Branding Mozilla: Towards Mozilla 2.0

Mozilla LizardI’ve been using and enjoying the products of the Mozilla project more and more lately. I’ve been hooked on Mozilla Firebird for a while, and my recent Mozilla Thunderbird theme was my first real contribution (if you could call it that) to the movement.

I’m very interested in the success of the project, and so I have written a short article outline some recommendations and ideas for branding Mozilla.

For those too lazy/busy to read the article (or those who understandably might value their time more than my words and ideas), here’s the 10-second version:

The Mozilla Project should adopt a simple, strong, consistent visual identity for the Mozilla products including consistent icons across applications that mesh with the host operating system.

Read the article in full and please feel free to comment in reply to this post.

Branding Mozilla: Towards Mozilla 2.0

Recommendations for the branding and visual identity of the Mozilla Foundation’s product and project line.

15 thoughts on “Branding Mozilla: Towards Mozilla 2.0

  1. Steve, a good read as usual.

    I just noticed that the reazon that I dislike mozilla was that not-so-cool-looking red lizard, you are right about the ‘mozilla’ name itself.

    Let’s just hope that good things may come towards mozilla 2.0…

  2. One word: hallelujah! 🙂

    This is exactly what the Mozilla project needs to take it mainstream, especially the out-of-the-box integration with the user’s operating system. And if anyone objects to the term mainstream, to me it means “successful”, not “sold out”. Bring it on!

  3. I couldn’t agree more! You have clearly defined that which has been foggily bouncing about in my skull for some time! Hopefully the Mozilla folks will take notice!

  4. I agree with everything except the sample icons. They should NOT have an “F”, since Firebird is an internal name only… How are people going to connect “Mozilla browser” with the letter “F”?

    I can’t say the letter “M” is any better, though…

  5. Mozilla name good? Check. Lizard bad? Not so sure.

    And you lost me on the names vs. logos. You say that Firebird is to become Mozilla Browser (no one will ever call it that) and yet the logo you propose has a big fat “F” on it.

    The bird names muddy the brand. They should stick with a single brand name. I agree with Mozilla Mail, Mozilla Calendar, etc., but I think the browser should just be called Mozilla. That’s what everyone calls it now and that’s what it will continue to be called.

  6. Great article! 🙂

    When you said that “the current Mozilla Thunderbird project is the temporary development name for what will eventually be called Mozilla Mail”, well… I think it’s a pitty, because I like the current names.

    I never quite *liked* the Mozilla name, I just *got used* to it.

    “Firebird” was love at first… er… hearing? 🙂

  7. I hate to burst your bubble, but this has been discussed a couple dozen times on mozillazine and discussions have come to the same conclusion that your short piece did. Yes, it’d be nice if Mozilla had a consistent branding, but it’s legacy is a hindrance here. The process is underway and has been from some time. Since you know about Firebird and Thunderbird I’m surprised that you haven’t noticed the trend.

    The Firebird and Thunderbird button icons are consistent since arvid has become the primary icon artist for both. The application icon is pretty much stable with the flame thingy being used for both as well. The application icons will have to be redone when they become Mozilla Browser and Mail, but the projects are collaborating closely so it’s likely that the same person will do both and take care of consistency there. The red lizard is the icon for the organization, this has been consistent for several years, the M used on the Mac is a holdover .

    The biggest barriers to changing branding strategy is that the drivers have consistently refused to make any changes at all. Once the drivers decide to change this they can ask on the mozillazine forums and they’ll get as many proposals as they can handle.

    To the people who claim that this will improve Mozilla’s adoption dramatically, you’re wrong. Despite what graphic designers believe, most people are only peripherally aware of design and consistency. This is not the biggest problem with getting the browser’s name out/more adopters. More importantly would be to have a proper press kit and to issue news releases. The press has consistently stated that they have had difficulty in dealing with the organization in the past two years. Solving their press relations would help Mozilla much more than branding redesign.

    As for qualifications about the above statements, I have been a contributor to the Mozilla Project since Summer 2001. The current application suite icons are my most visible contribution.

  8. In addition to platform specific iconography where sensible, Mozilla software (be it SeaMonkey or Fire/Thunderbird) should not look completely foreign relative to the host operating system as is currently the situation with regard to OS X. Thank goodness for the Pinstripe themes!

  9. How about an advisory panel of concerned designers who can vote on ideas and directions for the visual aspects of the browser and its branding? I’d volunteer. I’ve always had a problem trying to figure out how to apply my (“soft?”) skills to open source projects, since I can code anything beyond css. Design critques are best voiced in a forum for discussion, not tossed into a bugzilla report… Thoughts? How can geeks who aren’t coding geeks really help out?

  10. From top to bottom:

    – Loose what doesn’t work
    You want a common visual element all over Mozilla FooApp and try to get rid of the lizard? Why replace something that works in a given community in favour of something completely new? The brand that worked on end users is the big blue N. Of course using that is out of question.
    Please don’t try to loose things that work for some of us in favour of something new. The lizard *is* working in computer magazines as well as in forum like slashdot, btw.

