Yahoo! tilts its logo for added whimsy. But how much is too much?

Groundbreaking studies in exclamation mark sciences.

The internet was thrown into a tailspin by yesterday's revelation that an angle of just 9˚ is all it takes to change Yahoo's new logo from serious to whimsical.

Seriously. Here's Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer's description of the design process, with emphasis added:

Other elements fell quickly into place:

 

  • We didn’t want to have any straight lines in the logo. Straight lines don’t exist in the human form and are extremely rare in nature, so the human touch in the logo is that all the lines and forms all have at least a slight curve.
  • We preferred letters that had thicker and thinner strokes - conveying the subjective and editorial nature of some of what we do.
  • Serifs were a big part of our old logo. It felt wrong to give them up altogether so we went for a sans serif font with “scallops” on the ends of the letters.
  • Our existing logo felt like the iconic Yahoo yodel. We wanted to preserve that and do something playful with the OO’s.
  • We wanted there to be a mathematical consistency to the logo, really pulling it together into one coherent mark.
  • We toyed with lowercase and sentence case letters. But, in the end, we felt the logo was most readable when it was all uppercase, especially on small screens.

And, we were off. Here is the blueprint of what we did, calling out some of what was cool/mathematical:

The Yahoo! logo design process

Our last move was to tilt the exclamation point by 9 degrees, just to add a bit of whimsy.

 

We were astonished by her findings, but it's true. Look, no whimsy:

Normal

Whimsy:

tilted

But here at the New Statesman, we take our exclamation mark science seriously. We had to push these studies further. What happens if you double the tilt? Do you double the whimsy? Here's an exclamation mark tilted by 18˚:

super tilted

Astonishingly, it seems to have the same amount of whimsy. Perhaps there is some peak level of whimsy, beyond which no amount of tilting can increase it?

We went deeper, and made a concerning discovery. If you tilt an exclamation mark too far, it becomes Spanish:

hola

¡Shocking! It appears that one unit of whimsy is roughly equal to one-twentieth of Spain, or five centiSpains.

After much trial and error, we determined this distribution of whimsy and Spanishness throughout the range of exclamation mark rotation:

Studies continue.

Whimsy.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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