my Name is Sean Gallagher and...

I am the Art Director that works with Jin @ Stack Exchange, and I'm excited to announce the Skeptics brand and site design, done while quietly observing the community here.

I would like to share my process, visuals and the meaning behind the developed materials for your community and look forward to your comments and feedback -

Skeptics Brand / Site / Media

I began by becoming focused on the community here...

"If you have a question about the accuracy of public claims made in the media or elsewhere, if you're interested in the evidence behind what you hear or read, then you are in the right place."

This statement has strong indicators to create from and make the designs interesting, but also informative : A brand image that communicates this gathering of supporting evidence and the sources it may originate from.

Core Visual concept

I imagined the analog version of the site, like the wall of a researcher or reporter trying to connect the dots on their fact finding mission.

Logo Type Form

For the type style of the brand, I wanted to find a mix of organic and mechanical form, something that represents the duality of the mind and the tools of human examination. The letter forms are almost like medical tools, with sharp edges and symmetrical shapes and points... and yet very organic, with gentle organic curves and slopes at the same time.

Brand Mark / Icon

All signs seemed to point to critical thought, Jin suggested a human like form with gears turning in the mind. This was a great suggestion and visually fulfilled the skeptical thought process to examining the types of claims and questions asked here.

I combined the forms from the Skeptics Type, combining a "talk bubble" with the human form, mind and a fully open eye. The end result is an icon of thought process with the individual featured as making a valued, evidence-based contribution. Paired with the Logo Type, it as if the skeptics logo is saying, "This is who we are, and how we function."

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Inspiration

Main design elements

I was also very inspired by the look of "official" government documents, basic research tools to indicate and mark noted areas, like a highlighter and marker and contact sheet pencil for photography. I mixed this with other corresponding textures : medical illustration, photographic evidence, time stamps, forms, news media and "de-classified" documents.

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The opening title sequence of Rubicon, in spite of being a "conspiracy" film, summarized the feeling of gathering research to prove or disprove something. Making connections and indicating discovery of information.

From this process is a site that looks like no stone is unturned, that facts and supporting evidence are being gathered to be examined to present answers or to come back with even more questions, observations and discovery.

Using Helvetica bold for titles and emphasis, with supporting body text in courier, the site is very legible, and captures the feeling of both traditional and modern documents and media. A mix our brand also embodies.

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These visual elements of the brand soar in advertising, and on physical goods. It has strong flexibility to appropriate more graphical imagery and own it through brand color and context, as shown by 2 different types of treatments to the same category of merchandise.

Placing the brand on styled media, gives the underlying imagery deeper meaning and mystery, through word association and by our strong visual ownership.

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It is the goal of these visual elements to make the skeptics site an engaging and unique community via appearance, texture, and contextual visual language.

These materials will give you, and other skeptics a beacon to follow for participation here, a place to call home, a mark of pride and a symbol of membership to this intelligent and thought-provoking community.

The Skeptics site truly makes the internet an even better place. I hope these designs communicate that.

I look forward to assisting in the growth of this community.

I am very happy to meet all of you here.

Thank you.

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Looks great! I'm a little concerned however that, with a dark theme like this, the meta site is going to be white-text-on-dark-background, like Photography and SciFi. If that is the plan, my eyes beg you to reconsider! –  user1755 Feb 10 '12 at 20:51
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the meta is following the same theme, so a white content area with dark text is the plan. The background imagery will also be greyed a bit, per the usual low contrast Meta site style. Sound ok? –  Sean Gallagher Feb 10 '12 at 21:06
    
Awesome, sounds perfect. –  user1755 Feb 10 '12 at 21:11
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I am worried about the use of mono space. I understand what you are getting at, however I fear it's not very readable and we do have long answers. I do love the concept and branding though. –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Feb 10 '12 at 21:11
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Maybe the fonts used in Latex and academic papers would also be suitable? –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Feb 10 '12 at 21:13
    
I'm relying on line-height and letter-spacing in the css to break the column issue that you are speaking of. If we notice it is a huge issue in the site html, perhaps we can amend the type stylings to: Consolas, Menlo, Monaco, Lucida Console, Liberation Mono, DejaVu Sans Mono, Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, Courier New, monospace, serif? –  Sean Gallagher Feb 10 '12 at 21:24
    
