When people think of what a Bitcoin looks like, they often think of a large gold coin, straight out of Super Mario Bros., stamped with a cartoon style B.

It's not a very serious logo for the digital crypto-currency that has set out to change the world of finance. Worse, it's inaccurate, equating an entirely new paradigm in the way we pay for things with the very medium Bitcoin's out to replace: physical bills and coinage.

"The Bitcoin is about as much of a coin as an MP3, GIF, or other binary file," writes J.P. Brenner, a New York designer whose work has been featured in ICON Magazine. A graphic identity for Bitcoin needs to take its inherently digital nature into account.

Brenner's solution? A dynamic Bitcoin logo made up of a single colored polygon that is constantly changing shape.

Each time you look at it, it's different, but always identifiable by its number of sides: seven.

The most important aspect of Brenner's design is the dynamic nature of the logo itself. Just like Bitcoin, Brenner's logo is always in flux.

This is meant to symbolize the way Bitcoin actually works, and how it is different from other types of currency: Namely, that Bitcoins are generated by computer algorithms based upon solving increasingly difficult mathematical problems.

Brenner claims his graphic identity better illuminates the unique qualities of Bitcoin's dynamic nature, but I worry that it obscures what Bitcoin actually is a lot more than the old Mario-style logo.

A gold coin might not be the best visual metaphor for a Bitcoin, but it does, at least, tell people that this is a form of currency. But what is Brenner's Bitcoin logo meant to represent to people who don't know what a Bitcoin is?

In Brenner's scheme, any polygon with seven sides, no matter what shape or color, would be a Bitcoin logo.

Not only does that make it likely that a Bitcoin logo will be mistaken for some other product's logo, but you already need to already understand Bitcoins for this identity to have any meaning at all.

We agree that Bitcoin needs a new graphic identity, something that reflects its strange qualities better than a cartoon gold coin, but Bitcoins are an obscure enough concept for many people to understand without constantly having to guess at what its logo is going to transform into next.

Why seven sides? Brenner says he picked the number seven for its numeric significance to most cultures around the world, emphasizing Bitcoin's international importance.

It's also the number of letters in the word Bitcoin, and the number of continents. Finally, a seven-sided polygon (called a heptagon) is flexible enough that it can turn itself into abstract representations of multiple things, from a physical coin to a planet to a continent.

It's also the number of letters in the word Bitcoin, and the number of continents. Finally, a seven-sided polygon (called a heptagon) is flexible enough that it can turn itself into abstract representations of multiple things, from a physical coin to a planet to a continent.

Brenner's idea is an intriguing one, but is it workable?

Bitcoin Needs A Better Logo

A shapeshifting new logo for Bitcoin tries to more accurately reflect the crypto-currency's dynamic nature, but is it really any better?

When people think of what a Bitcoin looks like, they often think of a large gold coin, straight out of Super Mario Bros., stamped with a cartoon style B. It's not a very serious logo for the digital crypto-currency that has set out to change the world of finance. Worse, it's inaccurate, equating an entirely new paradigm in the way we pay for things with the very medium Bitcoin's out to replace: physical bills and coinage.

"The Bitcoin is about as much of a coin as an MP3, GIF, or other binary file," writes J.P. Brenner, a New York designer whose work has been featured in Icon Magazine. A graphic identity for Bitcoin needs to take its inherently digital nature into account. Brenner's solution? A dynamic Bitcoin logo made up of a single colored polygon that is constantly changing shape. Each time you look at it, it's different, but always identifiable by its number of sides: Seven.

Why seven? Brenner says he picked the number seven for its numeric significance to most cultures around the world, emphasizing Bitcoin's international importance. It's also the number of letters in the word Bitcoin, and the number of continents. Finally, a seven-sided polygon (called a heptagon) is flexible enough that it can turn itself into abstract representations of multiple things, from a physical coin to a planet to a continent.

The most important aspect of Brenner's design is the dynamic nature of the logo itself. Just like Bitcoin, Brenner's logo is always in flux. This is meant to symbolize the way Bitcoin actually works, and how it is different from other types of currency: Namely, that Bitcoins are generated by computer algorithms based upon solving increasingly difficult mathematical problems. (For an easy-to-understand explainer, check out our previous article on the design behind Bitcoin's crazy algorithms.)

