Case Studies - Brand Design

Who Designed the X Logo?

As the debate rages about the most shocking rebrand of the year, we uncover where the X logo really came from

On June 23rd, Elon Musk set the Internet abuzz as he tweeted that Twitter would be rebranded to X. Remember that he had already changed the name of the company from Twitter to X Corp earlier this year, so this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

“The Twitter name made sense when it was just 140 character messages going back and forth – like birds tweeting – but now you can post almost anything, including several hours of video. In the months to come, we will add comprehensive communications and the ability to conduct your entire financial world. The Twitter name does not make sense in that context, so we must bid adieu to the bird.”

Elon Musk on Twitter

The blue bird has been replaced by the X logo, and now redirects to Twitter. The only thing that remains to be revealed is what tweets will be called.

When Musk needed a logo for Tesla, he turned to RO Studio, a design firm with whom he has a longstanding relationship. The same team also went on to design the logo for Space X. Clearly Musk did not think Twitter deserved professional design attention.

Musk asked users to design logos via a series of tweets, and then proceeded to pick an “art-deco X” suggested by Sawyer Merritt, founder of apparel-brand Twin Birch. The logo appeared on Twitter headquarters and on the site within 24 hours.

The X File

The X logo suggested by Merritt, was created by an engineer called Alex Tourville. Tourville had created a show called X Show on the social audio app, Callin, launched by venture capitalist David Sacks. The X Show was meant to focus on Elon Musk and his many ventures, but folded in February 2022. The X that Twitter is using now was the logo of the X show.

Says Tourville, “The branding of the show was somewhat challenging. Using the standard letter ‘X’ would be boring and uninspired. We needed an edgy typeface that could be used in Callin and Twitter as text, as well as a large distinctive logo. I chose the Unicode character 𝕏 (U+1D54F) for use in the display name of the show. Based on that character, I made a slightly more refined and pronounced graphic logo for use as the profile photo.“

screenshot of callin app
The original X logo was created for a show called X Show on Callin app, by Alex Tourville

Twitter users have pointed out that the logo looks a lot like the Unicode character Mathematical Double-Struck Capital X, as well as the x in the Monotype font, Special Alphabet 4.

What’s Next for X?

While Tourville said he was delighted that the logo had been chosen, Musk has announced that the current X logo may be an interim one and subject to further refinement. This will be necessary, if the logo is to be trademarked and protected. So common is ‘X,’ that hundreds of companies, including Microsoft and Meta own trademarks to it in some class or the other.

Meanwhile, the debate rages hotly on the platform once called Twitter. Founder of 20VC, Harry Stebbings said that “Rebranding to X will be considered one of the smartest branding moves of the last 5 years.” Professor and marketer Scot Galloway, on the other hand, slammed Musk for “incinerating 17 years of brand equity within 10 months.” NFT artist Beeple, who has posted several images of Elon Musk in the past, tweeted this depiction of X.

Image posted by Beeple with the caption ‘X is coming’

Neil Cooper, head of design, Wolff Olins London, sums up the prevalent feeling in the brand world in this interview: “An instantly recognisable color palette, a globally known logo and brand verbs such as ‘tweeting’ have worked their way into the zeitgeist of popular culture. All were destroyed overnight. This may or may not be the worst rebrand of the last few years, but it will certainly be a case study for design students for many years to come.”

If you are looking at a rebrand, this story on Changing Your Brand Name in a Digital World is a must-read

THC Take

Elon Musk is a master showman – and it would be silly to expect him to approach a rebrand in the conventional way. Would he have got this reaction, if he had engaged a professional studio and then sent out a press release?

We do wonder if the timing of the rebrand has anything to do with Thread’s falling DAUs. Remember that the debate about the Twitter rebrand continues to rage on – Twitter. Even Musk’s worst critics are not going anywhere. His lawyers may be unhappy, but the success of the rebrand depends not on them or the branding gurus, but on the advertisers who are watching from the sidelines.

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