And thank you everyone for taking the time look at and discuss this. As we move forward we can make adjustments in css and html as needed. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 10 '12 at 21:26
    
Could you please link the 1:1 mocks? –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Feb 10 '12 at 21:38
    
I just had a quick first glance, I agree with Sklivvz that the monospace font is problematic. It makes sense from a design perspective, and while I like it from a purely aesthetic point of view, I think we should stay as closely as possible to a standard font for our main text. Our answers are usually longer than on most SE sites, we have a lot of text and it should be easily readable. –  Fabian Feb 10 '12 at 21:55
    
@Sklivvz The Latex fonts are pretty bad on screen, they look great on paper but they're really not designed for the web. –  Fabian Feb 10 '12 at 21:56
    
Also, the yellow footer is more important than the logo... –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Feb 10 '12 at 22:24
    
I'm not sure I undersand your footer comment? –  Sean Gallagher Feb 10 '12 at 22:48
    
I meant, the yellow colour of the footer makes it more evident than the logo, in my opinion, whereas it is the least important part of our page. –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Feb 10 '12 at 23:09
    
I think it'll be ok. It's a footer and always at the bottom. I'd recommend viewing this via your browser at 100%, in the proper context. Since you can't see the footer until you fully scroll past everything else, for it to be more important than the brand you'd need to move the brand to the bottom and have to scroll to see the brand as the fotter would have over taken the top space where the brand resides. Which it currently does not. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 10 '12 at 23:26

9 Answers 9

The Design

I like most of the thought process that went behind the creation of the design, but I'm not too fond of the results. I think that such a design would exacerbate problems we already have, due to our name.

You see, while "skeptic" is the term used by who religiously apply scientific skepticism into their life, it's also the polite term used by many people who disbelieve evidence. The most common occurrence of that use is probably "climate change skeptic", which is used to describe those who distrust the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change. As a result, we tend to attract two different crowds:

  1. Users interested in using scientific evidence to debunk or validate claims.
  2. Users who think this will be a good site to find further support for their crackpot theory.

I fear that the design you've presented will scare away the first type of users, and attract more of the second of users, as it gives the impression that this site is for conspiracy theorists.

If an user sticks around for a long time or read the FAQ, he will realize what the site is about but we can't count of that. The brand and the site's visual send a signal about what this site is about; it's the first impression of the site that a new visitor has and that makes it important. Improper signalling will drive potential good users away and attract the wrong kind of users.

In your post, you describe the direction that you felt our mission statement drove you to:

A brand image that communicates this gathering of supporting evidence and the sources it may originate from.

I'm with you on this. I would really like our design to represent this, but I don't think you've achieved that. To the contrary, I feel your design embodies the kind of paranoia and distrust that we do not desire here, the kind of skepticism that leads to conspiracy theories rather than hard evidence.

I think the disconnect occurs when you say:

I imagined the analog version of the site, like the wall of a researcher or reporter trying to connect the dots on their fact finding mission.

We're bookworms vulgarizing scientific evidence. Instead, the proposed design aims more at the "reporter connecting the dot in order to reveal conspiracies/corruption."

We don't deal with redacted documents like the ones the background. Usually, we deal with published peer-reviewed research. In fact, I don't think a redacted document has been used to answer any answer on this site yet. The appearance of such a document at such a prominent place is inadequate signalling. Similarly, questions and answers seem to be styled in a way that imitates old government documentation again giving the wrong impression of what we deal with.

Simply put, the design does not resonate with me and I don't think it will resonate positively with other skeptics as well. Symphony of Science songs like Onward to the Edge or Children of Africa do resonate with me. The same goes with XKCD comic #54 and #585, the fact that the small dot in this picture is the Earth or that we can now transplant jaws that were printed. Redacted documents, however, have the opposite effect. When I see them, I brace for impact. The same goes for all forms of alternative medicine, any non-humorous mention of Illuminati or reptile people, all instances of the world "miraculous" in advertising, and most phrases which read "X causes cancer."

Unfortunately, I don't have great suggestions or ideas to take you in the right decision. I could say "make it more bookwormish/science-y and less conspiracy-y" but that's not the most useful feedback there is. I'm hoping that the community, if they agree with my verdict, might do so in the comment section below.

