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Sunbird Logo Design Decisions
Goals
  • A family resemblence to the Firefox and Thunderbird logos is desirable.
  • The Firefox and Thunderbird logos display an animal and an object which represents the application.
  • The logos are essentially circular and depict the animal curved around the application object.
  • The animal's color and orientation should be distinct from the Firefox and Thunderbird logos.
  • A calendar best represents what the Sunbird application does (display and manage time based data).
  • It is desirable to have the logo visually tied to the default Sunbird theme.
Background
  • Sunbirds are real creatures (which I would not have guessed going into this project).
  • Information from Wikipedia: [emphasize added]
    The sunbirds and spiderhunters are very small passerine birds which feed largely on nectar, although they will also take insects, especially when feeding young. Flight is fast and direct on their short wings. Most species can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, but usually perch to feed most of the time. The sunbirds are the Old World equivalent of the hummingbirds of the Americas, although they are completely unrelated. The resemblance to hummigbirds and Australian honeyeaters are due to convergent evolution due to the similar nectar-feeding lifestyle. The sunbirds are tropical species, with representatives from Africa to Australasia; however, the greatest variety of species is in Africa where the group probably arose. Most species are sedentary or short-distance seasonal migrants. Like the hummingbirds, they are strongly sexually dimorphic, with the males usually brilliantly plumaged in metallic colours. Sunbirds have long thin down-curved bills and brush tipped tubular tongues, both adaptations to their nectar feeding. Up to three eggs are laid in a purse-shaped suspended nest.
  • Sunbirds exhibit many colors of plummage, green and yellow being among them.
  • Sunbirds have long thin down-curved bills.
Conclusions
  • A hummingbird like creature interacting with a calendar seemed most appropriate as a design concept.
  • The animals in the Firefox and Thunderbird logos are orange and blue respectively. In order to avoid confusion, the Sunbird animal needs a distinct color of its own which will aid logo identification at icon sizes.
  • Sunbirds frequently exhibit green and yellow feathers.
  • While an example of the Sunbird logo was rendered using red and orange colors, the majority of the community felt that the red/orange logo was visually too close to the Firefox logo and that the "green" logo was preferable.
Result
  • A hummingbird like creature wrapped around a calendar.
  • The choice of color was arbitrary but not random.
  • The bird and calendar are both curved to create a circular logo.
  • The calendar colors match the calendar-based icons in the default Sunbird theme.

Timeline of rationale (extracts from MozillaZine forum)
Getting Started JeffHot - June 20th
Has anyone done any work to come up with a Sunbird logo or icon to match the stylish new ones for Thunderbird and Firefox?
Mark Carson - June 21st
How about an icon/logo which is similar to the Thunderbird logo, but with a calendar instead of an envelope and a yellow/gold colored bird?
Should be like/unlike Thunderbird Logo FlashBanG - June 22nd
Excellent logo! One thing though, it would be nice if it was a little different somehow than the thunderbird logo. The Firefox logo and the thunderbird logo are similar but different.. Other than the color and the different thing they wrap, maybe you could modify the bird a little bit?
Chris Cook - June 23rd
Thunderbird logo makes nice use of shadows. Should we consider trying to emulate that style?
Kesla - June 24th
And I also think that it's good that it is more similar to Thunderbird than it is to Firefox, because the Sunbird project feels more attached to Thunderbird than Firefox...
Localization - no text or numbers MVL - June 23rd
Another reason not to include text in the icon [logo], beside it being not localizable. And in my opinion, it looks crowded. Please try to remove it, and see how it looks.
Sunbirds are not Thunderbirds jeanjean - June 24th
Hum.. i don't want to be the guy that disturbs the party but.. well.. a sunbird is quite different from a thunderbird
Color Nietzman - June 24th
Heck, those colours are way more appealing then the yellow in the current version, the yellow is way to bright in my opinion. The green, red and/or perhaps brown from this actual bird would be a neater colour scheme, if you ask me.
FlashBanG - June 24th
Sun == Yellow == Color of SunBird
Sunbirds come in lots of colors
jeanjean - June 24th
This is just the first one that google.images threw at me. They can be of different colours. This one is yellow:
Orientation
nwillis - June 25th
I know it's a pain, but I was thinking: if the sunbird logo were flipped horizontally, that would help distinguish it more from the thunderbird logo. That way, it's still right-side-up, but the firefox, the thunderbird, and the sunbird -- while looking similar -- would each be sort of "coming from their own direction."
jeanjean - June 26th
I like the suggestion which was made before to flip the yellow icon horizontally.
