Help me design a Terminally Incoherent logo

Ok, here is the thing: I’m not a designer. For the most part I’m just a semi-decent code monkey with an overblown online ego. I do know a lot of the principles that drive good design, and I can talk shop with designers, but actually doing the stuff they do is not my strong point. Like most people I have dabbled in Photoshop on an occasion to put 48point Impact font, all caps text on a picture of a cat… But designing logos, icons and the like – that’s something that borders on arcane magic for me.

Whenever I sit down and try to Photoshop something from scratch it ends up looking like an equivalent of uncoordinated drawing your kid made at school and now wants you to put it on the fridge. And you don’t have a heart to tell the kid that his carefully crafted art looks like someone just had an epileptic attack with the shit-brown crayon all over the page. I’m really good at producing shops of that type of quality. It’s actually quite amazing – I can spend six hours fucking around with layers, gradients, shadows, masks and the like, but when all is said and done, you could swear it was done in MS Paint.

Case in point: I wanted to design a logo for Terminally Incoherent. Logos are cool. They make you look more professional. They personalize your site, they make for nice icons you can use in other places. For example you can make yourself a coffee mug with your logo, and make it a conversation piece. Or put it on your business card. Not that I really need mugs or business cards – but it’s a nice to have that option.

Actually, I would want the logo for the following purpose:

  1. Unify all the different things I’m doing under Terminally Incoherent banner – like the forums, my Tumblr, the Facebook page, the Steam group and etc.. A logo would go a long way to visually tie these things together
  2. Replace the favicon – the Ti icon you see above in your address bar/tab bar is pretty much a representation of my design skills. An unimpressive square with lettering. It is simple and it works, but it is not much of a “logo” really.
  3. Replace the banana icons I hand out to long time Teminalists. These always need to be explained.

I was sort of inspired by the neat Markdown Logo designed by Dustin Curtis. All he did was to put a letter M in a rectangle, but note how his design is miles ahead of my crappy favicon. It has nice rounded edges, well thought out proportions, carefully chosen font face and etc.. That’s the sort of attention to detail I would like. That said, I’m not married to the Ti acronym – especially since that’s already kinda trademarked by Texas Instruments so I can’t really lay a claim to it. I really just want something clean, simple and functional that would be unique to this site and this community.

Here is a working list of my requirements:

  1. Preferably two colors: white and orange
  2. Minimalistic – as few strokes, shapes and symbols as possible
  3. Reducible to 16×16 favicon size – you should still be able to recognize at that scale
  4. Be at least somewhat representative of the topics we discuss here
  5. Bonus points if you can make textual approximation (like [M↓] for markdown)

So far I don’t really have a clear vision, but I have been bouncing a few ideas around. I’m not really set on any of them yet.

Idea the first, was a planet swoosh. Kinda like the one SciFi channel used in their old logo before they decided to rebrand themselves as “the channel formerly known as SciFi which now hates nerd stuff and only airs wrasselin, and reality shows”. Kinda like this:

Old SciFi Channel Logo

Old SciFi Channel Logo

I really like the Nike logo + half crescent design of the mini-saturn like planet. I would totally steal it, but then again that would be kinda pointless. I’d rather have something original, but along similar line of thought. Huge amount of the topics I cover here on this blog have something to do with science, science fiction or both so a planet with rings seems at least a bit relevant.

I actually attempted to create my own version of this logo in Photoshop and/or Inkscape. I won’t even show you what I ended up with, because it’s embarrassing. The magnitude of my failure was overwhelming, and I was quite ashamed of myself. Plus, I’m not sure if this is the right way to go.

Idea the second… You know what – let me just show you: [#_]

No, seriously. Check it out: the brackets are kinda like a terminal window. The hash mark is like a root prompt. The underscore is the cursor – which may or may not be blinking. In some fonts the underscore connects and blends in with the bracket making it look even more like a tiny window. Terminally Incoherent – terminal, terminal apps, etc.. Get it? It is fairly representative of the topic matter, and it’s mostly text. I would basically just need to find a good looking font to use in the graphics. Or just, you know – draw it.

Plus it’s searchable. Someone may not remember how to spell terminally or incoherent, and whether or not there is a dash in the middle of the domain name – but they could remember the logo, and then google it. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

What do you think? What are your suggestions for Terminally Incoherent logo? Do you have font suggestions? Any other considerations? Let me know in the comments.

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21 Responses to Help me design a Terminally Incoherent logo

  1. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I’m not convinved that [#_] is going to be easy to search for… doesn’t Google disregard punctuation? Still, I kinda like it. Reminds me of Slashdot’s transliteration into /. and it looks like they’re using that as a logo.

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  2. I’ve been thinking the same thing: I kind of want a new logo for my site, and like you, I know Photoshop fairly well, but lack design skillz. A friend of mine has used – I haven’t used it myself, but depending on how valuable you consider your time, it may be worth a couple hundred dollars (you choose the price) to let someone overseas design something for you. You get dozens of ideas to pick from.

    We live in an increasingly-specializing world. Why waste time trying to be jack of all trades if you’re good at coding?

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  3. Unless there’s some paradigm of Photoshop I’m not familiar with, for logos you should stick to vector graphics unless you have a really good reason to go raster. So, as you mentioned, Inkscape is the kind of tool you want. That way it will properly scale up for plastering onto the side of the Terminally Incoherent personal jet you’ll have someday.

    @ Matthew Weathers:
    That’s a good suggestion, but to answer why someone would do this themselves: personally, I see project like this as an educational experience. Next time you need a logo, you can hire someone and your experience will be useful in negotiating and communicating with the designer. As Heinlein said, “Specialization is for insects […]”

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Matt`:

    Well, I just searched for it and it brought up bunch of results for #_ so I guess it’s workable. :P

    @ Matthew Weathers:

    I don’t know – I just have this thing about being a Resistance man. Having basic grasp of many domains is usually helpful. But yeah, I really suck at design.

