom), was the amount of user research that went in to the design process. Protocol performed well in user research, but another design, “Burst”, was also unexpectedly successful with a key target group not currently engaged with Mozilla’s products. You can read Johnson Banks’ summary of the “roads not taken” on their website.
This user testing process led the team to an initially crude combination of the Protocol and Burst design directions. This evolved into the final brand system, which combines the geeky typography of the moz://a wordmark with colourful bursts of graphics, which feel like they’ve been grabbed straight from a Google images search:
Before this rebrand, Mozilla had perhaps receded from the internet’s consciousness somewhat. Following its popularity in the mid-2000s, Firefox’s cool factor was usurped by emerging tech giants. Building on Mozilla’s work, Google developed an innovative and versatile browser platform (Chrome) that even spawned its own range of mini-apps (Chrome Apps) and hardware (Chromebooks), and Apple, of course, created the Safari browser for Mac OS.
The visual identity that Johnson Banks have delivered for Mozilla certainly conveys a movement rediscovering its mojo – though it remains to be seen whether the organisation can deliver innovation to match today’s very different, more regulated, more commercialized web.