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I appreciate your opinion on the matter, but don't see any direct evidence to support either users being scared or attracted. The site's rules and community will shape the type of people and content that is either up-voted or down-voted, championed or closed. Culture and community will reign supreme, a brand and the site visuals merely communicate where you are in the network. Although the end goal is that community likes vs dis-likes them. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 10 '12 at 22:42
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@SeanGallagher: If an user sticks around for a long time or read the FAQ, he will realize what the site is about. Therefore, yes, culture and community reign supreme. That's not guaranteed, though. Thus, proper signalling is important. The brand and the site's visual send a signal about what this site is about; it's the first impression of the site that a new visitor has and that makes it important. Improper signalling will drive potential good users away and attract the wrong kind of users. –  Borror0 Feb 10 '12 at 23:08
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Borror0 is right though in asserting that we are much closer to science than to conspiracy theories, most of our questions are about medicine, not secrets. –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Feb 10 '12 at 23:14
    
The logo type is based on medical shapes and the site is presented in context for gathering scientific evidence and questioning claims. I don't see how the design communicates conspiracy theory vs evidence, research and documentation. I even used questions that received high approval as basis for examples with the logo overlays. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 10 '12 at 23:20
    
I guess what I'm saying is please show me how the brand communicates conspiracy theory. Or any other supporting elements. The icon is a person thinking in a mechanical or "scientific" way. I used images of sources where someone would come here to either question or support them, in a research setting as the bg image for the site. Is that not clear? Maybe you can help me by stating what visual elements on the site = conspiracy theory? –  Sean Gallagher Feb 10 '12 at 23:49
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@sean To me, the "document/censorship/government" bit is the clearest link to conspiracy theories and secrets. I guess that what we are trying to say here is we absolutely refuse to deal with anything secret. Secret stuff is completely off topic. All our evidence is peer reviewed, replicated, multiple eyeballs stuff. –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Feb 11 '12 at 0:28
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@SeanGallagher: I have updated my answer. Hopefully, it's more helpful. –  Borror0 Feb 11 '12 at 3:04
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I agree. To me this design screams "secret conspiracy theories" much much more than " real science." Also, +1 for linking to my favorite space image ever! –  Sam I Am Feb 11 '12 at 5:22
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I'm glad you wrote this, I had the same thoughts. I like the logo with gears in the mans head though. It looks more like a conspiracy theory site with the blacked out documents, much more so than a site dedicated towards distilling truth. We don't (or rather we aren't supposed to) do original research unlike reporters, we find original research. –  Kit Sunde Feb 11 '12 at 23:20
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Much as it pains me – since I really like the design – I think Borror’s reasoning is impeccable. –  Konrad Rudolph Feb 12 '12 at 0:27
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@SeanGallagher I agree that the new design (for me, particularly the page backgrounds) are more "connect the dots / conspiracy" than what normally happens here. I think some visual representations of statistics or logic would be more appropriate, and could fit well with the current palette and style (which I really like). An example of what I mean is this image from a wired article. It combines our questioning nature and statistics. Just some food for thought. –  jozzas Feb 13 '12 at 1:56
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In summary: I like the design in general, the colour scheme, logo and logotype, but don't care for the page backgrounds or the monospaced fonts. I think a serif font would be more readable - we have long answers here - and more relevant (ala a scientific paper). It doesn't have to be a latex or similar font, but a serif font can look good on screen, be readable, and communicate the same thing. –  jozzas Feb 13 '12 at 1:58
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Thanks for the feedback guys. Continuing to work on it. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 13 '12 at 18:44

Mostly echoing what others have already said, but, just to throw in my two cents

  1. The use of a non-proportional font like Courier on body text would be absolutely crippling to readability, I'd veto the design based on this. Easy to change though. :)

  2. The logo + logo font is awfully .. whimsical. I think a more serious logo (the mockups above from Ustice aren't bad) is definitely in order for a site like Skeptics which already struggles to keep its head above water with the jokey/silly/does-anyone-actually-believe this stuff.

  3. I would refocus, per the suggestions, from the "conspiracy theory" type design inspirations to more of a "science trumps ignorance" one.

