Behind the Scenes of Our Bold New Brand
Art director and illustrator who leads an incredible in-house creative team at Atlassian.
The brief, and the challenges within
Brand redesigns aren’t all puppies and rainbows. They’re complex, filled with opinions and emotion, and require unbelievable coordination to ensure seamless execution. That’s why we had to be sure now was the ideal time to rethink our identity system, and that it was something worth doing.
That was the easy part.
We all agreed that while our current identity system had carried us far, we had outgrown it. Our product and marketing experiences had changed considerably, as we had recently overhauled our UI design, color palette, and illustration style (which you can learn more about on atlassian.design). Also, our product family had grown — in the past year, we welcomed Trello, Statuspage, and Stride.
And yet, we had an identity system that wasn’t evolving with the business. We had obvious stylistic inconsistencies across logos. We had three (Jira) products with the same logo. Our logo typeface — a customized version of Klavika — often suffered from legibility issues at smaller sizes, didn’t allow for the hierarchy we needed, and over time, didn’t feel like ‘us’. In addition, the connotation of many of our logos just didn’t…fit. As an example, the original Atlassian logo (affectionately known as “Charlie”) was modeled after Atlas holding up the sky, as we used to be solely focused on service and support.
In the end, this project was more than just the creation of a few logos. It was about creating a flexible, enduring identity system for 14+ brands that felt distinct on their own, and unified when together. It was also about elevating a parent brand that needed to play a stronger role than it had in the past.
The exploration, plus a few dead-ends
We started by looking at each product through the lens of what was true and unique. Starting with verbal ideation helped immensely before sketching, as we were able to think about the products more holistically. Namely, we thought about:
- Action: all of the possible actions one can take within the product
- Benefit: all of the possible benefits of using the product successfully
- Metaphor: all symbols of the product, and/or what it represents
- Content: all types of content that is handled within the product
To help us further narrow on what each logo should represent, we considered the Spectrum of Abstraction™. Basically, Jira Software could be represented by something literal (e.g., a ticket, which is a core product element), or something as abstract as an arrow (e.g., focusing on upward movement, progress, etc.).
It led us to dead-end #1: focusing on simple, but literal, depictions, such as a “ticket” for the Jira products, or a “page” for Confluence. They were too literal and too limiting, especially for products that mean much more than these simple cues.
We also found that when we tried to execute on this ‘literal’ rule across the products, we still needed to utilize intangible, metaphorical concepts to communicate the nuances of each product. To add more complexity, our product names range from the abstract (e.g., Jira) to the descriptive (e.g., Statuspage, Bitbucket), which prevented us from using a purely “literal” style for every logo.
And while our intentions were good, our focus on making the logos look like a family (though unified conceptual directions) led us to dead-end #2. We realized that an obsession with conceptual unity had distracted us from really identifying what each logo should represent. Example below:
So, we reset, and re-focused on agreeing on the singular ‘concept’ for each product. It meant going back to the drawing board, which can be frustrating, but it was the most important decision we made in the project. We looked at each logo in isolation, almost as if they were 14 different rebrands, and didn’t allow ourselves to consider style choices until we had nailed the fundamental depiction. Sample process for Jira Software below. (Note: ADG = Atlassian Design Guidelines, which are the principles that define both product and marketing execution)
As a result, we found that the system was actually much stronger when we allowed ourselves to mix metaphors across the system, and then find an interesting, common thread tying the brands together. You can start to see the system — in its nascent state — form and gel (or in some cases, not) when given a conceptual coat of paint, or when brought to life through motion.
Early signal testing — why it can be scary, but in a good way
We knew that stress-testing the system, and our assumptions, was absolutely critical, even if the results didn’t go our way. Using Optimal Workshop, we conducted early signal testing to gather directional first impressions and emotional responses to the logos. In the process, we were able to see if there were negative reactions, and if the intended meaning was clear.
Addressing the Atlassian logo
For as long as it’s been around, the Atlassian logo has played a special, mascot-like role, often showing up in costume on t-shirts, signs, and Confluence pages. Whatever replaced this logo needed to have flexible personality when appropriate.
At the same time, we needed the “symbol” for Atlassian to be strong, memorable, and capable of unifying a massive product portfolio. Since we intended to move away from the literal Atlas connotation, the mark needed to be completely abstract, a basic shorthand, or wordmark-driven only. (The last option was a non-starter given the length of the name “Atlassian”, and its inability to scale to small contexts.)
In the end, we wanted the logo to be more than just a shape; it needed to be expressive and approachable, and something into which we could breathe meaning, life, and dimension.
Extending the system to our typeface
We knew typography needed to play a central role in achieving the hierarchy and consistency we needed across the system. We had been using a mixture of Klavika and Circular Pro for the past few years to scale our identity across programs, properties, badges, and other special lockups.
Circular Pro had served us well for its friendly, neutral look. But as we looked to the future, we worried that going with another geometric sans might eventually feel dated, while not feeling differentiated in the near-term.
Since our product design team had recently settled on system fonts for in-product, we had an opportunity to balance their choice with a bold typographic statement across marketing touchpoints.
As was custom for this project, we did extensive research, and decided to go with a custom typeface that felt uniquely us. Charlie Sans, our new typeface, reflected the friendliness, optimism, and quirk in our personality, while paying homage to Charlie with the subtle arch in the “A”. We’ve started with a display face for our logos and lockups.
The outcome, in a nutshell
At the start of this project, we spent longer than usual on problem-setting. This work paid off, especially in the final reviews, when we had to choose what would be the new Atlassian logo.
While all the finalists looked slightly different, they all met the brief, fit logically and aesthetically with the larger family of product logos, and had individual merit.
Because we had a solid list of contenders, we were able — and almost forced to — go with our gut. It meant us choosing a direction that just felt right for the company, now and in the future. And in a truly magical moment, everyone on the extended project team (including our two co-CEOs) settled unanimously on the logo for Atlassian. One person said that it reminded them of a high-five, another saw a path leading to a mountain summit, and another saw two sailboats racing in tandem.
We believe the new Atlassian logo balances approachability with professionalism. It’s sturdy and strong while also allowing for flexible expression. Most of all, it preserves the authentic parts of our brand while symbolizing a new chapter for Atlassian.
Together, the Atlassian logo, our product logos, and our typeface represent a unified brand, a commitment to consistency, and a better platform to support our mission around teamwork.
I’m proud of where we landed. Now, it’s time to bring this to life!