(Résumé en français ci-dessous)

To continue with my previous meta question, here is the 5th EMQEB question. "Take ownership of your community, The 7 Essential Meta Questions of Every Beta" (7 EMQEB)

I know it may be a bit early to think about design, but I already come up with some idea.

This one is pretty straightforward. Solicit contributions, throw out ideas, post preliminary (or finished) designs, and be supportive and respectful of other people's ideas and creativity.

We have designers on staff who will actively help come up with site designs but, if an idea stemming from the community stands out as exceptional, we are happy to use it.

Joubarc started some discussion about design here: Site design: should we honour Joachim du Bellay? and I suggest he move his question as an answer here.

Une des 7 questions essentielles de toute bêta : quelle sera la conception visuelle du site ?

Un graphiste professionnel se chargera de créer un logo et autres éléments visuels du site (thème graphique, choix de polices, apparence des différents éléments d'interface, ...). La conception visuelle du site en bêta, ainsi que celle de la plupart des sites Stack Exchange, sont l'œuvre de Jin. Le but de cette question est de lui donner des idées.

Merci de répondre en anglais. Si vous avez du mal, vous pouvez demander de l'aide sur le chat.

  • 1
    I like la proposition de Gilles to draw inspiration from the Pléiade – Evpok Sep 7 '11 at 17:01
  • That's the way I should have asked the question. Honestly, I'm no good at meta. (That said, I don't think I will move the Joachim du Bellay stuff over here, it wasn't a very bright idea anyway. Nor was it serious.) – Joubarc Sep 7 '11 at 17:52
  • Why don't we ask for specific ideas on Graphics Design? Like, what typeface looks “French” to you? – F'x Sep 7 '11 at 18:40
  • Didot, but I'm not sure it would fligh on a screen. Too much constrast between (how do you say, les pleins et les déliés?) – Un francophone Sep 7 '11 at 19:20
  • thanks for starting this conversation early! – Jin Sep 10 '11 at 5:17

15 Answers 15


Keeping in line with the "typography"-style logo, maybe we could link it to some caracters or conventions which are typical to French.

One thing that comes into mind is the use of French "guillemets", the famous « and » characters. Maybe both of them could be combined in a logo? Something like (but better of course, keeping both closer to each other, bigger, etc.)


We could also use these as up/down arrows, although the change of direction would kind of ruin the effect.

Edit by F’x: I think that has some potential (this is the first font I tried, a bold Minion, but there sure are fonts with wider guillemets out there):

voting with guillemets

It does not make a complete design, but the idea of having guillemets as up- and downvote arrows is a nice clin d'œil to French typography!


How about getting a style from vintage posters? Those have a look that definitely says “Paris in the 1920’s”. While it's not representative of whole of francophonie (but then, what could be?), it is strongly associated with the French language for most people.

enter image description here

  • 6
    It is not only associated with French, but also awesome-looking imho :) – Evpok Sep 9 '11 at 12:21
  • 4
    Demander de l'aide sur le chat prend tout de suite une autre signification. – Joubarc Sep 13 '11 at 11:02
  • J'ai posé une question sur “Graphics Design” au sujet de cette affiche… – F'x Sep 13 '11 at 14:26
  • I like this! I'm not Frech, never been there, but it does look frenchy to me :-) – Innate Imunity is The Way Jan 28 '12 at 16:57
  • J'aime cette idée! – Jez Apr 28 '12 at 12:16
  • And if we make it out of beta and get this, we could dub Chez Cosette by “‍⁠*Ceci n'est pas un chat noir*‍⁠” – Evpok Jun 26 '12 at 7:58

Even before the site started, I'd been thinking of using the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade as an inspiration. Just as English Language & Usage has a design inspired from Tenniel's illustrations of Alice in Wonderland, we could draw inspiration from the highly reputed editions. La Pléiade instantly evokes high quality, both of form and content. Its typeface is distinctive (Garamond du Roi, i.e. King's Garamond), as is the general appearance of the books.