It's a good design, but #1 and #2 definitely need to be addressed. #3 isn't essential, but I do think it would more properly reflect the spirit of the site.

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I really like the concept and brand, and I think it's especially nice on the T-shirts...

I do think that our site has some peculiarities which need to be taken in account in your mock up:

  • We have really long answers, 5/6 paragraph answers need to be legible at the very least.
  • Because of the above we often use headings: their typography, and spacing, needs to be thought of as well.
  • We often have pictures and graphs in answers.
  • We practically always have citations. Since they are so important, it's fundamental to get them right.
  • We require answers to contain links. If they are quite visible, it would make the job of moderation much easier.
  • We use post notices. They are quite important to us as they make answers which are not supported by references, as it is required here.

So, well done, but please post examples of the above so we won't have "surprises" once the site is live :-)

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As we basically aim to explain science to a larger public, you may want to borrow some concepts and syles from divulgative science books, mags and sites, e.g. Discovery, Wired science, Scientific American, etc... –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Feb 10 '12 at 22:29
    
I'll make additions to the exploratory typography examples in the design. If there are any links you can share that have a lot of h2, h3, h4 or other type style examples it'd be great. I would like to get an even better feel for the site if possible. The long paragraphs will be legible with clear links. I can show examples of images in post etc. thanks. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 10 '12 at 22:47
    
I am awkwardly traveling with an iPad at the moment, and this makes finding e links difficult. Maybe the rest of the community can help here, please? –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Feb 10 '12 at 23:12
    
Long answer skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/4500/96 –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Feb 10 '12 at 23:18
    
I can make the links bolder and more clear. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 10 '12 at 23:21
    
and thanks for the good example of a nice long post. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 10 '12 at 23:29
    
Lots of headings skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/2065/96 –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Feb 10 '12 at 23:48
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Ooh, let me emphasise the post notices. If they could be signalled either before (or perhaps, better, as a distinctive bar alongside), the answers, it would allow people to read the article in the context of the concerns expressed, rather than it appearing afterwards, and having them have to revise their freshly formed views. –  Oddthinking Feb 11 '12 at 4:35

As some others have already mentioned, some of the background images (especially the blacked out text one) create more of a conspiracy-theorist impression, which is probably not what we want to achieve.

A far more representative image would be e.g. an article from a scientific journal with some nice diagram inside. Scientific journals have a distinct look, usually serif-font, two-column layout with a one-column abstract at the beginning. I think an image of one would be recognizable by many users of this site.

The page with redacted content doesn't really represent how this site usually works, and stuff like that is unfortunately mostly associated with conspiracy theorists.

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science docs sound good. I like the diagrams and such. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 13 '12 at 18:45

I know enough about web-design to know it's frustrating to deal with opinionated people who don't understand anything about design. Unfortunately, that's about all I know about web-design, so I don't know how to not make the same sort of comments myself. Sorry. I'm sure you are expecting a robust set of comments back, especially from this crowd. I hope mine are constructive, but forgive my ignorance - I'm sure you will figure out which ones not to treat with import.

The first thing I did when I realised what this question about was to look at the... well, actually, it was to mentally go "Squeeeee!", but once noise died down in my head, I ignored all the text, and looked at the images to try to get some impressions before I had any context. Some of my comments below are just sharing that vibe, so you can see how fresh eyes see it.

[That had a downside. I was staring at the grid of CIA-conspiracy-theory-invoking images reminiscent of a title sequence to Numbers in confusion for some time, until I read enough of the text to see that was the title sequence to Rubicon, and not actually a proposed part of the design!]

The Main Icon

I understand that it is inspired by a speech bubble, but my first reaction was the man's nose is upside down!

The inverted nostrils is such a strong indicator to me, that I find it easy to see this as the whole head being upside down, and the neck being wrong, rather than just an unusual nose.

Aside: I actually tried inverting it, and found the neck makes it look more reminiscent of the bird in the Twitter logo.

Upside down logo

My point in inverting it was to see if there was still a feel of a quote bubble if the nose was inverted to the right way up. I think so. Would you consider putting the nose on the other way?

