The designer behind Facebook CEO's mysterious hoodie speaks up

Earlier this month, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg ignited a baffling brouhaha in the press when he took off a hoodie on-stage at the AllThingsD conference only to reveal a circular design imprinted on the inside.

AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher joked to Zuckerberg, “What are you in, some kind of cult?” and SF Weekly’s Alexia Tsotsis had the insignia recreated and analyzed. Then one intrepid employee put the hoodie up for sale on eBay and saw it pass $4,000.

So what’s the story behind the design?

Ben Barry, the insignia’s creator, spoke up on Quora, the Q-and-A site founded by Facebook’s first chief technology officer Adam D’Angelo and another early engineer Charlie Cheever.

He wrote:

I came up with the design after meeting with Mark. He wanted to make something to thank employees for all of their hard work in 2009. I suggested making the focus on 2010 and making it about looking forward. I think it’s more in line with how we think as a company and also gave us much needed time to produce such a large order of custom jackets. He wanted to create something unique that incorporated our mission statement and the 3 main channels with which people share through Facebook (graph, stream, platform).

Here is a process sketch:

I drew a full size pencil version after this, but it’s somewhere at the office.

There wasn’t quite as much thought put into it as some of the bloggers would have you think. I looked at a lot of old worker union labels and seals for inspiration (…) and drew something to incorporate and communicate the things that were important to Mark. I wanted to keep the outside of the jacket very plain and modest, something that felt timeless and didn’t have our logo slapped all over it. The actual design time for the graphics as a couple of days, most of my time on the project was spent figuring out how to do a custom printed silk lining for a jacket (mock ups, fabric samples, embroidery samples, press checks etc..).

So there you go. No Illuminati rituals or animal sacrifices to be seen here (unless you count the meat dishes served in the company cafeteria).

Frankly, in our humble opinion, many great companies that have had lasting impact on society have exhibited some cult-like behavior. Hello, Google? Apple? Disney? It takes a strong and coherent set of values and identity for an institution to move efficiently and adapt to change.

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