Puzzling recently got a new site design (congratulations!). As a non-puzzling user though, I have one complaint.

The favicon is very similar to The Workplace's favicon. This is confusing when looking at the hot network questions list.

A couple current examples (seen from different sites on the network):


Puzzling/Workplace 2

The question titles of Puzzling aren't as clear as the Workplace's are, but they aren't outside the realm of possibility for a valid title, especially prior to an edit that further improves the question. I've already clicked on more Puzzling links in the last few days that I ever had and each time I just feel annoyed (and kind of tricked) that I clicked on the link when I was attempting to get to the Workplace. I'm sure the reverse can be true for others.

Can the Puzzling favicon be modified to be more visually distinguishing from Workplace's icon and still keep with their new design?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I certainly agree with this. I spend most of my time on Workplace, but I frequently enjoy reading the Puzzling posts that show up on HNQ, and often seek them out. I really liked the question mark, which was visually distinct from other sites and also conveyed what the site was about. I know it doesn't make sense to go back to the beta favicon, but I think a more obviously puzzling favicon (question mark, puzzle piece, etc) could work well here. $\endgroup$
    – David K
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ I think it makes sense for there to be a post about this on Meta Stack Exchange to see feedback from non-Puzzling users too. The Puzzling community should decide how their icon should look, but that decision may be influenced by hearing how non-Puzzling users are affected by it. $\endgroup$ Commented May 9, 2016 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ @trichoplax, I originally posted this on MSE. It was migrated here. It makes sense for Puzzling to have the first say, as it's their icon. I didn't think of that originally when posting, but I agree with the migration. I'd been thinking of this request as a "non-puzzling" user. $\endgroup$
    – Andy
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Andy I don't think non-puzzling users should have any say in it, but I think it would be useful for puzzling users to know what the rest of the network thinks before deciding whether it needs to be addressed. $\endgroup$ Commented May 9, 2016 at 17:34
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This has already been mentioned quite a bit here. I won't claim to speak for the entire userbase, but this post pointing it out is at +15/0. $\endgroup$
    – f''
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ I definitely just saw a workplace question and thought it was a puzzler. No fun! :) $\endgroup$
    – Carl
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 3:23
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    $\begingroup$ A similar question has now been posed on Workplace's Meta $\endgroup$
    – Andy
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 17:50

3 Answers 3


Whilst I quite like the current logo, I think there's plenty of opportunity to keep the spirit of it, and still avoid the overlap with the Workplace logo...

With that in mind I've mocked up a few alternatives:

alternate logos

The first keeps the "lock icon + impossible geometry" motif of the original design, but switches it to a more classic triangular shape.

The second takes inspiration from the impossible geometry triangle and the original ? icon of the beta PSE.

The third tries to take the current design, but also shift it back towards a ? icon.

Note: I am by no means a graphic designer, and I'm sure the above could be improved upon, I just wanted to give a few alternatives to help continue the discussion...

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    $\begingroup$ I think the triangular shape is the most interesting of the three $\endgroup$
    – Hunter
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 7:57
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the triangular one $\endgroup$
    – Fabich
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 9:16
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    $\begingroup$ I like the ? the best =D $\endgroup$ Commented May 10, 2016 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ Nice alternatives. I also like the triangle. But it seems (to me) not to have an impossible geometry. Only if you connect the lower branches. If not, it appears to be a matter of perspective =) $\endgroup$
    – fondor
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 9:24
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    $\begingroup$ @fondor - isn't that what puzzles are about? They appear to be impossible, but really aren't and just need a shift in perspective. ;) $\endgroup$
    – Alconja
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ These alternatives look quite good. They would have made good candidates as logo right from the start. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 9:00

I've also suffered from this confusion the last few days, despite being certain I wouldn't when I first saw the new icon. Seeing the two icons next to each other in this meta question shows that they look quite similar, but they are easily distinguished when they are adjacent. The problem comes when only one or other appears without the other adjacent to it. Then it throws me.

As a similarly themed but easily distinguishable alternative, I'd recommend an impossible triangle instead of an impossible quadrilateral for the puzzling icon.

Impossible triangle from cubes

  • $\begingroup$ Note that I count myself as a non-puzzling user - I originally tried to post this to Meta Stack Exchange but the question had been migrated here. So this is an outside perspective and a suggestion only. $\endgroup$ Commented May 9, 2016 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ You'd want to take care not to make it too similar to the Mathematics SE icon (which is also based on a Penrose triangle), though. $\endgroup$ Commented May 9, 2016 at 22:06
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    $\begingroup$ How about something like a Kumiki puzzle? It's not really impossible geometry though, but at first glance seems like it, and they can take many different unique shapes. $\endgroup$ Commented May 10, 2016 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ @WesleySitu those look interesting. I'm not aware of any reason it needs to be impossible - I was just suggesting something similar to the existing icon. $\endgroup$ Commented May 10, 2016 at 5:36
  • $\begingroup$ "They are easily distinguished when adjacent" depends on your screen-resolution and whether or not you're colorblind. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2016 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @SeldomNeedy I agree, but my point was that even for people who can distinguish them when adjacent, they still cause confusion when they appear individually. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2016 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ @trichoplax Cool. I'll delete my comments on the subject. (Including this one, after there's been time for you to see it.) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 20:00

Short answer

We aren't going to change the logo. While the shapes are similar at a glance, the treatment and visual identity are completely different. As the number of site designs increase, it will be impossible to avoid logo collisions.

Sun or Columbia?