The Logo Font

It seemed to be an interesting, warping of the letter-forms. I noticed the deliberate badly-printed silk-screen t-shirt effect, and figured it was like newsprint. I didn't consciously get a lot more out of it at first, but it was intriguing enough. I am happy with it.

I didn't take away "medical tools", although I can see it now that it has been pointed out. There's also a slight steam-punkiness there. (That is so a real word!)

The Logo Background

  • I don't recognise the building. Should I? I assume it is a library... or a government building? Nah, maybe a university? Nothing, I hope, that will turn out to be embarrassing later!

  • The flag at the top caught my eye - you kind of get drawn to it. It isn't recognisable as any particular nation's, so I guess it isn't a concern.

  • The columns got me thinking that the idea of referencing the logic of the Ancient Greeks through a column motif isn't a bad idea.

The Logo Colours

  • I like them. Not much more to contribute, sorry.

The Question List Page

Overall, I like it. The background images are cool. The logo looks good up there. Oh look, the badges are cogs! Cool.

  • [Okay, my first comment was a dopey objection, that I have left in because it shows you have done a good job!] The stripey yellow highlighting of questions says to me "Police Line! Do not cross!". Rather than subtly highlighting the questions, it is saying to me "Move along please." [At this point, I realised that this meant "Ignored Tag", so it is sending exactly the right signal. In my defence, as moderator, I have no Ignored Tags, so I don't typically don't see any such highlighting.]

  • How are visited versus unvisited question links to be indicated?

  • My initial reaction was similar to @Sklivvz's comment: that the trailing banner is given too much emphasis. I bow to your superior knowledge of design though.

  • I'm assuming the spelling error in "UNASWERED" is too trivial to mention. :-)

The Question Page

  • The Related questions are overly highlighted. In practice, the related questions on this site are often unrelated - and often closed! I wouldn't make that too prominent.

  • Hey, unrelated question: Are we allowed to have a visual indicator that a question title is for a closed question (without having to parse the whole title, and seeing the word "[closed]" at the end?)

  • Perhaps my strongest reaction to the design is AGAINST using Courier as the main font for questions. My objection is two-fold.

    • It isn't an attractive or comfortable font to read for long passages. A proportionally-spaced font would be more appropriate.

    • While it originally had the connotation of typewriters, it now has the connotation of system terminals. Perversely, it is a font based on typewriters that invokes their later replacements! Given we are one of the non-technology-themed StackExchange sites, that attracts more than its fair share of software developers (mods included!) I'd rather keep that distinction that we aren't about computers firmer.

  • I'm a little unsure of the yellow highlighted bolding. Not enough to object, but enough to say "If you were thinking of another idea, maybe show us that?" I assume italics aren't similarly highlighted.

  • I don't know if the little V shapes either side of the title "Comments" are meant to represent bared fangs, but I like to think they do!

  • Probably Off-Topic Aside: I've never noticed the "Recent Badges" section on StackExchange sites before. Doesn't seem particularly interesting to me. Do people click on them?

  • I'm not sure if this is the place to mention it, but the ability to include a full citation to a scientific article has always been a little clumsy (entering it, and its appearance, especially if you try to use it in the sentence). That may be more than just a few CSS changes though.

Branding Items

  • Is that a mechanical Darwin? I'd wear a mechanical Darwin t-shirt!

  • Not so sure I'd wear a cut-away diagram of the anatomy of conjoined twins! It's disturbing.

  • I can't make out what the items sitting on the desk are. Some sort of early electronics? I'd reconsider this one just because it is too unclear what we are looking at.

  • The final religious idol image, however, seems completely inappropriate. It suggests that we discuss religious topics. (We do occasionally, but most religious claims are out-of-scope.) It also seems, perhaps not outright offensive, but maybe a little rude to latch onto religious iconography, given most of the the religious claims about the natural world that do make it here, are rejected.

Closing thought

One day soon, this very message will appear in the new design.

Cool!

I only hope its appearance doesn't prove to undermine anything I said!

