Lisp Needs a Logo

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Lisp needs a logo.

Ken Tilton wrote:

Small problem. You forget that Ron Garret wants us to change the name of Common Lisp as the sure-fire way to make it more popular (well, hang on, he says it is necessary, not sufficient. Anyway…) I do not think we can safely pick a new logo until we have our new name.

Changing a language's name is not something that can be easily done, and is unnatural and takes concerted effort, and is very difficult for it to be successful.

However, creating a (universally recognized) logo for the language, is easily done, and in fact the use of a logo or some representative image is inevitable and wide-spread, willy-nilly.

For example, although there are no official logos for lisp, but as you know, there are several logos or images of various forms that are already used widely, either to represent lisp the language family, or to represent the Common Lisp language. And, for various Scheme implementations, they almost all had a logo of their own. (See: Lambda Logo Tour for Scheme logos) Example:

lisp logo
The “twisty AI typeface” LISP logo. Used by as early as 2001.
earth in parenthesis
The “earth in parenthesis” logo, used by as of 2006-12.
5 eyed elephant alien 5 eyed elephant alien
Conrad Barski's “alien technology” lisp web-badges It appeared in 2005.
stylized lizard logo
Manfred Spiller's lizard lisp web-badge It appeared in 2005.

As these examples attest, that the use of a logo is needed in practice. However, it wouldn't help if there are one hundred different logos to represent the same thing. The point of logos, is to have a memorable, graphical representation. In modern, capitalistic, societies filled with information, the use of logos is inevitable. Just look around you at this very moment, you probably can identify tens of logos: on your computer, on your mouse, on your clothing, on your TV, on your light bulbs, on your watch, phone, bags, shoes. Logo, is merely a graphical representation of a entity, whose textual counterpart is name.

Since there is a need for logos, we might as well get together and agree to have one official logo for lisp the language. That way, it solidifies the purpose of the logos in use.

Note that, although we have the beautiful “lisp lizard” and “alien technology” graphics, but because of their graphic content and in particular the embedded slogan, they do not fit as a logo, but more as web-badges.

Web-badges serve slightly different purpose than logos. It is more for the purpose of promotion, than representation. For the same reason, there are mascots. For example, Java the language, has a official logo of a smoking coffee cup, but also has a mascot of a penguin named “Duke”.

java logo 1996-s700
The official Java logo, 1996 to 2003.
Java logo new
Java new logo, begin in 2003
java penguin
Java mascot, a penguin named Duke.

The World Wide Consortium organization ( also has a logo, and it has various web-badges for its various web technology validation services.

w3c main
The official logo of the World Wide Consortium organization
w3c HTML validation badge
XHTML validation web-badge of World Wide Consortium

The history of Python community's logo is a good example of the eventual recognition of a need for a unified, official logo.