Today you’ll notice our sites, profiles, and platforms have a new icon. Right around the time USD Coin (USDC) hit a staggering $700M market cap the in-house team at Circle introduced a new visual direction. We’re excited to share these updates and why they were made.
Circle needed a fresh face that emphasizes today’s dialog about the advent of stablecoins, how it is catapulting our mission forward, that we are bringing to market tools and services not possible before now, and that we have totally new ways of working together as an organization. What we didn’t want to do is reverse any brand equity we’d built or dishonor Circle’s legacy in the process, so we’ve been careful to capture our original essence — while creating space for the brand to grow and connect with new customers.
So, what’s new? We're introducing a gradual unveiling of bolder type, a brighter, more saturated palette, a new icon set, some website changes that make it easier to find content and resources, and finally, some structural improvements to the Circle logo itself. Having led creative here at Circle for 4+ years, this was cathartic: Circle is having its coming out party, and we get to dress it for the occasion.
Reflecting the changes in how money works for us all
Since its beginning, Circle envisioned a world where “everyday money” such as dollars, euros and other popular currencies could inherit the most powerful benefits of digital currencies like Bitcoin — open, global, connected to anyone and anything on the internet; fast, cheap and secure to transmit — and transform economic opportunities for people and businesses everywhere. These days, we’re expanding on that vision by inviting everyone to re-imagine everyday commerce on the internet, enabling any business to easily integrate with and benefit from the breakthrough of programmable money.
Speaking now to businesses (and the developers they employ) looking to take advantage of Circle’s half-decade in the crypto payments space, where does one start? Every industry faces limitations and costs by traditional banking, resulting in equally countless possible MVPs. To find product market fit we can chew on, we needed to go to market with an initial suite of APIs and a fresher feel to kickstart the path forward — and quickly. The result is a decidedly brighter, more modern version of Circle which we will continue to roll out throughout the year.
What wasn’t working
The writeup for our logo read:
“Our logo visually alludes to the digital nature of our products and services through lines resembling those found on a circuit board. The color gradients represent sending and receiving currency, and the 45 degree angle gives the mark a sense of forward motion.”
There has always been a strong duality theme — Circle’s first app was created to send and receive Bitcoin and eventually, allow free conversions between USD, EUR and GBP — the send/receive or in/out connotation was visually clear. Rest that on a 45-degree angle and you have forward momentum, nodding at Circle’s promise to bring to life a new shape of money. Over time, with several mini brands revolving under one roof (Circle Pay, Circle Invest, Circle Trade, Circle Research, USDC, Poloniex, SeedInvest, and Centre), we found our broader brand experience growing in disjointed directions and the umbrella system began to break.
For the new look, we agreed the icon must be circular, and a new logo should be informed by the current design, not a complete departure. However, the design team at Circle struggled with this mark for years — it was even hard for designers to get right. If placed on a color other than white or black, or without enough clear space, or in a tiny app icon or favicon, or on a pen, or even on the right side of a design, no guideline or brand police could stop the abuse from happening. Addressing these balance, weight, and scalability issues was critical.
Our original palette was 5 swatches plus gray. Created with screens in mind, they were chosen for use as gradient endpoints in the 2013 Circle logo. The gradients looked great — even bright — in both the thin logo strokes and in large swaths. But once we began using these colors across our apps and marketing creative, when flat hues were extracted from their gradient counterparts, they took on a milky-dull coating. Worse, they had serious vibration, contrast, and accessibility issues when placed against one another.
Taste the rainbow
We set out to paint a "gloss coat" on the whole thing and open it up to a wider range of mixtures. On the right is a more saturated, accessible, and welcoming array with candy names like Jelly, Redhot, and Gumdrop. To top it off, the muddy charcoal has been replaced by a cooler, purply grayscale palette, now dubbed Licorice. The reveal for this in January sparked a sense of newness. A sweet start to the new year indeed.
