Issue #14 December 2005

The making of the Fedora logo

"Logo—The distinctive visual symbol for the brand that should represent its core values and attributes."
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Identity Guidelines

Almost immediately after Red Hat announced its intent to create the Fedora™ Foundation, talk began about the need for a new Fedora logo. My earliest archived thread about creating a new Fedora logo dates from June 9—a mere six days after the announcement hit the wire! I count more than 60 threads, some with 20 or more messages in them, all offering ideas for what the new logo should look like. Some submitted their own designs, from periodical tables to cartoon puppies.

Now, five months later, Fedora is ready to present its new logo to the public, and true to our values, the logo comes with its source code open. Read through it and see how it is made and what makes it tick. Think about why having a new logo for Fedora is so important, and why so many people spent so much time thinking and arguing about it.

Red Hat Magazine interviewed two people closest to the creation of the new logo: Greg DeKoenigsberg, Director of Fedora Foundation and Community Relations Manager at Red Hat and Matt Muñoz, creator of the new logo and graphic designer at design firm Capstrat.

RHM: Please tell us about the significance of the new logo design for you and for Fedora.
Greg: As Fedora continues to become more and more independent, it's critical to pay attention to Fedora's brand. The Fedora brand must evolve separately from Red Hat's brand. Fedora is very important to Red Hat, but Fedora is not Red Hat. It's really crucial to understand that distinction.
Matt: The new logo had to be a symbol that unifies the community, represents their core beliefs, and gives them an independent, stronger voice.
To me, this was a good example of opening up the creative process and working closely with the community to achieve a common goal.
Greg: Of course, we had some interesting challenges to overcome. "Fedora" basically means "hat" to much of the English speaking world, yet we wanted to avoid using a hat image out of respect for Red Hat's brand. So it took a lot of creative thinking to get us through that issue.

We did not want to make the Fedora mark to be about technology, but about a larger goal, a larger meaning, a larger truth that we want to convey.

RHM: What does the "voice of the community" metaphor mean to you?
Matt: It solidifies Fedora's place as the active representative for everything the community nurtures. A logo does not immediately become obvious. What makes it truly represent the organization is the meaning that you infuse the logo with based on other aspects of your brand-community relations, user experience, your values... all the non-visual things that you do.

RHM: Was there any particular idea or thought that made the most impact on the creative process?
Matt: Yes, joining the Fedora marketing list. This gave us access to community ideas and dialog, which was the foundation of the creative process.
The community conversation led us to the four Fedora ideals [Fedora is open, free, innovative, and forward-looking]. One of them, Fedora's forward-looking nature, was the starting point that put us in the right frame of mind when creating the logo. This thought organically led us to thinking about Fedora's commitment to the future, a promise of innovation, openness, and freedom—infinite freedom. "Infinite freedom" has become the source of Fedora symbol. It is a simple metaphor, but it means so much more than just another Linux® distribution, more than technology alone.

fedora logo process

RHM: Matt, how did you go about collecting input from the Fedora community and what did you do with it?
Matt: We began the process by researching everything possible about the community. We met with Greg to gain an understanding of the audience. That led us to join the Fedora marketing list, which was the single most important thing we did. For months, we observed conversations about community ideas, logos, and marketing messages. Before creating the visual representation of Fedora, we printed out all emails from the discussion list and highlighted all the words that referred to the essence of Fedora, and then drew a mind-map. From there it was very much in my mind like it is shown in the online presentation: One thing lead to another, and it was becoming easier to connect the dots, to crystallize the meaning.

RHM: Greg, what do you see when you look at the new logo?
Greg: I've been sorta trained to see all of the elements, so it's not entirely a fair question. Even so, I basically see a really cool logo with a big "F" in it. Oooh, and look, an infinity, too!
Ultimately, what matters is what we do with Fedora. I suppose that some people develop emotional attachments to a logo because of how it looks, but most people become attached to what the logo represents, I think. When people look at the Fedora logo, I hope that they think about a great project that cares about quality and community and software freedom. If that's what comes through, then I'm delighted, no matter what the logo looks like.