There’s a hot new squiggle on the tech logo scene.

On Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Threads, a Twitter rival that appears to be the fastest downloaded app ever. Each new user is greeted with the app’s logo, a springy, counterclockwise reel usually rendered in white against a black background.

The logo most closely resembles the @ symbol present in Twitter handles and email addresses. It is just abstract enough, however, to have earned many other comparisons.

Online, people have speculated that the logo represents the letter G, the number 6 or letters of the Tamil and Malayalam alphabets. An edited picture of Homer Simpson circulates in which the character’s ear has been replaced by the logo. Others have detected similarities to thread or curly hair.

“If a Möbius strip and a sign had a child, it would kind of look like this,” said Rob Janoff, the designer who created the rainbow Apple logo.

Mr. Janoff said the logo’s ambiguity will likely end up helping people remember it. He likes the logo, which he says is close enough to the @ sign to feel familiar to viewers but distinctive enough to grab their attention.

Graphic designer Jessica Walsh thinks it’s a little too confusing. “I didn’t understand it when I saw it,” she said in an email. She said she would have tried putting the letter “T,” for “Threads,” in the center of the logo instead.

Like most modern corporate icons, the Threads logo is required to be highly adaptable. It must be readable on a billboard or phone screen, and must register with customers who speak a variety of languages.

The design may also be intended to improve Meta’s tarnished public image, said Michael Evamy, the author of “Logo,” an anthology of corporate brands and logos. “New identities, by their very nature, aim to mask the weaknesses or shortcomings of an organization and project a certain set of values,” he said.

The plain design of the Threads logo seems friendly and non-threatening, Mr. Evamy said. He compared it to a piece of spaghetti. “When you see it, you forget for a moment about who and what is behind it,” he said.

Tech companies have increasingly settled on minimal, one-line symbols to represent their brands. In Apple’s App Store, the Threads logo sits atop TikTok’s music note, Snapchat’s ghost and YouTube’s arrow.

The Threads logo both extends and shakes up the ultra-sleek logo trend, said Fons Mans, designer and founder of 10X Designers. “It has a freehand feel to it,” he said. “It makes it feel a little more human than those pixel-perfect logos we’ve seen in tech in recent years.”

Some streamlined logos have irritated designers. When Facebook changed its name to Meta in 2021, it introduced a blue infinity icon that drew a muted response for its perceived lack of imagination. “We needed to future proof the symbol,” said Meta’s design team.

According to Meta, the Threads logo is realized in Instagram’s sans-serif font and is inspired by the @ sign.

Threads’ vibrant, asymmetrical logo may indicate that designers at Meta are aware of these criticisms. Renato Valdés Olmos, a former director of design at Lyft, said the Threads logo is noticeably more “obscure” than Meta’s.

“It’s very much a designer’s logo,” he said. Its white-on-black palette is “goth,” he added, and its lack of harsh edges implies the kind of easy-flowing communication the program tries to facilitate.

Threads is Twitter’s newest competitor, nodding to the platform’s visual identity, which is represented by a sky blue bird. The alternative social platform Mastodon also chose an animal (albeit extinct) as its mascot. And both Mastodon and Bluesky, another competitor, were splashed with shades of blue not too far from that of Twitter.

Ramesh Srinivasan, the director of the University of California’s Digital Cultures Lab, said the Threads logo is a clever reference to a different piece of Twitter’s iconography: the @ symbol, which appears before the personal handle of every Twitter user. user and became deeply associated with the platform. .

“It basically says, Hey, we’re Twitter,” he said. “It’s a clever interface in what it expresses, but I don’t find it visually appealing.”

Many Twitter users also criticized the logo – comparing it to the number 666 and a strand of pubic hair – perhaps out of loyalty to their preferred platform.

Mr. Valdés Olmos said that logos often arouse intense reactions online because each can be a convenient outlet for a person’s feelings about a brand. “The logo is the first thing you tap, the first thing you greet,” he said. “That makes it an easy target for a lot of people.”

Mr Evamy is confident the Threads logo will endure its round of online derision. He thinks the abstract design may even be more durable than Twitter’s blue bird, which is rendered in a pictorial style that he said now feels dated.

“If Twitter were to start over, they’d probably want to have something this good for their own logo,” he said.

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