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Late thought: Studying statistical analyses is a key part of what we do. It would be nice to see some reference to that. –  Oddthinking Feb 11 '12 at 14:04
    
The items on the desk are a karpen pile. Thanks for all the feedback. note - the guys nose isn't "wrong" it's just turned up. And yes mechanical darwin all the way! –  Sean Gallagher Feb 13 '12 at 18:46
    
I didn't mean to suggest the nose was "wrong" in any objective sense - just that the most natural interpretation to my subconscious is probably not the meaning you are trying to project. If I am in anyway typical [citation-needed!], this may be concerning. –  Oddthinking Feb 13 '12 at 20:22
    
Picturing a face within the head, I don't see the nose as "wrong" or out of place, bur rather what is meant to be the eye seems too low down. If the logo is ambiguous and thus confusing, then that could be a potential problem. –  Sonny Ordell Feb 14 '12 at 2:32
    
I don't think anyone here was confused about the logo, that it's a person's head, and that there is a mechanical level of thought involved... Sounds like it just is not being well received subjectively. no worries. We can try something else. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 14 '12 at 18:46
    
Im with you I would so buy the mechanical darwin shirt but that is the only one. –  Chad Mar 13 '12 at 20:28

The Logo

First of all, let me be clear about it: the concept is several kinds of awesome. I think that "human with gears instead of a brain" is a brilliant idea for Skeptics' logo. However, something bothers me about the current one. As Oddthinking mentioned, that might be because of the nose:

The inverted nostrils is such a strong indicator to me, that I find it easy to see this as the whole head being upside down, and the neck being wrong, rather than just an unusual nose.

Or maybe not. Maybe it's the way the gears are set. I do think that your mechanical Darwin is cooler than the logo. Perhaps that I would like a logo more like it, with an head cut in half and gears instead of a brain. I honestly don't know what's bothering me, just that something is a little off about it.

It's nothing crucial. I know that, even if it isn't changed, it'll grow on me eventually. I'm only bringing this up because I have two questions to ask:

  1. Do you have other version of the logo already made?
  2. If yes, can we see them?

I can't justifying sending you to the drawing board over this but, if you have other variations of the same theme already made, I would like to see them to see if I prefer them over this one.

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yes and yes. 3 to go. gotta love the annoying character length reqs. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 14 '12 at 18:47

I don't have a problem with the conspiracy theory type of stuff. Such claims tend to be looked down upon because they are generally trivial to disprove or are excessively unreasonable.

It is hard (and a bad idea) to draw distinctions between wrong types of claims/users and right types of claims/users. Any claim that is falsifiable and notable is welcome. Any users that share our ideology and philosophy are welcome.

Our philosophy is about the acquisition of knowledge which is harder to accomplish if we start being judgmental and dismissive of certain types of claims.


On some points I think a conspiracy theory touch is a good idea. It is often these claims that are the most famous and skeptics organizations have good reputations for giving quality refutations for such claims.

Consider the banner logo for the Skeptic Magazine Website.:

enter image description here

The inclusion of the UFO does not do anything to discredit the magazine or attract the wrong type of users. To me personally it exemplifies the ideology - a quest for knowledge founded on empirical evidence.

I think it is extremely important not to appear dismissive or judgmental of claims in the branding. Ridiculing any claim is the wrong approach. We should merely communicate our ideology and philosophy which can be done without bias and judgement..


I do have some suggestions or ideas for the design. I am by no means a designer so I don't know how useful (if at all) they may be.

  • The idea of gears grinding in a head is good for showing generic thinking. I think something showing the more specific thinking we do here, i.e. analysis, deduction, investigation would be a better representation.
  • It could be just me since I know Rubicon is a conspiracy film, but when I watch the opening I get the impression of apophenia, perceiving patterns out of random data where none exist. I think that that is certainly the wrong impression to give.
  • I think in some ways the proposed design is too similar to the rubicon design, e.g. the same shade of yellow and such. Something more unique to our site may be beneficial as it will allows the site to have its own clear identity.
  • I can't put my finger on why, but I don't like the yellow on dark grey. Part of that reason may be that as skeptics we shine the light of reason and truth on claims we investigate. I think a lighter color scheme could help to reflect this.
  • Given the proclivity to academic and peer reviewed research on the site, perhaps a more formal design would help to reflect that. In many ways this is a "serious" site, which should be reflected in the design. I think the font in the Skeptic magazine website logo is a good example of what I mean.