Long answer

Our designers strive to create designs that reflect the identity of individual sites. If they succeed the site looks like it belongs to the community who uses it. So the primary goal of a logo is to tie the room together (or whatever actual designers might say). Obviously, they want to avoid logos that look too similar, but superficial similarity is not really a concern.

I can think of only two places where the confusion might come up:

  1. The Hot Network Question sidebar:

    I will say both sites do appear on the HNQ list fairly often.

  2. People who have both sites open on different tabs:

    I have a ton of tabs.

I don't think we can possibly address the second problem since site logos would be competing with the entire universe of favicons. The first is something we can control to some degree however. In fact, a couple of years ago I floated the idea of appending the site name to the logo on the HNQ list:

Added site name in HNQ list.

This would eliminate confusion not just for people who have learned all of our logos, but also for people new to the network. In addition, designers would be free to design logos without stressing about the growing library of site logos.

However, that idea stalled out due to internal disagreements. I'll take the pulse of the team to see if this is something we should revisit.

  • 16
    $\begingroup$ "[...] the second problem since site logos would be competing with the entire universe of favicons." - I disagree with this. You don't have to compete against the entire universe. You have to compete against yourself (the Stack Exchange Network). The first place you mention where confusion occurs is the hot network questions list. I know that the questions on that list will take me to an SE site. I'm not worried about ending up at some random URL that has a similar favicon. I would like to end up at the SE site that I expect though and the similarity makes that hard $\endgroup$
    – Andy
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ Normally good UX design is to evaluate designs based on their effectiveness and level of reception with the users -- not just ignoring their input and saying "we know better." I'm sad that it's the official SE response, but glad you were honest enough to write that out here - thank you. $\endgroup$
    – enderland
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ To add to the confusion with your second examples (tabs), this is only made worse if the user has tabs open for the Meta sites of both sites. Which is which? $\endgroup$
    – Andy
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ @JonEricson My main concern is the apparent lack of sanity checks in the design phase to prevent what happened here. As far as I can tell beta users have no way of contributing to the design process or do any kind of evaluation and are stuck with the design they get. I don't disagree with that choice as I can imagine the endless debate that would ensue, but I would hope that the design is at least reviewed by a group of users with site experience and goes through an internal approval process. [...] $\endgroup$
    – Lilienthal
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ I think anyone who routinely browses the site would be familiar with HNQ and hence immediately see the similarities between the new icon and that of the Workplace, which is featured there often. The logo example I created is a poor one as it lost too much fidelity. There are indeed a lot of logos at this point and a 16x16 canvas certainly imposes some design challenges, but let's not pretend like we can only have 150 distinct designs when the internet has thousands $\endgroup$
    – Lilienthal
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Lilienthal: You are assuming that superficially similar logos are a serious problem. I agree they are becoming increasingly less useful for people wanting to identify sites at a glance. But I strongly disagree that designers should worry about shape duplication. I often confuse RPG with Graphic Design and Sharepoint with Skeptics, but that's the cost of having many designs. (As an aside, can you identify which sites belong to the various penguins in your second image?) $\endgroup$ Commented May 25, 2016 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ I like the name. I have seen new/uncommon sites pop up in that list and wondered, "where on earth is THAT on-topic?" - names could make lesser-known sites more visible. $\endgroup$
    – user12871
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ What I take issue with is the effort you seem to go to in order to pretend like there isn't a problem. I can understand a decision to not change the design now that it's here. I don't have to like that decision but I acknowledge that it isn't a priority for SE. But if we can't change this now, can we at least try to avoid it in the future as more sites graduate? $\endgroup$
    – Lilienthal
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 6:14
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    $\begingroup$ The Sun and Columbia logos are a horrible example and not at all relevant here. Sun and Columbia are two completely independent companies that do business in very different industries. You are almost never going to see the two logos in the same context. The Puzzling and Workplace icons are both within and controlled by the SE Network and very often appear next to each other. Simply saying that "it will be impossible to avoid logo collisions" is not a good answer, as it doesn't appear that you have even tried to prevent it. $\endgroup$
    – David K
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ @JonEricson I agree that's a much better example, though I think the newer team could have made some different design decisions. I do like adding the names to the HNQ list and think that would help a lot. I think a similar solution would then need to be applied anywhere sites are identified only by their logo. The only other place I can think of is the SE Hot Questions page. $\endgroup$
    – David K
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ @JonEricson I think what bothers me (and probably others) most is that this design decision affects us at the Workplace, but we had no say in the matter. In the real world you obviously can't expect this, but we are a closed community with common oversight. We shouldn't all be involved in site-specific decisions, but I would expect those who approve such changes to consider how it may affect others in the greater SE community. I don't feel like that happened here. $\endgroup$
    – David K
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ This discussion reminds me of the days we used to waste designing toolbar icons for Windows MDI apps. Took way too long to realize that very few tiny pictures are actually worth 1000 words... Text is better, 100% behind the alternate idea here. $\endgroup$
    – Shog9
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ The names are overkill. People might not instantly grasp what the favicons mean, but they don't really have to- you can usually infer most of the context from the name of the question itself (and if you can't, it's probably not a Stack Exchange site you would be interested in). $\endgroup$
    – Leslie P.
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ @LeslieP. Time to craft a mystery puzzle "Who murdered my boss and why?" :-) $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Blorgbeard: Gaming was, in fact, the original impetus for this idea. Also a possibility for clarifying what questions are actually about: append the primary tag. I'm going to talk to a designer this week to see if we can get a general solution to the tiny-logos-and-crappy-titles-make-it-hard-to-identify-the-site problem. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 0:10

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