Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Logo design for Rakudo Perl 6

The below is a post I started on perl6-users@perl.org and is amended by the last weeks of replies.

I'm posting it below to garner a few more eyeballs, before I go from a, "research" stage to a, "playful" stage of trying simple things out and seeing if anything makes sense.

If you're a part of the Perl community, I'd love to hear your input as a Kaduo Perl 6 logo may be something you'll see almost every day:

Hello everyone,

A few weeks ago, probably more than I want to admit (but here! See! My Notes! I've been up to something!), there was one of those, "OMG! Perl is going to DIE!" threads, somewhere and the, "Well, do something about it" call came out, and I sort of replied, "well, alright" and gave my open ended hand to some design work.

Moritz was one of the first to guide it to the idea of making a logo for Rakudo Perl 6 - as there's nothing yet (really) available. I thought that would be a neat project and scratch some of my person itches.

A slight background on me: I'm that guy:


(Although, there should be two more columns for, "Skateboarding" and, "Rock Climbing" in there). I really started working with Perl during a internship in college which started me in a full time job doin' the stuff, which got me to where I am today: just working for myself.

In all of that, I also managed to get through Art School (guess what paid for *that*!). A lot of my work deals with language and text, writing and communication. Some of my work bordered on generative work, but most of it stayed on the canvas, as I wanted to go to school to learn to paint.

Anyways, I've always wanted to help out on larger-than-myself Perl projects, but, although I think my perl-fu is, well, alright - it's not wizard-like. But! I think an interesting niche that I could fill is as someone who, "gets" Perl and it's wonderful and varied culture and also, "gets" visual communication and all that. I am a firm believer that a healthy community is one full of diversity and successful projects come not out of one genius, but of many just normal people, and that's me: just a normal person.

Here's some notes I've collected about what people have said Rakudo Perl 6 is, which is a good baseline on what a logo should try to reflect and communicate:

Rakudo Perl is:
  • Perl 6 on Parrot
  • Rakudo as a *implementation* of a *specification*
  • Rakuda-do (Japanese): Way of the Camel
  • Rakudo (Japanese): Paradise

Camels, Paradise/Oasis, etc. It's good visuals and it's easy to digest. Camels are mean and smelly close up, but we don't have to get all that close - it's good to remember they're also extremely useful and in some places, absolutely critical to ways of life.

It also doesn't stray far from the original Perl 5 image of Camels and Pyramids and all that jazz. The Japanese lean on all this seems important too, perhaps to get a little more mindshare from the folks that find Ruby interesting and attractive (more on that in just a little bit)

One of the main fears with this name, "Rakudo Perl 6" - at least when it first came out, is that describing Rakudo Perl as, "An implementation (one of possibly, many) of the Perl 6 Specification, built on top of the Parrot Virtual Machine", will leave people going,

"Huh?!"

I think this is a good reason as anything, to think of getting a visual representation of this, somewhat complicated idea out ASAP.

It's interesting that Japanese Word(s) were chosen as the new name - it's grown on me - I like it. Japanese Art and Poetry has the idea of the, "haiga" and the, "gō" - which is sort of like a pen-name, but it changes if there's a change in the style of the artist during their career. You could think of, "Rakudo" as a new, "haiga" for Perl - at least the concept makes things clear to me: we've changed course, but it's still the same hand.

I was also, incidentally, doing some research on the origins of the Latin alphabet - I'm very curious about languages in general - mostly how they're abused in media and popular culture, but also in learning new ones - I took a brief stint solo in France armed with a 5 week Free University course in French to see how well I could get along. Eye-opening.

I happened upon the book, "Mysteries of the Alphabet" (Narc-Alain Ouknin - originally written *in* French) in the shelves of someone I was hanging out with. It's main thesis, really is the Latin/Greek alphabet started with something they term the, "Proto-Sinaitic" alphabet, which was created around the time the lost tribe of Israel was figuring itself out. Moses and all.

One of the, well, the third letter in their alphabet is, "gimmel", which comes from the word gamel, which, if you didn't guess already means, "Camel"! It looks either like the neck of a camel - or, perhaps it's hump. If you think of, "gimmel" as our, "C" you can sort of still see a hump of a camel, if you just turn the, "C" 90 degrees, clockwise.

Early written languages like Proto-Sinaitic are sort of the beginning where pictograms that stood for what things looked like, where changed into a way of writing about an idea - a lot of these early letters still hold a lot of the original meanings. Hebrew, for instance still does and each character is rich in back history. I like the Proto-Sinaitic link, since it's less loaded quite as intensely as Hebrew, which is invariably tied to major traditions and religions.

The, "Gimmel" character is no exception. Start from, "Mysteries of the Alphabet"
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
:: Original Meanings
Carrying the Primal Power beyond, outside the domestic setting

:: Derivative Meanings
Outgoing, break, carry to another, do good, return a favor

:: Acquired Meanings, Perpetuated By The Hebrew Language

Ripen, Ween, Enable to ripen
Release Oneself, Break Away From
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Which I think beautiful illustrates a nice connection between Perl 5 and Perl 6, Rakuda-do/Rakudo and haiga pen-names - and the, "Big Picture" of what exactly Perl 6 is all about - standing apart from the lineage, but still being, well, "Perl", using the Camel (gimmel) as a fundamental icon from way WAY back in time there -

and it all sounds so Perlish of picking and choosing the best from many ideas and languages.