Real Sunbirds
ChrisW73 - June 28th
Regarding the App-Logo: I'd make the bill of the bird more "sunbirdish", have a look at [picture at right] and The eyes a little more "cute".

Wikipedia:
The sunbirds and spiderhunters are very small passerine birds which feed largely on nectar, although they will also take insects, especially when feeding young. Flight is fast and direct on their short wings. Most species can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, but usually perch to feed most of the time. The sunbirds are the Old World equivalent of the hummingbirds of the Americas, although they are completely unrelated. The resemblance to hummigbirds and Australian honeyeaters are due to convergent evolution due to the similar nectar-feeding lifestyle. The sunbirds are tropical species, with representatives from Africa to Australasia; however, the greatest variety of species is in Africa where the group probably arose. Most species are sedentary or short-distance seasonal migrants. Like the hummingbirds, they are strongly sexually dimorphic, with the males usually brilliantly plumaged in metallic colours. Sunbirds have long thin down-curved bills and brush tipped tubular tongues, both adaptations to their nectar feeding. Up to three eggs are laid in a purse-shaped suspended nest.

FlashBanG - June 28th
Regarding making it look more like a sunbird. I must say that i have no idea what one looks like, and I'd assume other people don't either.
Logo Ideas
Nietzman - June 28th
The bill should indeed be more like that of an actual sunbird, since it also gives the bird a more friendly appearence. Now it looks like a hawk of some sort.
To the right you can see the logo as it is now, but with a more sunbirdish bill. Nice and all, but in my opinion it's too close to the existing Thunderbird logo. Sure, Sunbird is somewhat related to Thunderbird, but it's still a standalone application, so I think it deserves a original icon. So I thought the bird might be able to 'hump' a calender or clock from the side.
Don't mind the colours, the fat wing and head, and the ugly clock, just the concept. I might be able to work it out a bit better, but I'd rather have your opinions on it first. Personaly I think it could fit in nicely besides the Thunderbird and FireFox logos by John Hicks but it needs loads and loads of work. The Thunderbird-calender-hogging sunbird:
Furthermore, I made Corky the retarded Parrot, to make the humping Sunbird look less sucky in comparrison:
Localization and Orientation feepcreature - June 28th
I think dropping numbers might be good - looks less cluttered. Dropping day names and years makes it less locale-specific. Also good The idea of a more sunbird/kingfisher "attack angle" for the bird might be interesting.
Realism Mark Carson - June 28th
Just so we are all clear, the logo does NOT depict a real bird. I don't believe the Firefox logo depicts a real animal either. If memory serves, a Thunderbird is a mythical animal/spirit in some American Indian belief system (again not a real animal). Even if these animals existed, I doubt a fox without hind legs and only one front leg would last through many generations of evolution. Also a Thunderbird with its wings that close to its head, and with no tail, might not fly very well. I think you all get the idea. These are logo graphics for product identity, not photo-realistic drawings of real critters.
Matching other logos Nietzman - July 2nd
[in reference to JeffHot's logo] Well, it's not perfect yet, but if it can fully match the FireFox and Thunderbird icons, it would be sweet. Most important is that this icon isn't a copy of the Thunderbird icon.
Mark Carson - July 4th
Jeff's logo looks more like a real bird than my logo. Mine was intended to more closely follow Firefox and Thunderbird (especially Thunderbird).
Chris Cook - July 5th
I think even the FF and TB application icons (ie. 16px size) suffer from this. The FF icon looks like a blue face on an orange globe and the TB icon looks like the face of an anime girl. They both could have been better at the small size. For the 16px icon I would have opted for only the envelope and possibly the globe for these to make them more recognizable. For the logo above I would try to completely lose the calendar and make the bird as recognizable as possible, OR lose the bird.
MVL - July 5th
Mark Carson: your logo fits with the thunderbird icon, because it is the thunderbird logo. I think we need a somewhat different icon. might be the same style, but your is too close in my opinion.
Realistic Sunbird and Sundial Mark Carson - July 5th
I found Corel Draw clipart of a "real" sunbird which I hacked (changed the color from green to yellow, added a wing, and gave it crow's feet) and then added a quick and dirty sundial. My interest in doing this was to see if something other than a circular logo would be discernable at small icon sizes.
