Logo Competitions in Open Source Software Projects

This is based on a blogpost of mine. I thought it might be interesting to share and potentially discuss it here.

I always wondered why open source projects love community-driven logo competitions (almost all logos of Wikimedia projects seem to have been created this way).

I suggest that the practice of community-driven logo competitions in open source communities makes a lot of sense if the logo is primarily a representation of the project to people who are already community members. Thus, the project logo is similar to the emblem of a football club: It needs to appeal to fans of the club itself. Whether it appeals to fans of other clubs or even non-fans in general is not relevant.

The community of an open source project is community/users/creators all in union 2; thus representation to non-members is not a large concern as long as members are doing well and identify with the project and its representations (like a logo).

This is very different for logos for non-open source projects like commercial products. In these cases, the logos are created primarily as representation to non-members of the product-creating organization.

Logo-competitions among amateurs might lead, from the perspective of the designer, to flawed designs. But they seem to work well in the context of values and concerns in open source projects as they create identification for the community from the community.

An aspect that I did not discuss in depth in the original post is that voting is a mechanism that “ensures a decision is made even if no clear “best” logo can be decided upon by rational means.”. It am curious why designs get voted on and code not; the most plausible explaination is that code, as a core “thing” an open source community groups around is often thought to have a value that members can find out in a rational discussion, whereas members might not have the skill to judge designs nor the assumption that one could even rationally decide about such “matters of taste” as a design (in contrast to code)

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I’ve often thought of a similar(?) aspect of design and code in OSS in that code to some extent is either correct or not correct in that is runs the intended function (success) or does not (fail). The code can be ‘refined’ and made more efficient.

Design doesn’t really have an equivalent to ‘runs function successfully’ or ‘does not run function successfully’. The closest I think are accessibility standards. e.g. Does this logo meet accessibility standards? - everything else could be objective re. ‘good’ design’ that ‘passes’ quality control.

So like, if the community likes a visual style that isn’t what ‘typical’ design would call ‘good design’ then well…it ‘runs’ so what kind of importance does ‘good’ design hold.

I think about this a normal amount :joy:

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That code is special in that it “runs or not”, is something that Dunguid discusses in “Peer production and “laws of quality”” (I cite this paper a normal amount…): A lot of online peer production is modeled on open source development, yet code-development methods are not 1:1 translatable to other cultural products.

There is some effort of making cultural products code-like, but I am of the impression that a lot of the efforts do not care for the professions they try to code-ify: Writing in LaTeX does not lead to quality and efficiency improvements; there are reasons why designs are not branched and merged but copy-and-pasted. (Also, code-ification is not merely computable, it is also plain text; classic smalltalk with its non-plain-text-store does not fit in the git-and-vim world)

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#justphdstuff lol i feel this in my very being