New Internationalist

Uncovering the true “face” of Perl

Following on the last post about "Prettier Perl Web sites" and taking Sebastian Riedel’s "Don’t explain what you think would look better, just make a mockup and show us!" challenge to heart, I spent some time looking at Perl’s existing design patterns.

Specifically, I wanted to take a closer look at two established Perl "brands" and to expose the underlying elements of their design consistency; the typography, colours, and so on. The two I chose — because they look like they were developed by professionals, and not some 12-year-old with access to GIMP — are The Perl Foundation and O’Reilly Media’s Perl books.

In this post, I’ll focus on The Perl Foundation. Let’s start with the logo:

The original Perl Foundation logo


The Perl Foundation logo appears to be comprised of two fonts: ITC Garamond Light and Sabon Roman Small Caps & Oldstyle Figures. Here’s an example of The Perl Foundation logo re-created using these two typefaces:

Trying to re-create the TPC logo


(Now if they’d just cough up the original, vector, artwork for that damn onion! Or, even better, just open-source the whole damn logo, which would eliminate the need for sleuthing.)

Looking at the word "Perl" in The Perl Foundation logo, and in O’Reilly’s three main Perl books (Learning Perl, Intermediate Perl, and Mastering Perl), we see that there’s some consistency here: both appear to use the ITC Garamond Light as the "official" font face for Perl. (Notice the characters that give it away: the "P", and the "r".)

The "Perl" font

Comparing "Perl" in the TPF logo, to the O'Reilly version


In my own experience, the unique qualities of this font have always stuck with me. When I see a Perl-related initiative using this typeface, I think: That’s something serious, official, and professional. In any case, memorable.

So, I wondered what would happen if these same patterns were applied to other Perl "brands" out there in the wild. I’m personally interested in those brands that newcomers to Perl would probably perceive as the (de-facto) "official" Perl community, so I decided to start with Perl Monks and, after some fussing about, this was the end result:

Re-created Perl Monks logo


I then moved on to Use Perl, which proved a bit more challenging, and came up with the following. (Which I’m not entirely happy with yet, but serves to demonstrate the approach applied to another brand.)

Re-created Use Perl logo


And, finally, having received a nice e-mail from Gabor Szabo about Padre (which I’ve been unsuccessful at installing on my Macbook Pro), I thought I would give that a try too (using the same background colour as the current Padre site):

Re-created Padre logo

Design, somewhat like writing Perl programs, is quite a personal thing. (That’s a way of saying, if you don’t like these adaptations — it’s just your personal opinion talking.) However, in the graphic design community, just like the Perl community, there are established conventions and patterns — think Perl Best Practices — to guide people’s work. These patterns, as discussed before, don’t have to feel constraining; in fact, they can often be liberating — often making it possible to focus on more important things.

So, over the next few weeks, I plan to continue this journey to document some existing design patterns in the Perl community with the intention of sketching out the goal posts of a Perl graphic standards guide. We’ll see how that goes. (Next up: O’Reilly Perl books.)

The comments are open.

Comments on Uncovering the true "face" of Perl

Leave your comment







 

  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

  1. #2 http://www.wgz.org/chromatic/ 12 Aug 09

    Avoid Proprietary Trade Dress

    May I recommend not borrowing font choices, color schemes, and trademarked logos from proprietary companies? Certainly consistency of branding is nice, but branding and consistency should support the aims of the community, not the money-making whims of a privately held business.

    Hitching Perl's wagon so tightly to any book publisher (and I say this as a publisher) would be a mistake.

  2. #3 phillip_at_newint 12 Aug 09

    Missed the point?

    @chromatic I hear what you are saying, but think that you've missed the main point of this post.

    I'm not suggesting, or proposing, any of the examples shown above. On the contrary, I'm trying to demonstrate how visual consistency can improve Perl's ’branding’ to those outside the community.

    However, given that The Perl Foundation (not associated with O'Reilly Media, AFAIK) is the example I was focusing on, I'm confused by your assertion that the font choices or colour schemes are proprietary.

