Birth of the iText logo

The short bio on the back cover of my books tells readers that I'm the original developer and current maintainer of iText, but half a lifetime ago, I studied architecture. I graduated as a civil engineer in architecture. My goal was to design buildings, not software. Then again: in our field of engineering, we were indoctrinated to believe we could do anything. We were supposed to be generalists, with the potential to become a specialist on any subject we desired.

I really believed this to be true. I admired architects who were able to think outside of the box, and who had become famous for achievements outside the realm of architecture. In 1987 for instance, there was an issue of the magazine "Kunst & Cultuur" where I discovered that the Belgian architect Henri Van de Velde also designed the logo of the Belgian railways:

This logo was designed in 1933-1935, and it's still used today. As you can see, I still have that magazine. I never forgot about that story. I thought about it recently, when somebody posted a link about the past and the future of famous logos on Google+. In the conversation that followed, there was also a reference to the Shell logo design evolution.

That made me wonder: did I still have the drafts I made when I designed the iText logo? When did I create the first logo? Thanks to the Way Back Machine, I was able to find an approximative answer to the second question. In august 2003, my site looked like this:

There was a "JAVA" button with coffee beans in the background, and that's it. Mind the slogan I used back then:

Men who are doers can also be thinkers,
but the thinking is done on the move,
in the midst of events.

It's a quote about Caesar by Colleen McCollough in her Masters of Rome series. I had forgotten all about that quote, but I'll use it the next time I need to do a talk about iText and iText business, because it really defines what I've been doing in the past few years.

The next screen shot found in the archives of the Way Back Machine, dates from October 2003. The coffee beans are replaced by the first iText logo:

I guess I must have designed that logo somewhere between August 9 and October 8. I remember that I made a drawing on one page, but I don't remember if I kept that page somewhere. Maybe some one, some day will find it in my archives.

In any case, this is what the first iText logo looked like:

It's not a very fancy logo. I didn't really spent much time on it. I was frustrated by the fact that people pronounced iText as ee-text (that's how you'd pronounce it in Dutch or French) instead of as eye-text (that's how you pronounce it in English). I thought it would help if I replaced the letter i by an abstract symbol that looks like an eye. I made one drawing, and then I started coding: the symbol is made entirely using Bézier curves (see chapter 14 of iText in Action if you want to find out more).

This rather simple and not so attactive logo has been used for over four years, but then came the plans to start up a company for iText. If we went pro, we really needed a better logo. I was still under the impression that, being an architect, I was capable of doing everything on my own. So I started drawing somewhere in November 2007:

Note that this page was originally a TODO page (I've removed references to the people I had to meet). Apparently, I also had to contact SUN for something, and I drew their logo next to their name. Why? Because I like a logo that is a stylized representation of the name of the company. I wanted to visualize the company name 1T3XT as "I heart iText":

I soon dropped the strict triangular structure, in favor of a more fluent typography.

I wanted a logo I could write down as a signature:

Once I had made up my mind, I again defined the logo as a series Bézier curves. In January 2008, we founded the company 1T3XT using this logo:

I must admit that the logo wasn't a success. The response was very negative. People didn't recognize the heart. All in all, it was too complex, so after a while it was reduced to a much simpler symbol:

I still use the "long version" of the logo for 1T3XT (2008), but for the newer iText Software companies, ISB in Belgium (2011) and ISC in California (2009), I've used the "short version" of the logo.

Maybe I'm too stubborn. Maybe I should ask a logo designer to create a more professional logo, but... well, I was miseducated: I was taught to believe that I could achieve anything ;-)


See also Bruno's profile on Google+