Hummingbird and Calendar ChrisW73 - July 6th
Another Logo idea: The sunbird is tiny and hummingbird-like, right. I have in mind a huge Calendar (in isometric perspective, just like in Mark Carson's first logo draft) with a tiny sunbird sweeping over it (facing it), as if it wants to enter dates with it's bill. This won't be usable for an icon of course, because the sunbird would be too tiny, so I'd use the calendar OR the sunbird for the icon. The sunbird facing the calendar would nicely match the Firefox logo, for the Firefox is facing away from the spectator, too!
Real Sunbirds Mark Carson - July 7th
... Google has pictures via Image search...
Suggestions ChrisW73 - July 8th
[in reference to an interim logo]
- Make the bill more "sunbirdlike" (more like a sickle then a hook as it is)
- Give the bird round eyes to make it look more cute, for sunbirds, as all hummingbirds, look cute
FlashBanG - July 8th
[in reference to an interim logo] Love the fact that it looks like the Fx/Tb logos without mirroring the Tb one
Clock vice Calendar Lazlo Woodbine - July 8th
I don't feel that the clock images best get over what Sunbird is about; a calendar is a much more descriptive image than a clock for what the program does, in much the same way as a 'news' image could have been used for Thunderbird but a mail icon was really the only choice.
Mark Carson - July 8th
I agree with Lazlo Woodbine that a calendar would seem more appropriate than a clock. I appreciate that a clock is a recognizable item (even at small pixel sizes) and does convey the notion of time, but if you look at the data views in Sunbird, they are more calendar than clock centric. So, I'm happy to brainstorm on logos with clocks, but I have to keep wondering if a calender in some form might not be better.
Sir Chode - July 9th
As far as the Calendar vs. Clock debate, that will probably never end. Like you said, a calendar would be more accurate but wouldn't look as nice, while a clock wouldn't be as accurate but would look nice...
Logo concept Mark Carson - July 9th
The following is VERY preliminary (I only spent a half an hour on it just now). Lots of issues, colors, shapes, no shadow, the bottom wing is too big, blah blah blah. The question is, does the metaphor work or not? And before anyone cries rip-off, yes, of course it draws on elements of both Firefox and Thunderbird - that's intentional and its meant to tie back to both of the other products. Remember, let's talk about the concept, not this current execution (to start with). No point in refining the drawing if the concept doesn't work...
FlashBanG - July 9th
First of all, let me say I don't like the general posture of the bird.. It looks like it's trying to peck a hole through the calendar.. Personally, I much rather like the imagery of the bird either carrying the calendar/clock on top of it. Secondly, although I understand where you guys are coming from, I still prefer a clock in the logo. The major advantage of this is that at smaller resolutions such as icons, you can recognize a clock and it's handles, whereas the calendar seems like simply a piece of paper. If we're insistent on using a calendar though, How about an abstract calendar without dates or anything on it? Something like Mark's first draft of the logo? I dunno about the sundial thing. Although it would be more scalable than a calendar, I'm not sure many users would immediately recognize it for what it is.
Localization Mostafah - July 9th
One thing to keep in mind is that the logo should better not have any language-specific content, (e.g. month names) and if possible numbers to keep the localization groups happy.
Real Sunbirds and Colors Chris Cook - July 9th
I found this webpage that has pictures of different kinds of real sunbirds. It is apparent that they come in many colors and almost any color combination used would work. For color differentiation, FF uses orange and blue and TB uses blue and beige. Therefore, I think any combination of the following colors would set the logo apart: yellow, red, green, or purple. I think using a color combination for the bird (maybe yellow and green) wouldn't be a bad thing. The yellow and red will blend towards orange at lower scales which may be similar to the FF icon. This photo reminds me of a sun with wings for what it's worth. Sunbirds
Circular Logo Mark Carson - July 10th
Still thinking inside the (circular) box for the moment :-) Again, a very preliminary idea. As you can see, shading has not even been started, detail missing, etc. I wanted to see if a curved (concave) calendar might look better. Also more development of the idea of a more "realistic" sunbird encircling the calendar.
Lazlo Woodbine - July 10th
My only comment is that the bird is too 'skinny'. I think the proportion of bird to calendar isn't quite right yet. This becomes particularly noticeable for the small bird only icons. There's too much white space. I think the bird needs to come more 'forward and around' the calendar.
