Launched more than 12 years back, Twitter made it to the top 10 social networking sites with over 800 million monthly active users and 1.3 billion registered members. The brand’s iconic Bird logo can be seen all over the digital world and it’s almost impossible to miss for just about anybody who has surfed the internet. Since 2006 (year of inception), the microblogging and social networking site has come a long way to discover new frontiers.
Aside from corporate t-shirts and billboards to newsletters, emails, and other branding assets, the Twitter logo can also be found in the header or footer of almost every website. This popular bird emblem, as we know today, underwent a sequence of modifications and changes. Today, it’s so famous and ubiquitous that it does not even need any text to be recognizable. Here’s how the Twitter logo and the Twitter bird name came into existence.
History and Significance of the Twitter Logo
“Twitter is the bird, the bird is Twitter,” said Doug Bowman, the social networking giant’s former creative director, in a 2012 declaration about the latest rebranding of the Twitter logo. Its former, goofier version had a tufted head and was at times featured with the brand name; the revised bird logo was a sleeker design.
A striking amalgamation of a mountain bluebird and a hummingbird, the Twitter bird pointed toward the sky resembling hope, freedom, and boundless possibilities. Unlike the former versions of the brand logo (since 2006), all of which were called “Larry the Bird” representing the Boston Celtics legend, the present emblem is simply called the Twitter Bird.
The Larry emblem, to which the current icon bears some similarity, was designed by Simon Oxley, an UK based graphic designer who has created mascots for several online brands. He put his blue bird illustration for sale on iStock in 2006, where Twitter bought it for only $15. Here, the bird was a small, serene creature, featuring a stylized eye and seated on a branch that divides into a neat Japanese-inspired calligraphy. Interestingly, Simon Oxley himself was not aware of the fact that such a promising brand chose his creation until he was informed about it by a friend.
But since companies aren’t legally permitted to use iStock photos as official emblems, Oxley’s bird was soon left behind. A company founder, Biz Stone, created the first in-house bird logo, further modifying it with the help of a graphic designer, named Philip Pascuzzo, in 2009. They designed yet another version of the logo in 2010 — doing away with its cartoonish features— which was further modernized into its current form by Bowman.
Prior to Official Launch (2005-2006) of The Twitter Logo
The most primitive versions of the Twitter logo that never reached the official status feature the brand’s original name “twttr”. Designed by Biz Stone, these logotypes differed by color and design schemes. Say, there was a nature-themed logo featuring the dark and light green shades with dew drops on the letters. This served as the trial logo design for the first Twitter brand. There was also a multicolor, vibrant retro Atari-inspired emblem.
There were also two bubble designs that are worth mentioning. One of them had a magenta bubble with the word “twitter” in white placed within, whereas the other featured a green filling and another name of the company – “smssy” –in white. These bubble logo designs came with a tagline “An Odeo Thingy” just beneath the brand name.
The brand’s very first official logo was strikingly different from its pre launch edition. Designer Linda Gavin had just one day to design a masterpiece before the big official opening. It was a basic wordmark with a unique rounded font, light blue and white color palette, and the letters in small cases without any space in between. For the first time, the brand name “twitter” was used in the way it is used today (including both the vowels and no use of capital letters).
The emblem’s simplicity was well coordinated with the brand’s overall design approach and communication look, and helped draw users to their website. This logo represented the company for four years before the famous Twitter bird stepped in.
2010 – 2012
This revised version of the company logo featured the previous “twitter” inscription (on the left) along with the little blue bird (on the right). This version was designed jointly by Philip Pascuzzo and Douglas Bowman. A simple, concise design, it was minus all the unnecessary elements, as in the former editions. Its single-color silhouette symbolized tweets.
2012 – Present
An updated and possibly the final version of the logo was launched on 5th June, 2012 and was called “Twitter Bird”. Twitter’s creative director, Doug Bowman, was the person behind this rebranding project. Here, the designers dropped the name “Twitter” completely, in view of the fact that the bird was powerful enough to represent the brand alone. The fluff on its head disappeared and the beak pointed toward the sky, depicting hope, growth, freedom, and endless possibilities. Additionally, the bird’s head grew smaller and the feathers on the wing were reduced by one. The bird was now called the Twitter Bird instead of Larry the Bird.
Martin Grasser, its head designer, drew at least a thousand versions of the bird before achieving the final look. Next, he offered Jack Dorsey 24 sketches, from which he chose the 5CS option. The design consists of 15 superimposed circles, on top of each other. What’s more, the ratio of the big and small circles is close to the golden ratio.
This perfect proportion gives the bird – the head, beak, chest, and wings – an impressive appearance. In the words of Grasser, the bird is created out of circles so that it could “sit next to the most serious news that comes out on Twitter and also some of the silliness or more lighthearted moments or euphoria or joy or sadness,”
Evolution of the Iconic Twitter Bird
The original version of the bird looked quite different from the present one. It was a sleek, slender creature with two paws and a stylized eye. It faced to the left and was named Larry after the famous Larry Bird of the NBA’s Boston Celtics.
When used in Twitter’s official logo, Larry faced to the right, featured two wings, a light blue belly, and no paws. The next version was also similar in terms of form, but developed many cartoony features that were possibly designed to make it look familiar. The beak opened, whereas the eye featured a black pupil. Additionally, the creature grew a fluff on its head, two lean black paws, and an eyebrow.
This cartoon-like version of Larry lasted only for a short time, before it was replaced by a neat, silhouette design. The well-defined wings were probably the most notable change in the design. The paws were missing and the bird developed a classic look that’s similar to the one we see today.
Font and Color of the Twitter Logo
In 2012, the brand stopped using any text in its logo. Both the designers and the owners felt that there’s no longer any need for text to characterize Twitter. However, the first version of the logo used a bubbled typeface designed by Linda Gavin. This typeface looked strikingly similar to some commercial fonts like Aristotelica Pro Display Heavy and Modulus Pro Black, with round edges and thick legs. Nevertheless, the custom typeface had horizontally stretched lowercase letters, and the shape of the “R” differed from any other commercial font.
Coming to colors, blue is an extremely popular color for networking services (LinkedIn, Facebook and VKontakte), so the choice seems very obvious in the case of Twitter. They have used the freshest and most loved shade of blue — soft turquoise, one that depicts unity, innovation, communication, joy, wisdom, and positivity. It is also often associated with free will, something that’s analogous to the company’s service — allowing the users to express their thoughts and doubts without hesitation. There’s also a touch of white in the logo, which is a color of transparency, openness, and peace.
The logo is undoubtedly an innate part of Twitter’s branding, and a key role player in the company’s success. However, like many other big global brands, the iconic brand identity wasn’t created overnight. It took several years and loads of effort and contemplation to get where it is today. As a designer or entrepreneur, it’s important to choose an emblem that perfectly represents the idea that your company wants to bring to the forefront. The Twitter bird is as simple as the social networking platform itself, and effortlessly symbolizes creativity and freedom of speech – the brand’s essence.
PJ has a background in management consulting and software development. At DesignBro, he combines both. Personal favorite brand of PJ is Jeep.