The more observant or bored among you may have noticed that we’ve changed the banner above to a new and improved tree design. I’m feeling nostalgic today so I thought it might be interesting to show you how we moved through iterations of our logo.

Phase 1 – a home brew logo

When we were pitching ode to the board we needed something quick and simple to stick on a PowerPoint.

We had the name and the tagline, but we didn’t have an identity. We weren’t interested in brand values and other such fripperies at this time.

So Dik, our Senior Content Architect and ex-designer (as he is fond of telling us he was once a snake hipped young design gunslinger in Brighton) put this together:

Our very first logo

First ever ode logo

Phase 2 – Trying to please everyone

So now we were being funded and things were looking decidedly more serious we realised that we were going to need a more grown up brand. So rather than outsource it once again we gave it a go ourselves.

Maria, our tester, is also a talented designer so we asked her to quickly mock up a large range of possibilities. She put about 40 designs together, including the first one, and printed them out.

We then pinned them up to a noticeboard and invited people to have a browse (on their own to minimise any sheep mentality) and stick a 1, 2 or 3 against the 3 logos of their choice, 1 being most preferred.

This was our first attempt at a sort of a wisdom of crowds type thing. We were forced down this democratic route as everyone was shouting about their favourites and frankly it was getting to the stage where the discussion could go on and on. Some of the most famous logos in the world are actually pretty ordinary so I advise you don’t spend months procrastinating.

Set 1:

ODE logos part 1

Set 2:

ODE logos part 2

Set 3:

ODE logos part 3

Set 4:

ODE logos part 4

We wanted:

  • something modern, impactful and simple. We didn’t want corporate, serious or too similar to something else.
  • something that identified a modern web look. We had many Web 2.0 type logos to inspire us, but we didn’t want to copy any of them either.
  • something that could scale down to Moo card size and print well in black and white (try typing in “moo card” in Google Image Search, the 2nd and 3rd images are my hand holding a Moo card. Fame at last!).
  • “Little bits of learning” and word “beta” to appear in the logo.
  • something that wouldn’t alienate our core audience – professional educators.

I’m sure you love/hate/feel ambivalent about some of the above, much as we did.

Eventually we all agreed that the simple lozenge box with a curvaceous “ode” in the center was the one that felt most right. We also had to agree on colour. A nice healthy green seemed to work well, with black and white in the typeface.

Whether to use upper or lower case was also a big debate. Call us shallow but lower case felt more hip and groovy.

So we ended up with this. In all honesty, it’s a gut feeling most of the time. We liked it very much.

The famous green lozenge

Original ODE logo

If you’re building a logo I can only advise you live with it for a few days and try it out for size. It’s amazing what first turned you off really grows on you after a while. We printed it and pinned it up all over our break out room and office, used it as our desktop wallpaper and even rasterized it to a 4’x4′ poster.

Phase 3 – Fruity goodness

After a while we we launched this blog and it needed a banner for the top. We used istockphoto to buy a suitable image and we amalgamated it with the logo. We liked the blue skies and the rolling hills. Very calming.

We also liked the metaphor of the tree having different fruit in it’s boughs being a bit like ode selling lots of different things. OK, OK most metaphors don’t bear close examination but you get the idea.

“It’s always sunny in odeworld” blog banner

Old blog banner

And that’s where it stayed for a while. We even had it printed onto a 10 foot banner for our BETT stand and it looked great.

BETT Stand 08

(What we didn’t see until we had it printed on that massive sign was that the “e” was slightly lower than the rest of the word ode as the font was hand made. Still, no one else noticed either.)

Part 4 – Time to get serious

As we grew nearer to beta launch we realised that we’re going to have get more grown up about a fuller branding experience.

As luck would have it a while back we had bumped into the hallowed designer Jon Hicks at an Oxford Geek night and via some beer became firm friends.

He liked the idea of ode and, even though he is in serious demand, was happy to work with us to come up with some branding guidelines, a new logo, colour schemes, style sheets etc.

Hicks design card and Mac mini

We were properly geeked out and very excited to work with him – this was the guy who designed the logo for Firefox, the greatest browser ever™. This time we went through several iterations of design including design brief meetings.

We had to fill in a branding questionnaire that would help Jon in conceptualising the new logo. This is an example question:

Look and Feel:
Please write keywords to describe the look and feel you’re after (Calm, energetic, warm, fresh, traditional etc):

Set 1: fresh, “web2.0”, hygienic, professional, social, focused
Set 2: inviting, modern, unthreatening, remarkable – in the sense of “one would actively want to remark upon it to a peer”, technology (in the Apple sense)

NOT: “primary” school, “educational”, dry, unsure, technology (in the Microsoft sense).

So once we’d done all this prep work he went off and developed a first pass.

These are some of the ideas that didn’t make it. This is not any judgement on Jon’s work (I think that his track record speaks for itself!) but by seeing what we like/don’t like helps him hone what we need.

1. The ode brain – this proved popular, but the face spooked us out too much. The blue brain was pretty cool but too abstract without the head.

ODE Brain

2. The ode cheesegrater – this was probably the most polished sketch and universally loved as it was so much fun. But we just couldn’t in all seriousness employ the cheesegrater motif. It felt a little too tongue in cheek.

ODE Cheesegrater

3. The ode stack – Interesting but we thought it might be a little too confusing to figure out.

ODE Tower

The ode lightbulbs – had nice educational qualities, was simple and bold but felt a little too obvious and reminiscent of other logos.

ODE Lightbulbs

The sweets/snooker balls ode logo – This polarised the team but eventually we thought it was too Primary school focused and a little too jolly.

ODE Sweets

So you can see the strange reasons we discarded some designs. But it’s our logo so we’ll cry if we want to.

We tried to force a tag metaphor to the logo which worked pretty well, but then we started seeing variations of it all over the internet so we abandoned it.

ode tags logo

What happened eventually was that it came out that people still felt affection for the blue skies, green hills and tree of the first banner. I also thought the tree element kept us anchored in our story. So we asked Jon to work up some new thinking on the Tree design.

ode tree designs

Now this felt much more like it. We all went for this design in a big way. Personally I liked the idea of a single small leaf fallen from the larger tree above it. This was a much clearer metaphor. So we asked Jon to remove all the leaves but one, simplify it, remove the word “beta” and send us the final result.

Complex tree

The ode tree

Simple final tree logo

Sneak peak

So there you have it. That’s how our logo was born!