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June 25, 2009

Refreshing the Thunderbird Icon


But what about Thunderbird icon? Will it be updated too? Please! :)

Short answer, yes.  You didn’t even need to say “pretty please”.

We’re beginning the work to update the Thunderbird icon.  We really like how the Firefox icon turned out, and we’ll be working with the folks at Icon Factory so we can be consistent.

I’ve been impressed with how Alex Faaborg has led the charge with the Firefox Icon refresh, his vision, and his ability to communicate and work with everybody.  We’re working with Alex as well, he’s got a great eye, and we’re lucky.

The Process

As I understand, it’s going to be fast and furious in terms of the design and feedback loop the next couple weeks.  I’ll be posting a final creative brief before we get started, and happy to take feedback on it now.  I’ll be posting the iterations and calling for feedback as soon as I get them.

It would be great if all feedback can be done as comments to these blog posts as opposed to direct emails to me.


  1. Could use the opportunity to add some thunder to the Thunderbird icon in the same way that Firefox has fire. The tips of the wings could be, er… lightningy. You could use it as a slight (not overpowering) effect to fill the deadspace underneath the envelope to fill to more of a circle shape overall.

    Comment by Dave — June 25, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

  2. Wow. Rafael, you back to community. Thunderbird must be good product with new startup.

    Comment by Channy — June 25, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

  3. Good initiative! (Though it’ll be difficult improving a Hicks original)

    Hugging a globe is different from hugging an envelope though, having the bird too round and wrapping too much like the fox might look wierd because of those differing shapes they’re hugging.
    Of course, it might look really good, and more like a protective shield around your mail.

    Comment by James John Malcolm — June 25, 2009 @ 6:17 pm

  4. I think it’s a good brief, but what’s the watermark about, think you’re looking to do too much and excessive elements would only add confusion I think. Together with the other elements with the bird you are looking to improve perhaps the eyes and beak of the bird can be enhanced a little more….other than that I can’t wait to see what the final icon looks like!! especially of the good job you guys did with the fox.

    Comment by John — June 25, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

  5. @James, yup Hicks does some killer work.
    @John, the watermark is more of an experiment. We’ll see how it looks and then go from there. Easy to take out if it doesn’t look good.

    Comment by rebron — June 25, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

  6. Great initiative to refresh the Thunderbird logo. I’d say it’s been needing one for a while. However just a few queries at this point? One reason for refreshing the Firefox logo was the massive improvements introduced in 3.5. As Alex Faaborg put’s it

    “…it’s because I think we should be viewing the icon as an exterior chassis for an underlying engine that has recently undergone some really significant changes.”

    So are any such changes planned for Thunderbird too? Thunderbird development has been pretty slow for a while and some major improvements are definitely welcome!

    Comment by Sudhir Nair — June 25, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

  7. I’m really excited about this and anxious to see what Icon Factory will come up with.
    The creative brief all makes perfect sense.

    I do hope that the bottom dual shadows are worked on. I’ve never liked the blurred one mostly because it just doesn’t make any sense.

    I understand that things are already rolling but perhaps to help achieve a more well rounded result, the envelope could be lowered to the bottom and rounded.
    The logo itself is rounded, but not round.
    Curling the wings inwards would also help to round it off.

    Check out what I mean about rounding the bottom. I rounded the whole logo somewhat, but not by curling in the wings.

    Comment by Ken Saunders — June 25, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

  8. The change will be radical o more good subtly?

    @Dave, yes!! it’s good idea:

    Thunder – Bird

    In the actual logo don´t appear nothing related whith a… ¿storm? ¿wind? ¿wrap? ¿thunder? ¿bolt? ¿ligthning? ¿more shinny? I don´t know… ¿Sugestions?

    ¿What is Thunder – Bird? ¿What evoques in the mind?

    Comment by Francisco — June 25, 2009 @ 11:27 pm

  9. I agree with Comment by Dave — June 25, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

    There should be lightning somewhere, even few.

