Starting With The Dumbest Stuff

I don’t know exactly why it is – and I absolutely can’t recommend this path to anyone – but I needed a name before I started working on this app. I needed a name and some semblance of a “style guide.” None of it had to be final – in fact it definitely isn’t – but I wanted this to feel like a real product all along the way. Without this sense of realness, I could see myself getting blocked or feeling stuck. The last thing I want to do is have the motivation to start working on a small feature and end up three hours later debating the specifics of a color or font.

So I came up with a name and I designed a simple logo and icon. Here’s how.

Name

This one for me was easy. I’ve had the name in my head since I first thought about building a TV tracking app.

Silver.

Short and simple. An app about tracking what you watch on the silver screen.

Maybe it’s a bit dumb. Maybe it’s not quite perfect. But that was ok. I quite liked it. There are no popular apps named Silver in the App Store today, and I was able to snag a simple domain for it1. The best news is – like with all of this – I can change it at any time. I really just need to have something to refer to the project.

Typography

This is something I’d like to dig into a lot more. I am definitely not a typography expert, but I do love when you can tell that someone took the time to really think about this.

One of my favorite apps I have used, Vesper2, was a super simple note taking app that was immediately recognizable by it’s font choice: Ideal Sans.

Similarly, I have been using a font from iA, iA Writer Duospace, in the app Ulysses to write these posts. This was a tip I picked up from Federico Viticci at MacStories, and I absolutely love it.

With Vesper, the font was very carefully selected as an identifying element. With Ulysses, the developers have given the choice of font to the writer. In both cases, however, the typography in the apps helped to make the developers’ decisions feel purposeful and increased the delight I felt while using the apps.

Unfortunately, I am not ready to spend the time I’d require to deliberate over this yet. I don’t want to end up down a rabbit hole learning about the ins and outs of typography (which is exactly what I’d do) and never actually build anything. So I’m going to keep it simple. I’m sticking with the Apple’s default here. San Francisco.

Logo/Icon

This was probably the most important to me. An app’s icon is the first thing I think of when I think about most of my favorite apps. It’s a place where developers can show their personality – a place where you get to tell everyone why they should tap on your app. But it’s also incredibly structured (at least on iOS). Every app’s icon is the same size, the same shape. Every app’s icon can live in the same subset of places on the phone. I think solving within strict parameters like that is fun and can lead to some of the most creative outcomes.

I knew I wasn’t going to get this perfect. In fact, it might not even be close. But when I open my phone and see my app on my home screen – even in the earliest stages of development – I can’t just see the default under construction icon. I need to see me.

Sad under construction icon :(
Sad under construction icon 😦

The first thing I did was scribble down a few random ideas I had. I wanted to get an ’S’ into it, because a lot of people can quickly spot an app by it’s first letter. I also liked the idea of getting a recognizable piece of an old television in the icon. I tested a couple rough ideas using a channel dial and “rabbit ear” antenna 3.

Some rough sketches of app icons for Silver
Some rough sketches of app icons for Silver

I really liked the idea of using the antenna, so I thought I’d experiment with some logos that used the antenna as part of the name.

Rough early sketches of Silver logo
Rough early sketches of Silver logo

I really liked where it was going, but I thought it might need a bit more to make it clear that the ‘V’ was an antenna, so I filled out the TV a bit. And now I really thought I had something.

First draft of a possible logo for Silver
First draft of a possible logo for Silver

Wait

I was excitedly showing a friend this logo when it hit me. The silver screen is not the television. The silver screen is the movie theater. I had wasted all this time on an idea that didn’t even make sense.

I initially decided that I was just going to go with Silver and not even worry about the fact that it made no sense. A lot of company names don’t make sense.

Then it hit me. One of my favorite bits of the logo I’d drawn was the blocky static representing the screen. And the ‘V’ looked a bit like an upside down ‘A’. I was pretty sure I could salvage it. I’d call it Static.

A much more rushed logo for the newly named Static
A much more rushed logo for the newly named Static

The logo worked. The name Static checked all the boxes that Silver did (as well as the one it didn’t). And honestly I liked the name even better.

Colors

Next I needed some colors. The colors in the early drafts were just defaults in Linea, the app I used to sketch out my ideas. I liked the playfulness of those colors alongside the chunkiness of the logo, and thought something along those lines might work.

I used the app Coolors to help me pick a set of colors that worked well together, and ended up with this as my palette.

The "final" colors for Static
The “final” colors for Static

Logo/Icon (Again)

With my colors selected and a rough logo drawn, I thought I’d make it a bit more final in Sketch4. This is what I ended up with.

static logo.png
“Final” Static logo
"Final" Static app icon
“Final” Static app icon

I especially like the simplicity of the static in the app icon. And it doesn’t even look too out of place on my home screen.

That's my real home screen. It is beautiful.
That’s my real home screen. It is beautiful.

Next

Tapping that icon literally opens a white screen. This thing does nothing yet. But I’m still proud of it. Next up there’s going to be some code I guess. I’m not sure what I’ll build first, but it should be fun.

  1. This is another completely ridiculous quirk I have. I buy a domain for a project before I’ve really even started on it. At one point, I owned a domain for another app that I literally never wrote a line of code for. I owned a domain for a blog a friend of mine wanted to start with me. And I still own an alternate domain (dstn.co) that I thought I might use as a domain shortener when that was the hot thing. We’ll see if this one gets added to that graveyard too.
  2. This app is unfortunately no longer available. Improvements Apple made to their own Notes app made development of the app unprofitable for Vesper, and they decided to end development and sale of the app in 2016.
  3. I also tried one with Ag, the chemical symbol for the element silver, but that was just one too many disconnected metaphors and really did not work for me.
  4. Only a bit more final. I am so unbelievably unskilled at Sketch. Making this logo and app icon completely stretched the limits of my abilities here. I should probably work on that.