Everyone has heard of Firefox, the world’s second most popular web browser. Fewer people have heard of Mozilla, the nonprofit organization behind Firefox, and even fewer could tell you what makes Mozilla different from other software companies. It’s a problem that Mozilla’s creative director Tim Murray chalks up to a simple fact: Firefox has a distinctive brand communicated through a coherent visual identity. Mozilla does not.
“Our existing brand is insufficient for modern communications,” Murray says bluntly. “It’s a just wordmark, and a handful of muted colors. No logo, no social media favicon, no tagline, no custom font. Those are all aspects of a visual identity we’re lacking.” The fact that Mozilla doesn’t really have these things is part of the reason, he says, that most people don’t know what Mozilla’s mission is: to promote freedom, transparency, and collaboration on the Internet through open-source software.
So Mozilla is getting a new visual identity. We just can’t tell you what it’s going to look or feel like yet. Neither can Mozilla. That’s because they’re going around their rebrand in the most Mozilla way possible—by opening it up to the community and getting people involved before the brief has even been written.
The typical brand identity refresh, Murray notes, happens almost entirely behind closed doors. You start out with strategy and positioning, do some brand personality work, hire an outside branding agency, talk to experts, go off into a room for a few months, and at the end of it all, you have your new identity. This system for doing a brand refresh is as old as the hills, but as things like the controversial Met logo redesign prove, this closed doors redesign system has become wide open to Internet backlash.
So when Mozilla started considering how to refresh its visual identity, it had two goals. The major one was to conduct the rebrand in a way that felt like it was honoring Mozilla’s commitment to transparency and community collaboration. But just as important, if Mozilla could avoid it, was the inevitable backlash that comes with the announcement of pretty much any redesign these days. The answer to both problems, Murray says, was to open up the design process to everyone as early as possible.
Mozilla isn’t crowdsourcing its new visual identity, though. Not really. Instead, it’s trying to coordinate community participation and feedback with the design work of an outside agency, Johnson Banks. This process will start on Wednesday, when Mozilla will hold an event with 1,200 members of the Mozilla community, and ask them to give their feedback on seven conceptual directions, which will ultimately guide the rebrand. “For example, do members of the Mozilla community see Mozilla as more of a rebellious band of techno freedom fighters?” Murray asks. “Or it it more like the United Nations to them?”
After the direction of the new identity has been decided, Mozilla intends on spending all of July concepting and presenting different options to the community for feedback. Eventually, Mozilla will refine those concepts to a smaller library of options, and by the fall, the nonprofit hopes to have landed on a brand identity system that is open and flexible and that the community helped inform every step of the process.
Murray says that Mozilla is open to incorporating design elements from the community into the new visual identity, as long as they are made in the right spirit. “We have 30,000 volunteer contributors who contribute their time to Firefox and other Mozilla products, offering their service for the good of the Internet,” he says. “We’re hoping any designer who wants to contribute their own design ideas to Mozilla to look at it through the same lens.”
Murray admits that he doesn’t really know how this open-door rebrand process is going to work.”We have no idea how many people will be interested, but we still think it’s worth seeing what happens when we throw the doors open,” he says. “It’s super exciting, but as a brand guy? To me, it’s also really terrifying.”
Contributors who want to take part in Mozilla’s design experiment can do so here.
All Images: via Mozilla