Déjà avant le lancement du site, j'avais pensé à évoquer la Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. De même que l'aspect de English Language & Usage utilise des éléments des illustrations de Tenniel pour Alice au pays des merveilles, nous pouvons nous inspirer de cette édition réputée. La Pléiade connote une très haute qualité tant sur la forme que sur le contenu. Les livres ont une apparence distinctive, entre autres de par leur police de caractères, le Garamond du Roi.

  • « Garamond du Roi », strange. Claude Garamont is known for his « Grecs du Roi » which is a greek font (he made also romans types, but I've never seen his roman types qualified as « Garamond du Roi »). There is also the « Romains du Roi », committee designed and first cut by Philippe Grandjean about a century later. – Un francophone Sep 7 '11 at 19:16

Since old books l&f and famous writers seem to be trendy for language-related site designs, I'd like to see François Rabelais represented, since he is one of the earliest famous French writer and is strongly linked with Les Lumières. Maybe we could draw from old editions of his stories of giants e.g.

Pantagruel old book

  • 3
    I like the asterism character in there: ⁂. – Joubarc Sep 13 '11 at 11:00
  • 1
    @Joubarc Would be a great answer separator. – Evpok Jan 26 '13 at 14:36

Still continuing to brainstorm: drawing inspiration from Art déco and Art nouveau styles, there are a number of fonts which could be used for titling… For example (not suggesting we use those in particular, just to communicate the “vibe”):

Fletcher Gothic






Continued to brainstorm and ask around me, and people associate the French language strongly with the Age of Enlightenment (Les Lumières). In particular, that suggests that we could try a design inspired by Diderot and d'Alembert’s Encyclopédie:

enter image description here


I think the logo is going to be the toughest bit. If the EL&U logo had been a E (as Stéphane originally thought), the logical extension of that would have been an F here.

The problem is that any of the things that people in general would easily associate with French (flag, baguette, beret, Eiffel tower) are horribly clichéd, and 'too localized'.

As F'x says:

it's not representative of the whole of francophonie (but then, what could be?)

I like Gilles' idea of using Pléiade, here are some other potential editors that could also provide inspiration (please feel free to add your favourites to the list):

  • Grasset (similar to F'x' suggestion)
  • Gallimard (maybe a bit too close to EL&U!)

Following @Gille's idea of drawing inspiration from La Pléiade's book, a good-looking font for a French-related style would be Georg Duffner's EB Garamond. One of the bests Garamonds I have ever seen, and even better, an OFL-licensed one.


So to come up with a first idea, I've was looking on some article in wikipedia. Here they have a icon for the subject on the "francophonie", which turns to be the official logo displayed on flag of francophone summits.


It is simple, probably colour safe and will make a good base to design a StackExchange logo in my opinion.

Maybe the colour code can be used for the design too, but maybe it's too bright/shiny.

The image on wikimédia is public domain: Wikimédia page of the image

  • 5
    I had no idea there was a logo for the "Francophonie" – Joubarc Sep 7 '11 at 17:52
  • 6
    I have no idea this logo is related to francophonie, and I doubt many people will know that or make the connection. If we imitate something, it ougt to be something universally recognizable! – F'x Sep 7 '11 at 18:33
  • 3
    Or maybe we can help the popularity of that logo by using it. – Joubarc Sep 9 '11 at 6:56
  • 4
    Don't like it. I don't associate this with French at all, it looks like an arbitrary attempt to 'legislate' a francophone logo. – Jez Sep 9 '11 at 8:31
  • 2
    @Jez the thing is: I do not want a logo that is not global to all French speaking community. We can't put a French flag as a logo for example, since it may be seen as an exclusion of Canadians, Belgians, ... The logo may also act as a tool of teaching tu user. This is not because only a few people know about a concept that we should not use it. It's also part of the originality we want to give to this site. – M'vy Sep 9 '11 at 9:30
  • 1
    @Jez That's what I meant, except it would be a voluntary attempt to legitimate it rather than arbitrary. The fact is, so far there seems to be no image or logo associated solely with the French language. So if we end up resorting to invent one, it won't be less arbitrary than trying to push one which already exists and is somewhat official. If we want to go to the graphic-logo route, I think it's the most sensible way to go (although we'll need to check about rights too, let's not forget that). Note that I'm not saying we must go the graphic-logo route; some text-based is fine by me. – Joubarc Sep 9 '11 at 12:29
  • 2
    -1 I associate this with Google, not with the French language. – rds Jan 10 '12 at 12:47
  • 1
    @rds Except Google has no purple. – Kareen Jan 30 '13 at 5:51

