The story behind the Fishtank Communications symbol
Updated: Dec 31, 2021
A logo is often made up of two parts: the logotype (better known as the text portion) and the symbol (the illustrative portion, which not all logos have).
The symbol for Fishtank came to me in an odd way. No, not in a fever dream. My husband and I were visiting my father-in-law years ago when he still lived in Upstate New York. The level of quiet outside the city has a way of letting your brain wander in new ways. I was reading a book in bed and noticed an interesting ligature in the typesetting.
Mini typography lesson for the non-designer reading this post: A ligature is when two letterforms are combined into one, especially when it’s likely that two letters will run into each other in an awkward way. For example, a lowercase f and a lowercase i, where the upper part of the f that hangs over will hit the dot of the i, or more commonly, the lowercase o and e are joined together into one character in the case of words like œuvre. If you really want to get into this, Wikipedia has a handy page on this.
It was one that I’d never seen before where there was a lowercase f at the end of a sentence that formed a ligature with an exclamation point. Eureka! That would be a great basis for the Fishtank symbol! (Yes, designers think in very strange ways.) I hurriedly made a sketch so that I wouldn’t lose the idea.
When we got home, I chose one of my favourite typefaces at the time: Mrs. Eaves, designed by the wonderful Zuzana Licko of the Emigre type foundry. I brought the f and exclamation point together in Adobe Illustrator to form the ligature and proceeded to draw the fishtail that would replace the dot in the exclamation point. I added the fisheye dot and the rest is history.
I hope I haven’t managed to put those readers who aren’t design nerds or typophiles to sleep. Unfortunately, I don’t remember for the life of me what book I was reading when I noticed the ligature. Doesn’t bode well for the author of the book that I was concentrating more on the typesetting, but I admit I can be distracted on occasion. 🙂
So the lesson is, kids, keep reading books. You never know what you’ll get out of them!