Phillip Smith

Uncovering the true "face" of Perl

Cross-posted from the New Internationalist Tech blog..

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.

Cross-posted from the New Internationalist Tech blog..


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


Want to launch a local news business? Apply now for the journalism entrepreneurship boot camp

I’m excited to announce that applications are now open again for the journalism entrepreneurship boot camp. And I’m even more excited to ...… Continue reading