In 2013, Docker debuted its software at PyCon in Santa Clara. Prior to that, Docker had operated as part of dotCloud and quickly become the platform-as-a-service company’s proprietary technology. But Docker still needed an identity of its own. In June 2013, Docker debuted its new logo and mascot, a whale. The community excitedly helped name the new whale, dubbing it Moby Dock later that year. Thanks in part to the new image, the company quickly established itself as a leader in operating system-level virtualization and today Docker has more than 29 billion downloads. But the story behind the Docker logo is almost as interesting as the history of the company itself.
Finding a Look
Docker came together so quickly, its leaders didn’t have time to put detailed work into its branding. The top goal at the time was to find its clientele and create a winning product. But as buzz began to build about the company’s product, leaders realized they needed a visual identity.
Much like the Linux logo design, Docker had an approach that was completely open to the public. To find the perfect designer, Docker turned to a logo design contest on 99designs. Through the contest, Docker collected a group of eye-catching designs, including a variety of symbols such as a giraffe and an acorn, as well as the final whale selection. To choose the winner, though, Docker created a poll and invited customers from its own community to vote. Indonesia-based designer Ricky Asamanis designed the winning logo. The whale remains Docker’s logo to this day.
The Winning Design
The Docker logo encapsulates the company’s services, featuring a whale carrying containers through the water. “It is on its way to deliver those to you,” lead user experience designer Thatcher Peskens explained at the time. Ricky Asamanis created two versions of the logo: one designed to be used with a light background and one that changes the text to white for display on a dark background. Docker’s instructions specified that the logo with the light background was to be used in most cases.
Soon after the contest, Docker reached a billion-dollar valuation and made news for the fact that it got its logo for $799 on 99designs. But even as the company has continued to grow, the Docker logo has stayed the same, becoming an essential part of Docker’s brand.
Docker Logo Design Evolution
Although Docker still uses Asamanis’s logo, it has varied the look slightly over the years. The company’s website now features the distinctive whale and containers, but the whale’s features have disappeared, leaving the company with the simple white outline of a whale. The waves that represented water have been tossed aside, as well, as the company embraces the simplicity that is so popular with today’s design.
In addition to keeping its logo, Docker also designs its website elements to match Asamanis’s original design. One look at the What Is Docker? page shows an innertube and shield, both matching the familiar whale icon. Even within Docker’s software, you’ll see whales made as imitations of Asamanis’s original design to stay with the original branding.
To date, Docker remains protective of its branding, providing strict guidelines for anyone interested in using its logo. The layouts originally introduced when the logo was first announced are still in place today. The company strives to maintain the integrity of the logo by asking others not to modify it in any way and to always use the lettering along with the image in the logo.
Docker’s logo wasn’t designed to only be used on its website and print materials. The company had the logo printed on T-shirts and other swags, including stickers that loyal customers posted on their laptops. To this day, Asamanis’s winning logo is likely on desks and electronic equipment across the globe.
One contest at Docker’s inception created a logo that has lasted for five full years…and is still going strong. For designers, this story is the perfect example of the staying power of good work. When brands search for designers, often they’re merely thinking about the present. It likely rarely occurs to them that the logo they put in place today could stay with them for decades. Both designers and brands should be aware of that possibility, though, and choose designs that, like Docker’s, are built to last through the trends that come and go over the lifecycle of a business.