A "Living" Logo For Wikipedia, With More Than 3.2 Million Variations

Moving Brands's hypothetical mark tries to capture the dynamism of the most popular crowdsourced encyclopedia in the world and, at the same time, help users improve Wikipedia entries.

Try drawing Wikipedia’s logo purely from memory. You can’t, right? Because it’s terribly unmemorable, an unfinished globe constructed out of jigsaw puzzle pieces and inscribed with glyphs from a bunch of different writing systems, symbolizing "the multilingualism of Wikipedia." It’s the branding equivalent of "We Are The World": blandly earnest. So Moving Brands, a British design studio, came up with a hypothetical alternative: a shapeshifting "W" that uses JavaScript to generate a unique movement and mark for every search term in the Wiki-universe. With more than 3.2 million possible permutations, it’s designed to fluctuate as much as a Wikipedia article itself.

"To become an integral part of people’s lives, Wikipedia needs not only to have a strong brand, but also a strong core story and the ability to own a part of people’s minds," Moving Brands strategist Camilla Grey tells Co.Design. "It is one of the top most visited websites globally, millions of people rely on it for information, but still when you think of universally relevant Internet brands, Wikipedia is never the site that comes to mind. … The existing mark limits the brand in terms of the different stories it can tell about itself, and its ability to change and adapt to the world around it."

The subtext here is that a powerful brand is instrumental to Wikipedia’s success. Wikipedia is a non-profit. Presumably, the more visible the brand, the more likely the organization will attract the donations it needs to stay afloat. And an eye-catching logo can help.

The designers drew a mark out of just five lines, a nod to the five principles Wikipedia operates on. That produces a "W" with nine equidistant nodes, one for each of the encyclopedia’s nine sister sites. From there, a second line courses through and around the W, with its precise look changing depending on what keyword you search. Grey explains:

The mark is created by charting the momentum of content throughout the nine Wikimedia sites and generated according to the chronological order of content creation. Opportunities for content to be filled in are revealed with each new search. If one of the nine points on the mark has not been hit, it is an indication that there is no content available for that search term on that Wikimedia site. Hopefully, this will encourage people to add their own content when they see an area is missing.

In short, the mark is designed not only to capture the remarkable variation within the Wikipedia empire (though are 3.2 million permutations really enough? Seems small for a site that’s given us everything from an exhaustive history of Metroid to 29,000 words on 7th Heaven episodes), but additionally to subtly nudge people into actually improving the sites—it’s like a workhorse, with a capital "W."

Moving Brands devised the logo for Viewpoint Magazine’s "Overhaul" feature in which agencies showcase their creative process by hypothetically rebranding a global company. More info here.

[Images courtesy of Moving Brands; hat tip to Brand New]

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  • Davidrilke

    I'm surprised to see so many people slating this idea. I think conceptually this really work and actually reflects the changeable and evolving nature of the content on wikipedia. I think this has the potential to become a really groundbreaking identity and if implemented correctly will easily become as instantly recognisable as any large brand out there, regardless of how deconstructed the W gets. Gets my vote.

  • KillaRizzay

    So if the current logo is "terribly unmemorable," how is creating 3.2 million variations of it going to improve that? If a user sees a different logo every single time they use the site, I would argue that it's going to negatively impact brand recognition. Also, as someone mentioned, the new logo is to weak/light and will likely go unnoticed.

    Finally, who the hell is going to know about the 9 nodes/sister site thing without reading the rebrand rationale?? Who would even care? I've been using Wikipedia for years and years and didnt even know there were sister sites let alone 9. Why? Because I dont care! I go to wikipidia to look something up.

    I think every aspect of this "experiment"  totally misses the mark: brand recognition will suffer, the brand itself doesnt convey a message or idea, the brand is too weak for a content heavy site,etc.

  • Vaughn Gunnell

    I haven't fully read the article, so forgive me for taking this on face value, but does anybody else understand how the iterative logo works? I don't understand how the designer arrived at these different symbols. Visually, they don't make sense and I spend longer that 10s econds on each trying to figure out how they represent each topic. Does the symbol for Narwhal look like, or make you think of, anything to do with a Narwhal? Maybe it's just me, but branding needs to make sense - it needs to communicate a message. 

  • p̶e̶e̶e̶l̶a̶

    Total bollocks. #fail

      "Melbourne City Logos" couldn't agree more.

  • Mike McDonald

    An improvement for sure. 

    Regardless of the motivation for such a hypothetical project, the result, and whether wikipedia would really benefit from such a rebranding effort, I think we can all agree that the current globe logo isn't much to look at. As the article mentions, it's hardly memorable. 

    And while I'm not sure that this experimental exercise yielded something that really fits the organization, it's certainly a visual improvement and a mark that people will better remember. 