    IANAL, but I've had [a href=’http://www.communitybandwidth.ca/phillipadsmith/copyright-and-creativity-bringing-two-worlds-together’]some experience in this area. ;-)

    All that said, to your point ’branding and consistency should support the aims of the community, not the money-making whims of a privately held business’ -- I'm in 100% agreement. Frankly, I think we should unhitch the trademarks from TPF and O'Reilly, as there will be little value in them if Perl becomes an obscure footnote in programming history.

    Phillip.

  3. #4 http://www.wgz.org/chromatic/ 12 Aug 09

    Trade Dress

    The particular font choices and color schemes (to say nothing of various trademarked animals on book covers) constitute trade dress. If I published a book with similar trade dress, I might find myself on the receiving end of a lawsuit.

    The Perl community is never getting elements of said trade dress from the legal department of that publisher. That's why TPF has a trademark on the Onion logo, as well as guidelines as to fair and appropriate use of the logo. (I have some experience in this area.)

    I support consistency and collaboration, as long as it steers very clear of the trade dress of commercial entities.

  4. #5 phillip_at_newint 12 Aug 09

    @chromatic ’I support consistency and collaboration, as long as it steers very clear of the trade dress of commercial entities.’

    Good. Glad that we're on the same page. :-)

    ’The Perl community is never getting elements of said trade dress from the legal department of that publisher. ’

    Oh, but what fun press coverage it would get if it tried. ;-) Imagine the headline: O'Reilly sues Perl community over use of its trademark on Perl-related books.

    But I digress...

    ’The particular font choices and color schemes (to say nothing of various trademarked animals on book covers) constitute trade dress.’

    Yes, but who -- if anyone -- owns the use of _this_ particular font in relation to Perl? I've not taken the time to do much research on the question, but it would seem that both TPF *and* O'Reilly are using the _same_ typeface. To me, it would seem that there is a valid question about ownership here. (As far as colours go, I think saying that one could copyright a blue, or a purple, is a stretch.)

    Either way, I agree. I think it would benefit the whole Perl community to have more clarity about ownership and legal uses -- especially in regards to the onion, and the typeface -- and it would be great if you could help us find that clarity.

    Phillip.

  5. #6 pmichaud 12 Aug 09

    Just a note that if you check the Colophon of, say, ’Programming Perl’, you'll see that the cover font is indeed Adobe ITC Garamond. But it's not limited to O'Reilly's Perl books, <i>many</i> of their books make use of ITC Garamond on the cover.

    Pm

  6. #7 perlpilot 12 Aug 09

    Padre

    I have to say that Padre looks nice in that font. Not so sure about use.perl though.

  7. #8 http://allisonrandal.vox.com/ 18 Aug 09

    Garamond

    Yes the Perl trademark uses Garamond (the same font as the O'Reilly books). That was an intentional choice, based on the fact that after 20 some years, that font has a deep subconscious effect on Perl programmers, saying ’that's really Perl’. Strange, but true.

    I checked with O'Reilly's legal department before using it, just to be on the safe side, and they said essentially ’Of course we don't care if you use the same font.’

    Allison

  8. #9 http://allisonrandal.vox.com/ 18 Aug 09

    But not Sabon...

    IIRC, the caps are actually just Garamond again, but tweaked a bit for kerning, etc. I'd have to open up the old file to be sure, and don't have my Mac handy.

  9. #10 phillip_at_newint 20 Aug 09

    @Allison Many thanks for the helpful confirmations (and clarifications). Greatly appreciated.

    Re: ’I checked with O'Reilly's legal department before using it, just to be on the safe side, and they said essentially ’Of course we don't care if you use the same font.’ -- That's what I figured.

    Re: ’ I'd have to open up the old file to be sure, and don't have my Mac handy.’ -- if you're able to share the original files, please feel free to send them my way (my first name at newint dot org).

    Phillip.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Get our free fortnightly eNews

Multimedia

Videos from visionOntv's globalviews channel.

Related articles

Popular tags

All tags

The Tech Blog

This is where New Internationalist Web Team documents the free and open software used to build this website and its services, discusses emerging issues in the technology space, and provide critical analysis, news and commentary on all things IT and web.

The Tech Blog