    – Version Numbers
    I personally got the impression that 2.0 was not a UI change deadline, but a API change deadline. Stuff like a reworked XBL for example would be part of 2.0. Note that I’m not confident that we’re going to ship independent apps with coherent version numbering. That would be a plus, but takes out one of the advantages of having separate applications.

    – Time for a change
    It will probably be a bit of time ’til the change. There is no one working on porting chatzilla right now (on purpose, btw.). GRE is not ready at all, and I am not sure if a single GRE for Mail and Browser is part of the 1.0 todo list.
    I take it that those “proposed firebird icons” are not part of your proposal, but you should have made that a tad clearer. The use of the birds all over the text are a reoccuring source for confusion in the reader, at least for me. Branding doesn’t start with the visual, it really starts with the name ;-).
    Be prepared for more divergence in the meantime, [link]

    – Start by saying no
    We had a UI guidance some time ago, mpt did that. It didn’t work out too good.
    Not that UI guidelines are just that. Guidelines. They don’t obsolete decisions. They are arguments in doing decisions. Esp a webbrowser needs to handle those guidelines carefully, as it is a viewer application instead of (the common) editing application. Remember that discussion of wether the viewport should show scrollbars by default or not, a discussion with mpt (and the apple guidelines) loosing. Luckily.

    – Let’s go
    Don’t try to make Mozilla look good once and for all.
    “Look good” is subject to fashion. You could get around to make it look good once. But it won’t stay that way and it most definitly won’t look good for everybody.
    A visual appearance should be portable to other themes. Some folk love to theme their applications, so Mozilla applications better handle that well.

    IMHO, the functionality of a visual element should be represented thru its form. Contrary to what the Firebird and Thunderbird icons do right now. They only differ in color, but that’s what themes do.
    People (at least I do) deduce functionality from the form. They don’t say “it’s red, it’s gonna surf the web” or “it’s blue, gonna use to read my mail”. Branding by adding a sub-icon might do the trick, though that’s not really working too well in 16px.
    Whatever visual branding we use, it should work in the following scenarios:
    Application icon, in taskbars, menus, on the desktop
    Webpages, link rel=”icon”, download buttons, both app specific and Mozilla general.

    Re drivers hindering all attempts to visual changes, this was (and maybe still is) a legal problem. Drivers never had the legal rule over the Mozilla artwork. Even using or changing the lizard was problematic. I recall that drivers seeked to get ownership on the artwork, but that didn’t happen. Not sure if this changed with the Mozilla Foundation, I have a dimm recollection of artwork being donated. Not sure if that includes the right to modify the artwork. Anyway, that was never due to ignorance or lack of interest on behalf of drivers. Talking legal, the name “Mozilla” does have legal issues, but those are more or less settled. Part of the settlement is to not use more zillas. I’d take it that Fire- and Thunderbird are on much better legal ground. Those just have acceptance problems in parts of the opensource community. But no legal problems, I bet that AOL lawyers covered that ground good.

  11. “Firebird is to become Mozilla Browser (no one will ever call it that)”
    Actually, that’s what everyone said when Phoenix was to be renamed to Mozilla Firebird, but that went pretty smooth nonetheless. I haven’t heard the name “Phoenix” for Mozilla Firebird in months, and I’m sure something similar will happen when the next renaming round comes along.

  12. I dont think the author of this article made those proposed F logos, I think he was just showing what someone else made for firebird. Several posts above someone was saying that the F needs to be a M to work. That is true, and im sure the author knows that much, I think he was just showing what someone else was doing. Correct me if im wrong.

  13. Mozilla has ZERO brand name recognition and “mind share” outside of the open source and IT specialist fields.

    Netscape, “Navigator” and “Netscape Navigator” on the contrary, are known worldwide, even by users who just started and never actually used anything other than IE (even if they have just a vague idea of “that’s another browser that some people use”).

    Hence, I think it’s in the Mozilla Foundation’s best interests to LICENSE the “Netscape Navigator” name from TW (they can continue using “Netscape Network” and “” for their own purposes).

    There is an effort underway asking AOL to do just this.

  14. What Mozilla needs to go “mainstream” is not any sort of consistent visual identity, but a better product. Putting lipstick on a pig merely makes for a pig with too much makeup. That is not to say that the current products are pigs, but the point is that they are unsuited for use by the general public due to poor design and management. It is to say that putting a smiley face on the various products does not change their nature. They are, quite simply, not “better browsers” than that which they seek to replace.

    In my view what is needed at Mozilla is new management to take the foundation in a completely different direction. One that makes sense for a change. The present management professes to desire to have the general public change to the Foundation’s browsers & etc, but continues on a design path that is suited only for the very technically advanced user, dare I say “computer geeks”? What would you call a product which requires editing user.js files or about:config in order to gain any measure of usefulness. And then there are the extensions, which are not coordinated with the browser changes so that many are lost as the browser “progresses”. It is about like buying an automobile, tires, wheels, steering wheel and seats must be purchased from other sources, however.

Comments are closed.