JeffHot - July 10th
The bird seems to be looking over his plans for the month, perhaps to find a good time for a vacation.
ChrisW73 - July 11th
... I agree, that using a calandar would carry the message more appropriate. A bird caring for it's or our appointments! Just one remark: The way you add show multiple calendar-pages: but I'd make the calendar thicker (top and bottom with the same strength. Additionally: I think we finally found the way how the bird should look like: cute round eyes, sickelish beak and a round shape in general.
Design Goals Mark Carson - July 13th
[refering to the Visual Identity page] The basic tenent's still require our attention, consistency between the application icons, etc. but note that outside of overall shape and the animal/application object metaphor, there are NO common elements in the current Firefox and Thunderbird logos/icons. All the more reason to have a generally round shape for Sunbird and the bird with an object (calendar or clock). Also, by drawing design metaphors from each (a bird with encircling wings from Thunderbird, the creature looking back at the application object from Firefox) give Sunbird the oppontunity to actually be the logo that unites the product logos/icons by fusing elements of both. In short, the icons/logos should look like members of the same family - not identical, but similar enought to linked in the mind of the user.
Circular Logo and Orientation Fishbert - July 14th
In my opinion, Mark Carson's icon is more in line with the current Firefox and Thunderbird logos. It carries a much more circular motif, the critter is pointing to a different direction (Firefox points up, Thunderbird points down, Calendar points right), the critter (bird) is more complimentary than overbearing to the thingy (calendar/clock) in Mark Carson's icon, the critter's head is a bit larger than it should be in nature (much like the Firefox/Thunderbird icons), and the animal's general attitude appears in the same passive vein as the fox and blue bird. I do disagree with most on the color, though. I *greatly* prefer the yellow/green version to the yellow/orange version (the yellow/orange makes it seem much "closer" to Firefox than Thunderbird, based on icon appearance, where green would offer a better complementary midpoint between red and blue).
Real Sunbirds Mark Carson - July 14th
Check out the images of actual sunbirds on previous pages in the forum. These are some pretty ridiculous looking birds. Lots of them do have long thin, curved beaks and "dot" eyes. The blue eye is artistic license on my part, but it contrasts nicely and gives the bird some charm IMHO.
Colors Kenshinmac - July 14th
Wow I actually like that green next to the others. It just seems to fit. If anything make it more green. Well maybe not... Please keep going with the green. It is great in that it really complements the other apps and fits the theme amazingly well.
ChrisW73 - July 14th
Additionally I vote for the Orange "SunBird" (because the green one is a "GrassBird" (hedge-sparrow)
Mark Carson - July 15th
I don't want to get too far into this dicussion, but I think the orange logo has a lot of visual impact and associates itself with Firefox via color while the bird and encircling wings associate it with Thunderbird via animal family and shape. On the other hand, the green color sets the logo apart so that each application has its own color and has distinction via color while maintaining a common look via shape, etc.
Fishbert - July 16th
The red one (having similar dominant colors) looks too related to Firefox over Thunderbird, whereas the green looks much more like it remains neutral in standing equally apart from either program color-wise, yet still related to both with the design style being so similar (an aspect independent of color). I can see how some people may argue that green does not have anything to do with the sun (being called 'Sunbird', and all), but red doesn't have a whole lot to do with the sun either... If the icons were to become closer to the 'sun' image, I think a logical compromise would be to have the reds and greens get toned down a bit and let the yellow take over as a more dominant color.
Digiboy - July 16th
Green: there's no point muscling in on Firefox's colour scheme; using red would lead to too much icon confusion. Plus, it allows for the red-topped calendar, which will apparently be used in the theme.
Colors Foxtrot - July 16th
IMHO a red icon simply can't be used. It would undermine the whole consistency idea. The icons should have the same composition, which is an round icon that depicts an animal with an object. They should, however, differ in colour. The sunbird composition is almost identical to the composition of the Firefox icon. If the colours were to be the same, then it would simply be too hard to tell them apart. Thunderbird's colours are nothing like the colours of Firefox. Why should Sunbird? If it was green, then it wouldn't be very sunlike, that's true, but it would be confused time and time again with firefox's icon. The colours need to be different. Besides, the name SunBird can be interpreted in many ways. This is a sunbird: [see picture at right] It's more green than it is red. It has to be green. Alternatively, a yellow version would have to be made, or in some other colour.