Twitter rebranding to X isn't exactly a surprise. We've known for some time that Elon Musk, who bought the social media platform in October, intended to use it as part of a plan to create an X-branded 'everything app' something like China's WeChat. The new name and logo also thematically connect the platform to two of Musk's other companies, xAI and Space X while referencing his former online bank and payment provider X.com, which was renamed as PayPal after Musk was ousted as CEO.
Nevertheless, the sudden unceremonious dumping of Twitter's iconic bird logo in favour of a crowdsourced Unicode character in the same colours as Instagram's rival Threads app is chaotic even by Musk's standards. Some designers already see it as the worst rebrand of the year (see our guide to how to design a logo to try to avoid such a fate yourself).
Musk preempted the demise of the Twitter logo some months ago when he temporarily replaced the bird with the Dodgecoin logo in what felt like a tedious extended April Fool's joke. Perhaps that was intended to end any sentimentality users might have felt for Larry (the bird was named after basketball player Larry Bird).
Yesterday, Musk posted a tweet inviting people to submit proposals for an X logo for the platform, saying that if "a good enough X logo is posted tonight, we’ll make go live worldwide tomorrow". Lots of fans made suggestions, many of them created using AI art generators. The winning submission appears to have been made by Alex Tourville for a now-defunct Elon Musk-themed podcast, and it does kind of meet Musk's request for an 'Art Deco style'.
But while some people are getting X Windows System logo vibes, several designers have detected an uncanny resemblance to the 'X' in widely available typefaces, including Monotype's Special Alphabets 4. It turns out the 𝕏 symbol is the Unicode character (U+1D54F), which anyone can type. Other people are already using it as a logo, including a concerned teenage musician called Kxlider, who's now worried he'll have to change everything.
Meanwhile, some designers have noted that in context, the X logo looks like the 'close window' icon.
Hello @elonmusk i heard you're going to rebrand Twitter but as you can see i have the same logo for like 2 yrs now. Can you please reconsider your decision else it would be a pain for me to change stuff. Please try to understand and reply me as soon as possible.July 24, 2023
I'm amazed at how many people think Twitter has copied the X Windows logo or some other logo. The new X logo is literally the 𝕏 glyph from Special Alphabets 4 pic.twitter.com/yCuHAF5GXnJuly 24, 2023
As a product designer, the new X logo just looks like a close button when in context. pic.twitter.com/hHeQ3tR7gAJuly 24, 2023
I am a graphic designer. The twitter bird logo/brand presented a kind, welcoming, open, light-hearted community. I think this new logo/brand is dark & sinister, overtly masculine, unwelcoming and threatening, not to mention rather self-obsessed. https://t.co/5hcCxqs6pIJuly 26, 2023
Oh wow the new "platform logo" animation seems to be a template bought from "Envato Elements" (https://t.co/LSpbi1Nq6x) Was not expecting that.On the one hand, I kinda admire it (big company being indie and agile), on the other hand, it is slightly awkward. https://t.co/xWVPzoOsnc pic.twitter.com/gbtR1bnl2vJuly 26, 2023
'Designed' and implemented in less than 24 hours, the initial X logo is purportedly only a placeholder until the company gets around to designing a proper logo. But the logo isn't the only problem. Many are wondering how Musk is going to convince people to start calling Twitter 'X'.
Some have questioned that choice of name too. DBA founder Brian Gleason noted the association with words like "former, prior, used-to-be, has-been, had-been, past, in-the-past, past-its-prime, no-longer, bygone..."
Twitter's (that is, X's) own main company Twitter account has already changed its display name, and the web domain X.com, which Musk has owned for years, is already redirecting to twitter.com. But Twitter can't change its handle because @x is already taken (update 26 July: X is now using the @x handle. It's not clear if the handle was surrendered consensually or not. Its previous owner is now using @x12345678998765).
At least it has been executed consistently across all sub-brands pic.twitter.com/ihZfRNrmIzJuly 24, 2023
The main Twitter account has rebranded as "X" but is still @Twitter. Why? SOMEONE IS ALREADY USING@XThey didn't even secure the handle before moving forward. Ready shoot aim. pic.twitter.com/9xuWs1bt1aJuly 24, 2023
Branding experts on the Twitter X rebrand
However, some argue that Musk's apparently spontaneous approach to rebranding could make some sense. Claire Huxley, strategy director, at Design Bridge and Partners notes that branding is a way to signal change and "overwrite deeply embedded perceptions." She argues that if Twitter is going to dramatically change its product, then a revolution is what was needed.
"It’s always been pretty obvious that Musk didn’t acquire Twitter to keep it as is," adds Design Bridge and Partners CCO Ross Clugston."If you look at any of his acquisitions or businesses they always have a clear, single-minded purpose. Twitter never has. The step away from all the baggage, political and otherwise also makes sense.
"One would assume that he has a clear plan for how this social media platform can connect his products in some way, Starlink, SpaceX, traffic management with the Boring Company and Tesla. His bets are usually highly calculated and contrary to the media’s assumptions."
Brian Collins, chief creative officer at the design company COLLINS, also predicted that something much bigger is on the way. He told Creative Bloq: "This switcheroo identity - which was pulled from a generic typeface - is so purposefully ugly and so hastily done that I imagine something smarter is being cooked up behind the scenes.
"Sure, the visual execution is mediocre, but the idea is big and references Musk’s other big, imaginative successful endeavors. Also, remember this: Elon Musk dreams no small dreams. More is yet to come. Including some (inevitably) better design."
The funniest responses to the X logo... on Twitter
Designers, brands and the general tweeting public has reacted on the Twittersphere (or must we now call it the Xsphere?) with their own responses and designs. Even mainstream media companies are cracking jokes about the rebrand. Channel 4 wished Musk "good luck", noting the comparatively subtle rebrand of its streaming service from 4OD to ALL4 still hasn't caught on among users. Meanwhile, fellow British broadcaster ITV joked that it has had an "emergency rebrand", replacing the X in the logo of its ITVX platform with the late Twitter bird.
I'm clicking this Close button but it doesn't close, something seems to be malfunctioning @Twitter @elonmusk #X #TwitterX pic.twitter.com/hfsVGsigpqJuly 24, 2023
my new twitter x logo submission along with the design justification for it: pic.twitter.com/9YXwiDqUNuJuly 23, 2023
He can have mine for $1 million- and a 5lb bag of peanut M&Ms pic.twitter.com/t7b7OfOyAXJuly 24, 2023
We've had an emergency rebrand pic.twitter.com/uSq1KQW6W2July 24, 2023
People still call our streaming service 4OD so good luck https://t.co/olKv5FFTWfJuly 24, 2023
While running his impromptu design competition, Musk also conducted a poll inviting people to vote on whether to change the default background colour of Twitter to black, so expect more visual changes on the platform soon. It remains to be seen how the platform may connect with Musk's mysterious new xAI artificial intelligence company.