Over the last few months, we’ve been working hard to revamp SmugMug’s look and feel. We polished our home page and updated the new user experience, while continuing to iterate on your feature requests. As part of this process, we’ve also spent a lot of time updating our logo.
But first, a bit of history
The evolution of our logo hasn’t been without drama. Originally we were a gaming company called ModGods, a place where geeks could customize online games and make them their own. But as small companies do, we quickly changed direction and suddenly the name didn’t seem to make much sense anymore. After many weeks of brainstorming, debate and consultations, we finally decided on SmugMug. Baldy, President and Co-founder, wasn’t a big fan. He thought it sounded too unapproachable and, well, smug. Don, our CEO, who’d always been a fan of comic books, decided to use Comic Sans for the logo font and added a smiley with a sideways “D” to soften the image. And voila, the SmugMug logo was born.
Don didn’t fret too much about the way Smuggy looked. He had planned to change it after a few weeks, anyway. Who would have thought it would take 8 years to make a change?! Well, much to our surprise, the logo stuck. We’d wear it on our t-shirts, hats and jerseys and people loved it. Something about Smuggy was friendly and inherently humble. When we tried to change it a few years back, our loyal customers very nearly incited a riot. And when we tried to crowd-source a new version, we were so overwhelmed with the response, we couldn’t pick just one. Even internally, discussion of the slightest tweaks have sparked raging debates. Who knew the attachment ran so deep?
Though we’ve always loved the humble origins of the first SmugMug logo, we’ve grown up a lot over the past eight years and thought it was time that our signature brand did, too. We wanted a logo that’s both fun and professional, something new enough to showcase our values of working hard and playing hard, but not straying too far from our roots.
To make the change, we polished the “Smuggy” logomark and replaced the infamous Comic Sans typeface with ITC Officina Sans in bold. We kept Smuggy (the semicolon eyes and sideways “D” smile), brightened the colour and did some slight re-alignments. The new logo as a result is a bit more grown up, just like us.
Our Pro logo needed polishing as well. We learned through user feedback, and from our experience here as photographers, that the logo had to be a neutral color. So, we removed the blue and replaced it with a metallic silver grey.
We also thought it would be important to make the Pro logo distinct from our normal Smuggy logo. Pros, after all, have a different goal when compared with our Basic and Power users. We wanted to showcase a sense of professionalism, elegance and maturity, so we added a “PRO” badge. After experimenting with various textures we settled on brushed aluminum.
Brushed aluminum portrays an image of quality and detail (think about Apple’s logo). Though we considered numerous other metal treatment options like titanium, silver and chrome, we chose to go with brushed aluminum because it enabled us to create distinct texture details. All of the other materials looked very bland. Think about timeless pieces of design, like expensive watches, cars, photo products (i.e. metal prints, albums, frames) and professional gear, all incorporate the brushed metal look somewhere in their branding.
As you can see, the new SmugMug Pro logo on the right does better justice to the subject’s blue eyes when compared with logo on the left.
The Process (for design nerds)
We knew that in order to make the logo exciting and interesting, we had to approach it from a different angle. We decided to go 3D. And instead of doing it the easy way (with some automatic drop shadow effects), we decided to create the look from scratch. Doing it ourselves gave us the flexibility to render the logo at any size for every use case possible (i.e. the website, posters, printed materials, banners etc).
To ensure that it looked just right on every screen and on any type of background (bright, dark, colored), we had to optimize the logo pixel by pixel, at 1200% zoom. The image below shows the slight differences between the original logo (on the left) and a pixel by pixel recreated version (on the right). You can see that by adjusting the color of just a few pixels, it’s possible to change the texture, sharpness, legibility and alignment of the image.
So that’s our story and we’re sticking to it. We hope that you love our new logo as much as we do!
By: Vilen Rodeski, UI Designer