13 June 2006

[logo_design] Ubuntu: Communicating Commonality

After writing about how we have the new FreekBox from Free Geek, I began looking into Ubuntu. After all, if you've a passing interest in OSs, as I do, it's hard not to be interested.

Surfing to the Ubuntu web page, http://www.ubuntu.com, I found something even more interesting than that; a concret demonstration of how the message of relation and commonality can be communicated through three similar logos that leave a different impression.

Firstly, the Ubuntu logo itself (in the interests of disclosure, all graphics have been nicked from the Ubuntu website. Message to Canonical Ltd.: consider coming up with graphics for journalists. Please.):

The word ubuntu, as is by now well known, is a word with roots in the Bantu culture, which emphasizes community. It's most popular translation is humanity towards others, but my favorite (as well as one which communicates the software's apparent ethos to me best) is "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity".

Free, empowering community, people helping others. Pretty simple. Ubuntu Linux is, of course, free, and they'll even ship you a pressed CD of the current release if you ask.

The particularls of the logo are direct, simple and friendly. Warm colors seem to evoke a welcoming feeling; the graphic is a dead clever abstraction of community (three people in a circle linking hands), and the logo font is particularly apt; a simple, strong sans serif that looks almost hand drawn–it reminds me of a child writing in the sand.

There are allied projects: Xubuntu, Edubuntu, and Kubuntu. Here are thier logos:

The three tell individual stories whilst maintaining a strong and obvious alliance. The Xubuntu and Kubuntu projects are Ubuntu with focus on desktops other than Gnome: respectively, Xfce and KDE. Both communicate strong alliance through symbol (the rodent mascot of Xfce and the eight-toothed gear from the K Desktop Environment logo) and typography (the extensions of the word ubuntu) and individuality (for Kubuntu and Xubuntu) by the use of the signature colors of the desktops.

The simple change to the Ubuntu logo for Edubuntu (Ubuntu intended for a classroom environmment, naturally), though, makes me smile the most. Colors are maintained, meaning it's closer to the parent than any of its siblings, and the turned up arm of one of the abstract figures instantly evokes an image common to many cultures; a child in a classroom raising his or her hand to be called on.

Simple changes that preserve the family circle but which, unequivocally, evoke a different personality for each sibling. Clever, direct, and brilliant.

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