  • David Martin

    This is one of the most pointless of the never0ending stream of self serving 'hypothetical' projects people put out into the blogosphere in order to hopefully gain some status and perhaps even a client by jumping on the somewhat hackneyed trend for dynamic logos.

    As someone else stated, Wikipedia don't need a rebrand, people know the site for what it is: A great service and stopping point to find information. A new logo could even possibly even undermine this non-profit organisation — did you consider that at all? How users and the public perceive branding efforts by organisations they feel they 'own' a little of themselves.

    On top of that, it's really quite ugly and I can't see any longevity in it.

  • HMFan

    A little too "lofty" for me. I find it a bit cold and sterile despite its dynamism of 3.2 million permutations. I still like the puzzley piece globe.

  • Ryan

    Old concept. MIT Media Lab and Melbourne City Logos are far better examples of this kinda of dynamic logo.

  • ambigramguy

    I hope that Moving Brands' "hypothetical" mark is just that — an experimental exercise. Wikipedia has one of the most unique and identifyable logos in the world, and if people can't draw it, so what? I would think that most people could describe it verbally. And even if I'm wrong about that, I am quite sure they recognize it. Could most people draw the H & R Block logo? Sure, but only if you reminded them of what it looked like.
    One thing that a logo should be is UNlike everybody else's logo, especially when  the service is unlike anyone else's. Another thing that a logoshould be is appropriate to the function of the entity it represents. Wikipedia's logo describes its service very well. In what we used to think of as the golden age of corporate identity ('branding' to you youngters) — the 1960s) Wikipedia's logo would not have been thought of as successful, as it's an illustration, as opposed to a flat graphic which would reproduce with greater flexibility. Reducing the spherical globe to a flat graphic seems to move in the wrong direction — back to the 60s, and a flat earth mentality.
    One unique characteristic of Moving Brands proposal is its ectomorphic, anorexic weight. In terms of putting something strong in front of people's eyes, it fails entirely. On a page or screen with other elements, it would be overwhelmed and lost. All that silliness about connecting lines with a potential 3.2 million configurations? So what? It's not that they look like anything, even in the entirely controllable presentation setting. It would be cool if, at the top of the Wikipedia page on Goatees, their logo morphed into a recognizable goatee, while retaining its own identity, but what are those stick figures? This is a logo in the world of logos that's equivalent to a stick figure at a Michelangelo exhibition.
    Last, to the comments that people don't care about branding, you're missing the point about branding. People recognize brands and associate thoughts and feelings with them — in the normal course of things that happens unconsciously.

  • Jess

    Firstly, the logo that Moving Brands have created is visually very nice but they've really missed the point. People don't use Wikipedia because they like the branding they use it because it's a brilliant service. It doesn't need a rebrand it needs a new logo which is what they have done and it's very nice. Unfortunately this lovely logo is accompanied by a great deal of nonsense about core stories and owning people's minds and the apparent attitude that Wikipedia needs Moving Brands to save it. It makes you wonder who they're trying to convince.

  • Jordan J. Lloyd

    I definitely feel that Wikipedia needs an updated look, but I feel this logo is a graphic masturbation exercise, especially when looking at the project details on the Moving Brands website.  The idea of a unique identity per article is great, but the graphic representation is completely abstract and has little to do with the content of the article. OMA's 'EU Barcode' was a brilliant piece of graphic branding that was a literal representation of the idea of the member states and can accommodate expansion as needed, although I concede that 27 as opposed to 3.2 million is a leap.  However, I think although Moving Brands is onto something, the current execution is lacking.

  • Guest

    I definitely feel that Wikipedia needs an updated look, but I feel this logo is a graphic masturbation exercise, especially when looking at the project details on the Moving Brands website.

  • Glen

    Hmm... it seems to be taking a cue from the Google doodle, but it's forced. Are the shapes it can morph into in any way related to the subject? I missed a lot of whatever cues were supposed to be there, most notably in the video: the shape for "Tequila Sunrise" just makes me think of the Nepalese flag.

    I honestly considered the puzzle-globe as an illustration more than a logo; the word "WikipediA" as it's written on the homepage was the logo. I certainly identify that "W" with the service more than the globe.

  • BevansDesign

    Seems like a cool idea. I've always thought Wikipedia's logo was lousy, and this seems like something with a lot of versatility.

  • natannikolic

    Newsflash: this proposal for logo could just as well represent Wordpress, Microsoft Word or World of Warcraft. It's as generic and meaningless as Ms. Grey claims the existing one to be. I say "Whatever".

    By the way I nominate "...but still when you think of universally relevant Internet brands,
    Wikipedia is never the site that comes to mind." for the most arrogant statements of 2011. Try to top it if you can.