    Comment by Antwan — June 25, 2009 @ 11:38 pm

  10. Look forward to seeing the direction this takes!

    Comment by Ricky Moorhouse — June 25, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

  11. Some considerations that I view from the creative-brief (just for creativity):

    The actual logo of Firefox has a front perspective, the actual logo of Thunderbird has “side”-perspective. I love the perspective but is not coherent. if there is a subtle change of perspective will be slightly larger head size of the bird?

    The logo of Firefox is very flat, the logo of Thunderbird is more 3D.

    The logo of Firefox has fire, the logo of Thunderbird has no metaphor alluding to the storm.

    The envelope of the mail is very big and it’s difficult to perceive it as such.

    Comment by Francisco — June 26, 2009 @ 12:11 am

  12. the tips of the wings are very dark, not?

    Comment by Francisco — June 26, 2009 @ 12:38 am

  13. Why do people keep talking about the “thunder” and the “bird” as different things? It’s one bird, known as the Thunderbird.

    Comment by sep332 — June 26, 2009 @ 5:30 am

  14. Funny, you answered my question :) I said “pretty please”, because when Mozilla browser was split into Firefox and Thunderbird, both projects was equally important. But nowadays, Firefox is gaining much more attention, and blue bird now is nearly lost in the shadow of fiery fox. Firefox is almost 3.5, while Thunderbird is not yet 3.0… Also, you know, there are other smaller Mozilla projects which share the same icon style and aesthetics as Firefox/Thunderbird.

    Now one more “pretty please”: PLEASE MAKE A DOCUMENT ICON FOR THUNDERBIRD (for *.EML files). It lacks it! Simple envelope picture will do perfectly. Maybe with smaller Thunderbird icon on it, just how it is done in Firefox document icon.

    P.S. I found a funny misspelling in your Creative Brief PNG image – “Thunderbirdbird” (should be just “Thunderbird”) :)

    Comment by SLA80 — June 28, 2009 @ 12:35 am

  15. By the way, I’m also interested in what “Thunderbird” means and why it’s blue and has these punky feathers on its head :)

    I looked in Wikipedia, but found nothing except Jurassic birds, who don’t even fly (like present day ostriches).

    Comment by David (of Melodiya Records) — June 28, 2009 @ 8:00 am

  16. A few quick thoughts on the draft of the creative brief:

    >make [envelope] more retangular

    Initially I was thinking that the lack of parallel lines on the envelope looked odd, but now looking at it in isolation I’m thinking that the particular angle on the envelope, which is slighted rotated, actually really helps to make the icon three dimensional. Since this is an overall goal, I would keep the angle of the envelope the same, or even actually increase the skew slightly, so it is even less rectangular.

    >crisper [envelope] with a white color

    I would explain the rationale here a little bit, idea being that paper will yellow and darken as it ages. So switching the paper from a tan/yellow shade to a crisper and brighter shade of white will help to make the icon feel new and fresh.

    >make the icon feel more like a complete circle
    >make [wings] more of a circle

    Instead of circle I would say sphere. This follows with the changes to the new Firefox icon, and although there isn’t a literal sphere for the wings to wrap around (just a rotated envelope), I think James in comment #3 describes the feel well saying the more spherical wings would convey a “protective shield around your mail.”

    Sean Martell’s draft update of the Mozilla Lab’s Snowl icon shows a similar wings + sphere approach, although in this case there is an actual sphere for the wings to cradle:

    The feathers in the Firefox tail adapt very well as actual feathers :)

    Comment by Alex Faaborg — June 29, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

  17. @sep332,

    “It is described as a large bird, capable of creating storms and thundering while it flies. Clouds are pulled together by its wingbeats, the sound of thunder made by its wings clapping, sheet lightning the light flashing from its eyes when it blinks, and individual lightning bolts made by the glowing snakes that it carries around with it. In masks, it is depicted as many-colored, with two curling horns, and, often, teeth within its beak.”

    Read the page you’re linking before telling someone the Thunderbird hs nothing to do with thunder.

    Comment by ShaolinBarber — July 29, 2009 @ 1:17 am

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