    @ Chris Wellons:

    I think Photoshop can make vector graphics… I believe I did see an option to save as SVG somewhere in there. I might be wrong.

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  5. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    Ok, stupid ideas GO:

    1. Zombie spewing gibberish binary code. (Zombie because he is terminally dead, incoherent that’s why gibberish, binary because computers and stuff…) :D
    2. Screen with some absolutely stupid looking interface, like you see in the movies, but +500% insanity. (Screen because terminal, stupid interface as an inside joke about hacking portrayal in movies and because it’s incoherent.)

    Sorry, no useful ideas, but I am in the mood for bullshiting :D

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  6. Jereme Kramer UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux says:

    I was thinking that if you wanted to tie incoherent into your current proposed logo, you could do something like -[#_]< for it to be like a terminal window decohering a laser beam. It would be more clear if you made a fancy vector with a crisp orange beam hitting the window and becoming a blurred triangle or a series of lines coming out the other side. Of course, without this explanation, the meaning might be completely lost. Did I mention that I'm terrible at design too?

    I've also heard from a number of friends who are actually decent at design that Adobe Illustrator is much easier to use than Inkscape — you may want to keep that in mind.

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  7. mcai8sh4 Google Chrome Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Hmm, well I’m another one whose crap in the design/ideas department. But I must admit, I do like the general idea of the “[#_]” thingy.

    I’ve had a quick gimp around, and made a slight alteration to it. The alteration is so slight, that the smaller forms won’t notice it, but in a larger image you’ll see the subtle genius!
    Basically the # can be altered slightly to make sections of it a ‘T’ and an ‘i’ (or ‘I’).
    It’s kinda hard to explain… screenshot time….
    Overall image :
    Close-up of the altered ‘#’ :

    Obviously needs some work, but you might be on to something with that idea. I wouldn’t mind a mug with that on :)

    God luck with your quest!

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  8. astine UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    How about something like this: logo?

    Also, photoshop may have an export as svg option, but you’ll still be authoring in bitmap. If you do that, photoshop will have to guess at the underlying shapes and you may not end up with something much better than a scaled bitmap.

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  9. StDoodle UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    No thoughts, as I suck at design too, but this reminds me that I think a great example of a “scales well to minimalism” logo is CSX’s logo: [..CSX..]

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  10. agn0sis Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Here are some ideas. If you like one or some of them, feel free to use them and tell me if you want the original ones (svg vectors created with inkscape)


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  11. agn0sis Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Damn it!!! Why can’t I put links in the comments? Is it not allowed?

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  12. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Liudvikas:

    Those are kinda awesome, and completely beyond my artistic ability. :P Remember, I’m the guy who just admitted to failing hard at drawing circle circumscribed by elipse in Inkscape.

    @ Jereme Kramer:

    Hmm, don’t Adobe products cost like BillZillion $dollars each? Oh well, I guess I could obtain it the same way I obtained my PhotoShop copy… Which, if anybody asks, was completely fucking legally and stuff.

    @ mcai8sh4:

    Oh SHIT! Brilliant! Actually, I think for the logo I would render the # straight rather than slanted, making the Ti thing even easier to implement. :)

    @ astine:

    Pretty cool, but it’s kinda similar to what I have now. I was sort of trying to figure out something new. :)

    And yes, good point about the svg option. I ought to be using Inkscape or Illustrator for this.

    @ StDoodle:

    Heh, It’s kinda neat. Though it also strikes me a bit sloppy. I don’t know. I went to their website, and saw the “snazzed up” version in the header and was not impressed. Go figure.

    I think FedEx has the absolutely the most brilliant minimalistic logo. The invisible, subliminal white space arrow is between E and x is just an incredible example of what designers get paid for. The CSX logo – probably designed by comity or a board of directors and handed down to graphic monkeys to add snazz. FedEx logo – someone sat down and kearned these letters so hard that an invisible arrow coalesced in between them. It’s a small thing, but it makes a huge difference.

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  13. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ agn0sis:

    Heh, you can. You just forgot the link text. You just put the <a href=”blablabla”> part but forgot the linky, underliny part that goes after it and is terminated by </a> :)

    Also, thanks for the whole bucket full of logos. :P You are sort of on the same track as mcai8sh4 combining the [#_] thing with letters T and i. I think there is something to this. I must ponder this some more.

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  14. JuEeHa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    I think that the [#_] is very good idea, and almost everything works for me, but please leave the favicon the same. I don’t know why but I just hate it when site changes its favicon

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  15. Mitlik UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Man, before you even got to the ScyFy logo portion I was thinking: Luke should do something like “TI$_” with maybe a fadded box above the underscore for a blinking cursor. But I guess you don’t want to be using the perl favorite variable either.

    Don’t forget to go back and brand your crib sheets. Since I am new to git I have your git crib sheet hanging next to my monitor.

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  16. MrPete GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ JuEeHa:
    Me too and I always thought that it was a nice, simple clean icon without trying to be too fancy or carry too much information.

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  17. Eric GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I really like Mcai8sh4s idea – but would modify it slightly
    As you suggested, a non italic # …

    something like this.

    You may use it if you like …
    this is just thrown together – so it probably needs cleanup concerning distances and thickness of…

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  18. Egg UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    I like the combined # and TI idea. This is my take on it.

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  19. @ STop:

    I really like that first one, STop.

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  20. Alex Reinisch UNITED STATES Google Chrome Mac OS says:

    Though I got a chuckle out of Jereme Kramer‘s literal take on coherence, I place my support behind STop. His seem simple, easy to look at, easy to understand, pleasing.

    Best of luck in finding your new look!

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