Designing The "No Plans To Merge" Logo

Shortly after I started at Tighten, Daniel Coulbourne and I started a podcast called Twenty Percent Time. We ran it for almost two years, and had a blast. If you haven't listened to it, we have like 35 episodes or something chocked full of good dev discussion.

After I left Tighten, we both wanted to keep doing the podcast, so we re-branded it (Tighten's going to do other things with TPT). The new podcast is called No Plans To Merge and we're pretty excited about it. Go check it out if you like deep/goofy developer discussion.

Along with a new name, of course, comes a new logo. Designing, and agreeing upon a new logo was really hard and took a ton of time. I thought it'd be interesting to walk you through our process and why we landed where we did!

We started Twenty Percent Time from scratch in I believe one single day. Daniel handled all the hosting stuff, and I banged out a logo. We ended up just going with my first attempt, lucky shot I guess:
Twenty Percent Time Logo

It accomplished everything we wanted it to. It conveyed that the podcast is all about development, and has a particular slant towards controversial patterns like fluency in Laravel.

Unfortunately, we weren't so lucky with the new logo...

Similar to the first attempt, I opened up Sketch and banged something out pretty quickly. I sent these over to Daniel to get his opinion on them.
first crack - boring nptm vector logos

I forget which he liked best, but he didn't love any of them. And rightly so. They were too tame. Took almost no time to design and I think that showed. I just grabbed the merge icon svg from GitHub's source, wrote some words, arranged the two, and slapped it on a simple background.

We also weren't sure about the red color. We were thinking the title implies rejection so red would fit, but he wasn't too keen on the look. So I sent him these:

same logos with different colors

There was a difference of visions at this point. He wasn't really liking the direction, and I didn't understand why. So he sent me this:

crazy pickle selling logo

This is a logo a friend of his got done for his pickle selling business (If you've known Daniel for any time, this kind of thing is not unusual). I immediately got it. He had a vision for something less "cheap". Something that took work, vision, talent. It totally resonated with me and we immediately reached out to the illustrator to see if he'd be interested in working with us.

While we were waiting to hear back I decided to try some things myself. I grabbed my tablet/pen and got to work, here's what I came up with:

crude nptm logo illustration

I developed this concept a little further and came up with this:

better illustration sketch

I think crossing the merge symbols was Daniel's idea - this was totally key and I thought spoke more the tone of the podcast.

I forget the exact order of things, but I recall feeling the illustration was a bit too cartoony, so I tried something more vector-looking:

ugly looking futuristic vector logo

We both didn't really like this, lol.

So I stepped away for a bit and started looking through design books I had for inspiration. I started reading Aaron Draplin's Pretty Much Everything and got inspired to take the logo in a new direction. I wanted to try something more "Industrial" and a wee-bit retro/working-class. I thought it reflected our tone of being working programmers who consider what we do a trade. In general, we try not to elevate what we do to anything beyond a trade (maybe also a craft).

He liked this direction, so here was my first attempt:
first crack at industrial logo

We both wanted something that would look good on a trucker hat, and this certainly fit that for us. It felt a bit off-balance, so he messed with it a little and so did I. Ultimately, I couldn't get it right.

Here are some further attempts:

logo that looks like Field Notes

I got really into Aaron Draplin during this session and really wanted to try something that felt more Field Notesy and "Thick Lines" using Futura Bold (the font Field Notes uses). I actually really dug this one and still do now. But Daniel wasn't as keen on it as I was and that's just how it goes when two people are working together.

logo that looks industrial but also like a road sign

We both liked this one a bit more and thought it would make a good sticker, but it felt a little too tame (especially without the symbols being crossed). Also, it only contained the acronym "NPTM" which we both didn't love. It also kinda looks like a street sign, which is not the vibe we are after.

We both started digging more into Labor Union art, like pins and patches and stuff like this:

picture of labor union pin

I tweaked the colors from before to be outright working-class America feeling. It was a concept we were both iffy about but intrigued by, and wanted to see:

american sticker looking logo

We both thought this would make a cool sticker. But the sticker had to feel cheap, none of that vinyl sticker-mule stuff all the kids are handing out these days. Something that would tear when you rip it off a lunch pale.

Here's another shot at something that would go great on a steel lunch pale:

electric union looking logo

Or maybe something you'd find on your electric meter.

We both fealt like we weren't nailing the Industrial motif, so we decided to give the illustration another go.

I spent a painstaking amount of time turning the drawing into a vector in Sketch, and got this ugly thing:

crude vector of illustration

We both weren't too keen on it, but I wanted to see if I could get it to a place we were both happy with. I smoothed out the lines, added a little background, and came up with this:

whacky colors illustration logo

Pretty weird colors and definitely more of a "Schoolhouse Rock" vibe, but a part of me really liked the playfulness of it.

Daniel was definitely not as on-board with this design as I was. So I added a pink background and he warmed up to it:

Screenshot of logo

We both thought this design was a little silly and crazy, but at this point, we had tried so many things, we were kinda fine with having something a little wacky. In some weird way it was an expression of us throwing our hands up and saying "eff it, let's just run it".

We both thought the background needed some texture so we went on Hero Patterns and found something we liked. Also, when I first sent him this screenshot, he liked the border created by Sketch's artboard and the filename in the top left. We both were like: "what if we designed it to look like a screenshot you just sent someone". So we did:

Logo with black border

We kinda went back and forth on whether or not to keep the border/filename joke and still don't really know which we like better. But here is the logo without it:

Final NPTM Logo

Voila! One podcast logo delivered!

Retro

Here are the takeaways for me:

  • Designing things is hard (most of the time)
  • Designing things that two people have to both like is harder
  • No matter how many times I've done this, I still have to tell myself not to take criticism personally or get salty about someone critiquing my work
  • Shipped is better than perfect
  • Working with Daniel is always fun and he reminds me of the value of collaboration constantly (thanks Buddy)

So there you go, hope you liked seeing behind the curtain into how much work these things take (at least for us).

If you haven't yet, go subscribe to No Plans To Merge and give it a listen!

- Caleb