Taking a step back from this soup of ideas and thinking of a logo itself, it seems that it would help to produce something that's made of somewhat interlocking and inter-related pieces: Perl on Parrot has two separate pieces that come together and complete an idea. But there's other things that could take, "Perl's" place, so it's really,

$x on Parrot

It seems that if a logo would be made, we can modularize, say, that Parrot part and use it for other things - same with the Perl part, if you get into it. Modularization is a way of getting ready for the future. It also allows us to be lazy: we can use other people's work already and - well, you all know this already. It would be an interesting idea to use common programming best practices in the logo of Perl itself.

I bring that all up, because when I look at the various Perl projects, they all look extremely interesting, but fragmented. It would almost make sense to create a logo where pieces can be reused for related thingies. Starting from a logo for Rakudo Perl, one could make a simple Style Guide even, with easy-to-acquire graphic elements that say, an application written using Rakudo Perl could use (at their discretion) to enhance their own project and tie it back into Rakudo Perl (and Perl in general).

So that's sort of the other thing I'm proposing: not only designing a logo for Rakudo Perl, but having the concept of modularization of the logo's basic elements part of the logo design itself and the sharing and remixing of the design elements for related projects, to help strengthen the, (and I'm not a fan of using this word) "branding" (sigh) of Perl and making it not so much the "invisible language that glues everything together", but have it where it belongs: in a positive light with the general (geeky) public.

Right now, all that means to me is perhaps a simple style guide and the image and graphic resources easy to grab in open formats. This also means that simple-is-better when it comes to the design of all these different elements of the logo, as they'll be combined in interesting ways and things will have a tendency to be cluttered. Simplification also lends itself to universality: the simpler the idea is, the more we relate ourselves *to* the idea itself.

Finally, the design of the Rakudo Perl logo should lend itself to change. Just like any other part of the project, the ideas and concept and what the darn thing actually look like should be able to move and change quickly - to be able to be upgraded - hey, why not? I'm not interested in, "owning" the design, but am more interested in playing a part in shaping the whole. And all that stuff. Just like in code, some people do more than adopt a project.

What I really *really* need now is some feedback for any and all of the above research and braindump. This, obviously, is just one regular guy taking the first jump into something a whole lot bigger and more complex than he can even really imagine. The first step is the hardest and the most confusing - the rest of the journey is mostly, one foot in front of the other, until the end,

Here's a few important notes about the above:

Love Marks vs. Trademarks:

Sounds like a great idea. Go for it. Here is a document I prepared for Larry Wall and the Perl Foundation about a trade mark strategy for Perl. You may find some ideas in here to help - I like your idea of interlocking imagery etc.

http://thegoo.org/love-marks-for-perl.pdf
This document encourages the use of memorable, positive, interconnected trademark. The Perl Foundation will be the custodian for such a mark. This is all wonderful. I don't have any problems with giving over the rights for the project to TPF and Perl at large - sort of the point, really.

This is also a very important part of the document above:

If the Perl Community accidentally borrowed “The Camel” it appears O’Reilly accidentally borrowed
the domain name “perl.com”. Goodwill continues to accrue in the trade mark “PERL” and that
goodwill, including any domain names needs to be directed to its rightful owner: TPF.

With the Rakudo Perl 6 logo, we don't want to add even more confusion - Camels, it seems are out. I wouldn't mind a gesture of a camel-like idea - for example, my gimmel idea above, but that idea may just be a stepping stone for something much large - for example, trading the Rakudo Perl 6 logo as a type of primitive written alphabet, which can be combined, with descretion with other people's and project's ideas.

I think, at least in the "playful" stage, the camel be used as a design element, just because it could lead to more interesting things.

BUT - Richard Dice of the Perl Foundation does make this situation absolutely clear:

O'Reilly is the only organization that can have trademarks that incorporate
a camel in reference to the Perl programming language. This statement is a
first-order approximation, but damn good one. Basically, the message is:
stay away from using camels




Patrick Michaud had this to say:


I'll start with my summarized thoughts first, then a few specifics below.
First, I totally agree that Rakudo Perl needs a logo, and the sooner
we can get one to start using on our website (which we're now creating)
and other materials, the better. So, your thoughts and ideas are
quite welcome.

Beyond that, I think your message has neatly captured many of the facets
of what we're working with (and yes, there are a lot of facets). The
message reminds me of some of Larry's "State of the Onion" addresses --
looking at many sides of the Perl (in this case Rakudo Perl 6) world.

So, my primary comment is that I find myself very much in agreement
with your proposal, and a strong hope that you'll continue on in this
direction. I agree with the idea of the style guide and some simple
elements that people can combine together in very expressive and
beautiful ways. Indeed, it sounds very much like you're proposing
an ideographic system for Rakudo Perl, where can combine graphic
symbols for ideas together. That feels very Perlish and Rakudoish
to me -- I like it.

So, I'd say "press on" and let us see what you come up with. :-)

The more I think about the design problem, the more it it seems that a simple but very flexible solution would be best and that reflecting and taking the actual design process and specification of Perl 6 itself as a major influence would be a great way to go about things.

I can't really speak for what Parrot will want or need, as they already
have a (very nice) logo. But having a symbol to represent Parrot in
the system you propose would likely be very workable.

Exactly!

I may do more research with Patrick and see what the current needs are for a Rakudo logo and how that could be worked with a, "Grand Scheme" as well as start playfully working on some ideas.

What I could use now is a whole lot more feedback. Sound off!

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