Brenner's idea is an intriguing one, but is it workable? Brenner claims his graphic identity better illuminates the unique qualities of Bitcoin's dynamic nature, but I worry that it obscures what Bitcoin actually is a lot more than the old Mario-style logo. A gold coin might not be the best visual metaphor for a Bitcoin, but it does, at least, tell people that this is a form of currency. But what is Brenner's Bitcoin logo meant to represent to people who don't know what a Bitcoin is?

In Brenner's scheme, any polygon with seven sides, no matter what shape or color, would be a Bitcoin logo. Not only does that make it likely that a Bitcoin logo will be mistaken for some other product's logo, but you already need to already understand Bitcoins for this identity to have any meaning at all. We agree that Bitcoin needs a new graphic identity, something that reflects its strange qualities better than a cartoon gold coin, but Bitcoins are an obscure enough concept for many people to understand without constantly having to guess at what its logo is going to transform into next. What should Bitcoin's logo look like? Let us know in the comments.

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15 Comments

  • I think this works as a piece of art, but not as a practical logo. This is something someone might do in art school, but it's has no practicality in the real world. Sure, maybe an agency might use this as their logo, good experiment though.

  • Don't currencies need currency symbols more than logos? Ideally, part of a keyboard character set for accountancy and more so lay person everyday use. The euro symbol is a good benchmark for bitcoin.

  • Alex Berkowitz

    I am always very wary of these dynamic logos. They can be cool, and when done right rather effective. But more often than not they seem to be the indication of a designer trying to be "edgy" or "innovative" all the while losing sight of the purpose of a logo. A good logo is easily and immediately identifiable as representing a brand. To that effect, a logo must also be unique. Logos often also use visual imagery to reflect the product they represent. This isn't always necessary, but when dealing with such a complex and obscure idea as Bitcoins I feel it is important. This new logo fails on all fronts. It's ever-changing but doesn't adhere to any rules that would make it recognizable. It also does a terrible job of representing the core ideas behind the product.

    In my opinion, the old logo was near-perfect. Yes, it's a bit cartoony, and I hate that. But it's immediately recognizable, has ties to the symbols of existing currency, and is unique enough to not be mistaken.

  • How does the logo fail? Brenner clearly outlines why it's ever changing, and it does adhere to a very specific set of rules. Did you even read his statement or look at the work?

    This is from his website:

    "Much like Bitcoin itself, the logo mark is always in flux. What is this shape? The shape is known as a Heptagon. It's a 7-sided polygon that can create endless amounts of interesting forms. What is so important about the number 7? The number 7 is significant in almost every culture around the world. Because Bitcoin is a universal currency, the number 7 allows us to bridge the gap between the (7) continents by creating these 'Dynamic Heptagon' shapes. Each heptagon can resemble specific locations throughout the world. B-I-T-C-O-I-N also happens to be 7 letters. Read more about the number seven at Wikipedia"

  • Andrew Duchesneau

    The logo fails because it says nothing on its own, a 7 sided shape even though interesting does not translate into Bitcoin. A logo should be able to stand alone and provide information that evokes the technology/business/products overall feeling and motive, and to be able to create a consistent brand identity. This logo would raise more questions about the technology than inform, its interesting but ultimately ineffective.

  • A logo only "says something" once you've built up the context around it. Take Target's "target" for example — if Target didn't go through the effort of carefully building up context and use scenarios all around their logo (which is just 3 nested circles) AND we didn't have a bunch of previous history of already associating Target with that as a symbol, the Target logo doesn't mean or say anything either.

  • Evander Smart

    The logo is great! The only change I would make is the color sexier, like gold, platinum, or a 3D Hologram! Why orange?

  • Here comes another designer thinking that he will cover himself in the glory of having made the image of Bitcoin, failing to realise that it's got to be a community accepted change, not a change made because "I'm a big shot designer and I say so".

  • I believe this approach over-complicates the desired simplicity and ubiquity Bitcoin is aiming for. The existing B symbol already efficiently communicates that it's a currency (as any other), so the only thing I find missing is the digital aspect of the currency. And if you ask me, I don't think digital coins are circular.

    Bottomline, if Bitcoin is looking for wider acceptance, then the answer is in improving its user experience, not a new logo.