Why the sweet tooth? The team began this exploration last summer. So as not to confuse ourselves with the palette we all inherited, we started referring to new purple as Jelly, new green as Apple, etc. and the naming system stuck.
A system takes shape
Next, an icon library was selected and adapted, and an initial illustration style was used to add visual interest to our web pages and presentations.
These minis are adapted from Paper Pillar's lovely Papricon set, paired with a growing assortment of our own custom creations.
For use in headlines only, Poppins Bold adds rhythm to our page designs and works as anchors for eyes to rest on when reading. After some initial "testing" (throwing it in slide decks) we all warmed up to it; it’s a friendly, open source, geometric sans choice that is usable by anyone in the company.
Building an icon
Finally, for our new logo, we set out to establish some guiding themes that are fundamentally rooted in the personality and emotional expression we were seeking to build. In those early days of the product, we based the work on two things: who we are looking to engage and inspire, and Circle’s own heritage and attributes.
Together with executive staff, we came up with five:
Intelligence. We have big picture thinking with long-term vision.
Reliability. Trust, stability, solidness, and strength.
Warmth. Human connection, respectfulness, and integrity.
Global. We are citizens of the world, not one country.
Inclusiveness. Mindful, collaborative, and open.
Combined with our infant product vision, 12 thematic symbols were developed. Several shapes could then be mixed and matched as a structural base resulting in about 20 or so icon concepts.
A few rounds of revisions later, considering first weight and scale then deciding unanimously we should stick more closely to our roots, a new mark was born.
Two sides of the same coin
The duality theme I mentioned earlier still applies today. Where old Circle may have meant send/receive or buy/sell, we’re now talking about fiat/crypto and physical/digital. And while we see both contrasts and parallels between traditional banking and the superpowers of digital currency, our new icon conveys the idea that the two sides work together, with characteristics that coexist in a symbiotic relationship.
The new Circle and why we love it
You’ll notice the same overall design, now with some comfortable breathing space for your eye to move in, out and around the form.
It’s now open, not closed like an infinite maze you can’t escape from — and if three rings may have represented our three business units: consumers, businesses, and platforms, we are focused today on the latter two, so two rings. Some have noticed it could resemble a programmatic handshake, where two pieces, old and new, traditional and blockchain) are coming together in agreement.
Weight & Scalability. Where old Circle is quiet and wispy and the icon outweighs the wordmark, new Circle is bold and strong and fills its defined edges in a more complete way. Notice how the two rivals are set to the same width — and new Circle isn’t whispering. Where old Circle gets lost in a sea of others at the same size, new Circle stands its own as a recognizable mark.
Balance. Where old Circle is made up of varying line weights and spacing, new Circle’s wordmark has a logical relationship with, and spacing from, the icon. In very limited instances, we’ll need a stacked flavor, too.
Ultimately, a more unified and recognizable system emerges by weaving the new brand identity throughout all facets of our company, where marketing and product design are truly harmonized. Check out our initial release of a sandbox environment, where developers everywhere can start playing with our APIs, along with a customized API documentation portal. For businesses, we repositioned, re-skinned and simplified flows for our Circle Business Account app, where anyone can convert money from 80+ countries to USDC. (Anticipate more exciting releases coming soon!)
Getting ready for the future
Circlers are remote these days and likely will be for some time, but we are busier, more engaged, and more excited than ever to be launching again. With this exercise, the goal of course was to create space for the brand to grow and connect with entrepreneurs and businesses, but also to breathe new life into our culture, an employer brand that's ready to hire, and our promise as a new startup with an already strong global name and legacy. This is not without valiant effort, optimism, and dedication of many, current and past.
At Circle, we champion authenticity, globalism, and inclusivity because they’re what help us stay true to our mission, which has remained largely the same since 2013. Even our company values touch on these themes: “we are multi-stakeholder, mindful, and driven by excellence and high integrity”. We hope to inspire our customers in the same way, as they begin to build and innovate in a new age of internet commerce.