I always thought that the EL&U logo was a calligraphic ‘𝓔 ’, and that it was obvious that FL&U would use ‘𝓕 ’ as a logo. Maybe I'm wrong¹, but I still like the letter logo convention.

1. The site's banner suggests it's a & !


One other symbol somewhat loosely associated to French is the Fleur-de-lis:

Fleur-de-lis, silhouette

Now the problem is of course the "loosely" association, since it's been associated with a bunch of other things; and it's not even that much associated to French anyway. (More with French royalty, I guess, so that may not too popular in France. Québec, on the other hand, should like the idea.)

  • Monarchy for the win! – F'x Sep 14 '11 at 12:12

I think Jez's answer got downvoted for other reasons than the question he asked. So I'll try to phrase it differently:

Do we want to look 'french' to francophones, or to everyone? And are the two mutually exclusive or not?

(Note: I think the French quotes is an excellent example of something which could bridge the divide, or maybe just a simple accented character: 'é' or 'ç'?)

  • 1
    Jez asked a simple poll question, with “up” and “down” being used to express opinion. Its result seems clear to interpret: people apparently don't want something “too cliché”. Regarding your question-as-an-answer, I'm confused: how do you suggest we answer that? In comments? – F'x Sep 14 '11 at 11:13
  • @F'x, sorry, you're right, I mis-/skip-read his answer. I guess I'm just thinking out loud, so yes, don't vote; react in comments :) – Benjol Sep 14 '11 at 12:57

As an alternative, if we go with a generic “old book” look, maybe we could get inspiration from Fell types and in particular, their ornaments and flowers.

enter image description here

  • What's the connection with French? I do feel we want the theme to have a connection with the site's topic. – Gilles 'SO nous est hostile' Sep 8 '11 at 20:22

We need to make a decision.

Should the logo be something cliché that most people can associate with the French language (or at least France), or something that is more refined but that only experts will recognize as French?

I think the two are mutually exclusive, really, so we need to pick one. I don't offer an opinion, just the choice.

Vote this post UP if you think we should use easy-to-associate, DOWN if you think we should use more-refined, or add a comment if you don't think this dilemma exists.

  • 1
    EL&U's logo is not cliché, while being good-looking and evoking the English language. I think we can manage that for French, too. – Evpok Sep 9 '11 at 12:24
  • 1
    Honestly, as much as I like the EL&U logo, I don't really associate it with English - with language, writing, or even calligraphy, maybe, but English? Nope. That said, it is a nice logo, and we can manage something like that for French, I'm all for it - but I doubt it will be able to scream "French" in the face of people who stumble upon it. The question is, does it even need to, considering most of the time the site title won't be very far from it anyway. – Joubarc Sep 13 '11 at 9:42

Eiffel towers for arrows, anyone?

  • 4
    Just read Benjol's answer... horribly clichéd, and 'too localized' well, can't argue the cliché part, but we do want a recognizable look overall, something that screams "french" to people. I would say "iconic", not "cliché". As for the too localized, well, yeah, maybe, but let's be honest, French and France are pretty much associated anyway, aren't they? – Joubarc Sep 9 '11 at 6:47
  • 1
    Associating and screaming the association out loud are two different matters. Personally, I'd be fed up with them after the second page of Eiffel towers… – Nikana Reklawyks Oct 17 '12 at 2:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .