As OnMilwaukee enters its 18th year, we continue to look at how we do things, what we stand for, and how we can improve. A part of this growth is the unveiling of a new logo to help steer us on an even more productive path.
The first, second and third logos were the product of a more innocent time when the internet was going through childhood and puberty.
"I actually tried to emulate the look of the sign from the Milwaukee Ale House when creating that first logo in 1998," OnMilwaukee co-founder and Publisher Andy Tarnoff told me. "We incorporated the Hoan Bridge when we redesigned it in 2000-2001 with the help of Whole Hog Productions. Both look incredibly dated now, but if you look at the original Google and Yahoo logos, I don't feel so badly."
Indeed, it was a different time. By the middle of the first decade of the 2000s the web was recovering from a failed attempt at transforming from a fun hobby into a something that could potentially be commercially lucrative. Old business models were scrapped and the term "Web 2.0" was bandied about like candy on Halloween. The logos all looked like candy, too. Our logo was imbued with that same sense of teenage awkwardness.
Our circa 2007 logo leaned heavily on the trendy outlined glassy button aesthetic. The font choice was heavy to make a statement: this is a logo. The overall shape and margins were weird and the typographic rules were inconsistent. It never really worked at small sizes. As the bejeweled trend faded away, the logo was cleaned up and simplified in 2012.
Eight years on, though, we wanted the new logo to grow up. Instead of reflecting light, we wanted it to reflect a more exciting outlook. The goals? To make it cleaner, friendlier, more colorful, brighter, and more flexible. At the same time, despite the flaws of the old logo, we didn't want to shun the past for the future. We have a huge sense of pride for our company and we don't look back and cringe in horror. So here's what's new.
The logo is cleaner and simpler.
We dropped the dot com. In the early days of the company, that was a necessary accouterment, but OnMilwaukee is more than a dot com. We're on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else. The dot com is one of many places you can find our content.
We also excised our icon and word mark from the heavy outlines, which makes it easier to read and will also allow us to use the logo at extremely small sizes. The new logo remains readable at effectively a 5 point size.
For the last seven years our logo has been set in a heavy font called DIN Black. We changed it up for a custom version of DIN Bold (which I am jokingly referring to as DINr, short for DIN Round). The DIN font family is a straight-sided industrial font which was developed for German way-finding (aka street signs).
By sticking with DIN, we retain a connection with the city's German heritage, the city's industrial past and OnMilwaukee's company history. The combination of the authoritative font, plus the custom rounded terminals, and the lighter weight help ensure OnMilwaukee is viewed as a resource for light-hearted entertainment information as well as our more serious commentary.
It's more colorful.
In addition to brightening our historic red and yellow colors, we've added a new blue as well as some additional accent colors to make the site more vibrant and attractive. The colors also work well whether set against a dark or light background, which further reduces the need for more complex outlines.
It's more flexible.
We officially separated the word mark from the Hoan bridge icon. This means we can run wild with the icon or the word mark on its own, rather than insisting they be kept together. Sometimes a relationship needs a little individual exploration time to grow. There are still rules in place for sponsorship positioning and spacing, but we will have more room to play around with it.
The logo also works well in multiple colors and formats. Full color? Fine. Limited color? Great. One color? It's still perfect. And depending on some applications, who says the bridge always has to be yellow?
As we continue to develop our brand and re-evaluate what we stand for, we can look to the new logo for inspiration: cleaner, simpler, friendlier, more colorful and more flexible.
Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.
In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.
Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.