by Mike Salbato
Even if you haven't been a visitor to RPGFan for our whole 20+ year history, there's a good chance you've seen at least some variant of our logo over the years. If you have been visiting us for the entire time... then I still promise you that you'll see something new. Not only did 1999 include way more logo tweaks than I should admit to, I'm also including some unused logo concepts here, many of which haven't even been seen by most of the RPGFan team until now.
So grab a cup of whatever it is you like to drink and let's walk down memory lane. You'll see how our logo started and both how and why it would evolve the way it has over the years. This was fun for me to put together, so I hope you find it interesting too!
Where it all began. The collage style of logo would be with RPGFan for a while, and that concept began in 1997 with the mostly-sprite-based collage above. LunarNET founder Mickey Shannon would improve upon it quickly, with the 1998 logo featuring a more cohesive grouping of artwork and much better typography (Who doesn't love the uniform shapes of Bank Gothic?).
You can see both logos within their original layouts — complete with that animated flame GIF that game websites were required to have in the late '90s — in our History of RPGFan (1997-2002) feature.
The debut RPGFan logo would be with us for many years. The style and colors would change a bit, but this typeface was pretty set in stone for about eight years. Now, there is a font named Dolphin as well as Dauphin, which are largely the same. Font nerds know about knockoff fonts — don't want to buy or properly license Futura? Well, someone else made "Futuri," which is similar but not as clean — but I'm not sure which is which here. In any case, Dauphin is what we used!
I'm not sure what software was used to render the glass effect, but it carried us through several years and revisions. It's interesting looking back now: Since our site has been green with yellow accents for so long, it's easy to forget that early on we had this weird combination of orange and green that surprisingly worked.
This is the only version of the collage logo that would be made before I joined the staff in June 1999. It was a bit busy, but covered a lot of ground in terms of RPGs and kept Alex and Luna (from Lunar) center stage, reminding us of the site's original name.
Here are the first two collage logos that I did. As you'll see, I'd go on to subtly tweak this way too many times throughout 1999, whenever I had a good idea for a character I felt needed to be there. Until we phased out the secondary collage logo in 2001, I was insistent about keeping at least one Lunar character in at all times. Lucia and Ghaleon from Lunar 2 would last the longest, but my favorite was always this art of Luna with the moon behind her. She required a lot of space, which is why I swapped her for Lucia.
Wow, I'm glad I kept this screenshot from 1999! This was before I redesigned the site itself and the navigation, but this was the general layout for years, with a corner logo AND the collage logo on the front page.
Really, this is still part of the Dauphin phase, but sometime in 2000, I did what any fledging designer would do to make something better: Make that sucker glow! This was also when I decided I wanted a graphic element to accompany the text, which began as a triangle that I tried to say wasn't inspired by the NES Zelda, even though it totally was.
The last batch of collage logos were designed to help make the now-glowing logo really stand out, and the borders were added to help it feel more "contained" like it belonged on the page versus older ones.
This is when things really started to take shape and resemble what we have today. The collage logos were retired, and the hacked-together triangle made way for the first version of our now-iconic (literally) shield. This first version was a little light on details, as it was meant to sit behind the text. And that text, of course, was converted to our green and yellow colors, removing the last bits of orange from the logo.
Also seen here and below are some of the holiday variants that adorned the site during December for several years.
Okay, this thing is kind of weird, and is one even I usually forget existed. This never made it to the site, and it was so short-lived in my concept stage that I don't even know what font I used anymore.
That aside, it's a key part of our logo history, as it was a time where I realized the importance of having a logo that was more adaptable: Putting the shield to the left of the text meant I could fit the logo in vertically-limiting spaces. This was absolutely the wrong font to use, but I'd find an ideal replacement in 2007...
And on that weird note, we'll get to see where 2005's little experiment led me, and how it would surprsingly be the origin of today's logo. Onward!