Perhaps the main graphic for the design could be a blend of some of the things that define our ideology and community. A magnifying glass to represent investigation, some citations, formulas, histograms, a subtle nod to conspiracy theories such as a UFO. Things that reflect the community and ideology.

I'm looking forward to see how the design progresses!

    -
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I like your answer, however I do not think that there is any particular hostility towards conspiracy claims. The point is that we debunk conspiracy theories, whereas the design seemed to support them... –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Feb 14 '12 at 17:11
    
@sklivvz that's fair enough. I may have interpreted some of the other answers incorrectly. I just wanted to point out I didn't that incorporating elements of conspiracy theories would necessarily be harmful. –  Sonny Ordell Feb 14 '12 at 18:06
    
nice take on it. thanks. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 14 '12 at 18:53

I think the graphics look great but I Dont think they fit the feel we want from the site.

The dark back ground makes me think gumshoe. Where we want a clinical approach. I would prefer a bright clinical feel.

The font screams liberal arts. While there is nothing wrong with them this is a science and fact based QA.

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It's already been pointed out that there are poor connotations with it, but few ideas, so here are some. They may or may not be workable, but maybe it will give some inspiration.

Alternate Logo Idea - Altered letter S

Here's an alternate idea for a logo. Please keep in mind that I am not a professional graphic designer, so this can be executed a lot better. Basically the S form is replaced by 2 speech bubbles. The top one represents the question being asked, and the bottom one is the scientific answer. I have it as a bubbling beaker, but there are likely better symbols. I tried it with both a serif and sans-serif font, and found that I liked the serif fonts better, since it looks more academic and formal. The colors that I chose were to make it feel approachable. Note that I am not recommending these specific colors, I just picked two convenient colors that worked well together.

Proposed Skeptics logo

Alternate Logo Idea - Intact word, with speech bubble decoration

Alternately, if it is thought that the images are too ambiguous as a letter, they could be slightly altered to give the impression that the conversation is happening inside of Skeptics.

Conversation

Alternate Logo Idea - Comments and data included

This is an attempt to better balance the second idea, and also alude to comments and data, as well as many answers and questions, which the best are highlighted. Note that the graphics are positioned between the baseline and the cap height.

Balanced conversation

Alternate Logo - Combined form

For this one, I combined combined the speech bubbles into a design which could be used independently of the text. I chose primary hues, which feels a little Microsoft, but it certainly isn't a rip from them. The curves would need to fit better, but this is mostly for ideas, and it's the end of the say, so I'll leave it like this for now.

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Medical Journal

Look at the sites of medical journals. Most of them that I see are sparse, clean, and clinical (no pun intended). nejm.org is a good example. There is little use of color, except where you are SPECIFICALLY trying to draw the eye: Logo, article meta-data, tools (search and submit), and careers. I like the concept for the speech-bubble head, but I would go for something that is distinctly more human, and less ambiguous. Something closer to the PBS.org logo. It should be highly polished, sterile, and minimalistic. I would suggest that the Skeptics brand font be a clean Serif font.

Charts and Diagrams

Another way to take this idea is to go with something akin to an instruction manual with warning labels. A clean modern font with smooth curves and crisp edges. No, talking on your cell phone while filling your tank won't kill you, and neither will having a fan on in a closed room. Flow-chart, probability-distribution line graphs imagery, and stylized instructional diagrams (like Portal's warning labels) could be included for imagery. Again, I would keep the color palate minimal: Monochromatic + 1.

Cure for the Common Crap

For a more playful direction, something based on the idea that it's the place that urban myths and legends go to die. This could be a fine line, since we don't want to associate it with the cryptozoology crowd. This could be colorful and playful and including the tooth fairy, bigfoot, baby-carrying stork, etc. I'm seeing something like a toned down Dr. Mario. "The cure for the modern fairy-tale," with little "fact" pills.

It Was Old Man Whirley All Along!

Another playful idea is to do something similar with featuring popular modern mythical characters, but to show them as obvious frauds. Like a guy in a bigfoot costume with the head not on, or the tooth fairy as a fat balding guy with taped-on wings. You could even allude to Scooby Doo, since that show was all about skepticism. It startes with outrageous claims that the gang investigate and finds mundane reasons for.

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I like clean and I love portal. great references. –  Sean Gallagher Feb 14 '12 at 18:49

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