The Apache Jackrabbit website was recently given a nice face-lift, but the customized “Apache Software Foundation” logo image caused some controversy and was considered unacceptable for two reasons. The first complaint was that it doesn’t contain the “The” of “The Apache Software Foundation”, and second that the feather was not the standard ASF feather.
Both are valid concerns, and while the designer did add the “The”, the feather issue is still not resolved. So for now we’re back to using the ASF logo image (shown above) we used before. Unfortunately this image is considerably larger, and causes trouble to the new website layout. Instead of putting the site layout back to the drawing board I set out to find out the acceptable alternatives. Is it OK if we just replace the custom feather with a scaled and rotated version of the official feather? What are the branding and logo usage guidelines? What exactly is the official ASF feather?
Unfortunately there are no existing ASF logo guidelines, and in practice the logo usage varies wildly between Apache projects. In fact I couldn’t even find out what actually is the official trademarked ASF feather, since the one in the above logo image is quite different from the version (shown right) used in a customized format for example on the “canonical” Apache HTTPD web site.
There’s also great variance in the ways different Apache projects display their affiliation with the ASF. The most notable example are the iBatis project, that mentions the foundation only at the very bottom of their front page, and mod_perl, that mentions the foundation but doesn’t display any version of the feather logo. The Xerces and Geronimo projects hide the ASF feather into a blue background, and projects like Lenya, SpamAssassin, and TCL customize the ASF feather in various ways in their project logos. This variance is not necessarily bad, in fact it shows a good level of innovation in using the ASF brand :-), but I’m not sure if this wild practice is too good either.
It has been noted on various forums that Apache is a strong brand that really brings value and recognition to individual Apache projects. Thus I think it is in the foundation’s interest to guard and strengthen that brand, including the visual identity bound to the Apache feather. The reaction to the custom feather introduced by the Jackrabbit site face-lift is a sign of such a drive, but the effort falls short if there are no guidelines to direct projects and external parties to the correct use of the feather logo.
I think the following are the key questions to answer when creating logo usage guidelines for Apache projects:
- Should an Apache project display the Apache Software Foundation logo?
- If yes, what are the standard logo images to use?
- Is it acceptable to customize the standard logo images?
- If yes, what are the accepted customizations (scaling, rotating, drop shadow, text overlays, background color, background image, etc.)?
There are also unanswered questions on whether and how an Apache project should incorporate the ASF feather into a project logo:
- May an Apache project logo contain the Apache feather?
- If yes, should an Apache project logo contain the Apache feather?
- If yes, what is (are) the standard feather(s) to use?
- Is it acceptable to customize the standard feather(s)?
- If yes, what are the acceptable customizations?