Just last month, Mozilla announced an Open Design process for Firefox in hopes to gather feedback on two different icon systems. Putting their design process out in the open for criticism is far from normal, but after all the backlash over company rebrands lately, it may just work out in their favor.
In a world where technology and design trends are constantly changing, brands are regularly updating their visual identities to stay relevant and prevent the risk of being left behind in the previous decade. We’ve seen a lot of changes to big companies in the past few years – Google, Instagram, and Dropbox, to name a few, have all experienced logo redesigns and updates to their brand as a whole. Some are successful, and others are flops, but one thing’s for sure: there will always be people waiting by the sidelines to criticize.
Firefox, a brand that has kept almost the same logo for 15 years, is now looking switch things up, starting with the iconography. Now that it is seen as more than just a web browser, its parent company, Mozilla, has announced the need to evolve the brand to something a little different than it has been.
“As an icon, that fast fox with a flaming tail doesn’t offer enough design tools to represent this entire product family. Recoloring that logo or dissecting the fox could only take us so far. We needed to start from a new place.”
Being a company that values open-source sharing and public participation, Mozilla has previously taken a similar approach to the Open Design Process for their own logo early last year. Now, in hopes to get real feedback directly from the people who will interact with the product, Mozilla released two design systems for Firefox. Still, it is noted that the icons, although based real products, are not final and are likely to change after feedback is given.
Each system showcases a Masterbrand icon followed by a collection of other browser and app icons that fall under the brand umbrella. System one takes a very geometric approach with a Masterbrand icon that feels drastically different from what we’re used to and a set of icons that fit nicely into the existing Firefox color palette. System two, on the other hand, keeps the tail/flame motif alive with its Masterbrand icon followed by a set of thick line icons and a more diverse color palette. Although each system takes a different approach to the icons, it is clear that Firefox is clearly trying to stay in the game by taking part in the gradient color design trend.
In their announcement, Mozilla presents the audience with questions to help them evaluate both systems. Questions like, “Is each system cohesive?” “Do they still feel like Firefox?” and “Do they still represent what we stand for?” are great conversation starters and will hopefully encourage people to discuss the designs at a deeper level and not just what is seen at face value.
As a designer, I can confirm that putting your work out in the open for people to critique is a scary thing. There will always be haters waiting on the sidelines to criticize it and tear you down. There will also be tons of varying opinions and difficult choices to make. But releasing it in a way that keeps it open and flexible is, in my opinion, a smart thing. Regardless of what the outcome is, it brings me joy knowing that Mozilla is willing to hear what people have to say, and that people care enough to speak openly about design in the first place.