Was Twitter’s new X logo stolen from a font pack?

By July 27, 2023 Lifestyle, Technology

We came across multiple posts on social media including Twitter—now known as X—and Reddit discussing the new rebranding and logo changes at Twitter initiated by Elon Musk:

The posts allege that Musk had stolen his new minimalist art-deco design for X from a font pack. After Musk’s announcement of the new logo on 23 July via a short video clip on Twitter, the new logo had been projected onto the façade of the company headquarters in San Francisco, while the old Twitter signage is now in the process of being removed.

Musk’s rebrand of Twitter is part of his ambition to create what he calls an ‘everything app’ with multiple functions, akin to WeChat in China or Grab in Southeast Asia. Twitter’s functionality enables the communication of users in what he describes as a ‘digital town square’ of the future app. In addition, the future app is envisioned to have payments, banking, marketplace, and AI-assisted functionalities.

Musk previously co-founded a digital bank called X.com, which later merged to form PayPal, and he reacquired the X.com domain name from PayPal in 2017. X.com now redirects to the Twitter homepage. Musk has also established holding companies with variations on the name ‘X Holdings’.

Similar, but Not Stolen

When we looked up the information contained within the posts, we found that the uppercase and lowercase X letters in the font pack, Special Alphabets 4 by Monotype, did indeed bear a resemblance to Twitter’s new logo. The font pack was available for approximately US$30.

A closer look at the conversation around the logo change, however, reveals that the origins of the new logo are not so straightforward. Musk’s Twitter timeline reveals that the announcement video was reposted from Twitter user Sawyer Meritt, who had replied to a callout Musk had issued for new X logo ideas.

Following the reposting of the proposed logo video by Musk, Merritt explained that the logo had been designed by an associate, Alex Tourville, for a podcast the two were hosting. The logo was ‘inspired by a font (Tourville) found online’, and featured thicker lines. However, Merritt had mistakenly created the proposed logo video incorporating the font design with thin lines rather than the modified podcast logo with thicker lines.

When tech news site Ars Technica contacted Monotype, the owner of the font, Monotype responded that ’whilst (Twitter’s new logo) is similar, this is not the capital X glyph from Monotype’s “Special Alphabets 4”’. Monotype did not, however, clarify if the new logo was the lowercase x from Special Alphabets 4, which features thinner lines.

The assertion that Twitter’s new logo was deliberately stolen from Monotype’s font is therefore false, but the new logo does appear to have taken heavy inspiration from it indirectly, likely the unintentional result of crowdsourcing the logo redesign process. Nevertheless, the resemblance is evident, and Musk has indicated that the interim logo is likely to undergo further changes.

Trademark Troubles Ahead?

The challenges faced by Twitter during its rebrand may not end with the logo alone. News reports have indicated that several companies, including Meta and Microsoft, own trademarks to the use of X. There are over 900 active US trademark registrations that cover the letter X across a range of industries.

The greatest challenge may come from Meta, which owns a trademark for X that covers the fields of software and social media, both areas that a future X app is envisioned to explore.

A further complication to trademark applications could arise from the new brand logo’s similarity to a Unicode character (generic characters used to express languages on computers) called a ‘mathematical double-struck capital x’ that has been used in mathematical textbooks since the 1970s.

As such, further changes in the rebranding efforts are highly probable.

Leave a Reply