Here are some answers to a particular question that came in about how refreshing a brand can be fraught with peril.
So what are people supposed to say if they actually prefer the previous one for aesthetic reasons? Newer is not automatically better. If you are going to dismiss all “I still prefer the original” as being afraid of change, you’ve tilted the playing field rather a lot.
Remember what happened to Orangina [edit: Tropicana]. Are we really going to get more people downloading or using Firefox, or will they really have better feelings towards it, because we’ve refreshed the icon? What are we actually trying to achieve here? The current version is a really nice icon. Changing it just means that some people will go “huh, it’s changed”, and other people will not like the new version. Whether that’s because they are “afraid of change” or not is irrelevant, and doesn’t stop them not liking it. You are going to find it really hard to have an unambiguous win here IMO.
To clarify, while I was saying that similarities to the previous icon were driving positive comments, the implication wasn’t that we were planning on ignoring those comments, but that we were in fact shifting the creative direction for the tail. It was a little ambiguous (since the two variables being discussed were similarity to the old design and if the tail appeared threatening) and I should have written a clearer statement.
To answer some of the other questions specifically:
what are people supposed to say if they actually prefer the previous one for aesthetic reasons?
If people have that opinion then they are absolutely encouraged to comment. We are trying to get a good read on people’s general opinions by engaging on pretty much every communications channel that the Mozilla community uses. We are also looking into running some studies on mechanical turk so that we can get feedback from a mainstream non-self selected audience.
Remember what happened to [Tropicana].
For those not familiar, PepsiCo deployed new packaging for Tropicana orange juice, and then had to reverse the change due to strong public outcry from their most loyal customers. From the public comments, it’s clear that there are some really passionate orange juice drinkers out there.
The new design was done by Arnell, the same firm that created the refreshed Pepsi logo, which for people in the Mozilla community will likely look kind of familiar. Those interested in what a million dollars in brand design literally buys you, should check out the (potentially fictitious) document Breathtaking Design Strategy.
But to answer your question: yes, I think a disaster similar to what happened to Tropicana is something we need to be really concerned about. In particular we are finding ourselves in a similar environment, where we both have extremely passionate and loyal members of our community (and users of Firefox), and people clearly have a very strong emotional connection to Firefox. I totally understand that one must wear white gloves before touching the Firefox icon. The icon has become more than just a global brand, but something that our passionate community considers sacred.
So, assuming that we don’t want to just adopt a strategy of being frozen in fear, how do we avoid a Tropicana scenario? I think the only way to make sure we are avoiding that type of situation is to make sure that we have buy in from our community and passionate Firefox fans for the changes we are considering. To that end we’ve been extremely public with posting the creative brief, design iterations, and feedback. Mozilla is in a somewhat unique position to run a completely transparent design project (as opposed to relying on things like focus groups and NDAs, even though those things are really considerably more comfortable for designers).
So far I honestly haven’t seen a massive amount of public outcry (much to my genuine surprise given the subject matter), and my impression is that people generally understand both the direction we want to take the icon, and the reasons we feel refreshing a product brand is important.
You are going to find it really hard to have an unambiguous win here IMO.
Given that I still have people really mad at me for the awesome bar, I’m getting increasingly used to what it feels like to work on deploying an ambiguous win. Personally I’m hoping we have more ambiguous wins in the future, because they are still wins, and being frozen in time really isn’t an option in an extremely competitive marketplace.