Wikipedia in 3D

(Update: We’ve received a lot of feedback about how the new Wikipedia identity functions in different browsers, and we’re working on some minor improvements over the next few days.  We’ve captured much of the feedback below, and now encourage users to visit this thread on Wikimedia Commons where you can further comment on a revised version, currently being tested on our prototype Wikipedia.  Thanks!)

Later today you’ll be reading about one of the first major changes to  Wikipedia’s user interface.  A significant part of that change is a minor, but noticeable refinement to one of the most-recognized logos on the internet: the Wikipedia puzzle globe.

Our puzzle globe has an amazing story, and its creation and localization across more than 250 distinct language versions of Wikipedia is a collaborative design achievement. The original globe was created in 2003 following a historical logo-creation contest on Wikipedia.  The original winning design came from Paul Stansifer (Wikipedia User:Paullusmagnus), a design that was then revised to reflect the international breadth of Wikipedia by David Friedland (User:nohat) — the version users around the world have grown to know as Wikipedia’s puzzle globe.

Just over a year ago we saw a need to update the beloved Wikipedia globe, both to resolve some minor typographic errors found by our volunteers, and to develop a high-resolution version with gradient qualities (it is a sphere, after all) that could be used in a variety of new settings.  It was a perfect opportunity to build a new model that would be completely 3D in its design.  To complete the project we would need help from a 3D designer, and we’d go back to our community of volunteer contributors to examine what the 52 or so un-identified puzzle pieces might look like.

A new chapter in the history of the logo was written as volunteers examined languages and scripts that were not represented in the previous iteration of the puzzle globe.  Several small errors were corrected, and the Klingon character was replaced with an Amharic character (Klingon Wikipedia wound down in 2005). A great history of the puzzle globe, not surprisingly, can be found on Wikipedia.

The actual 3D construction of the new mark was carried out by a San Francisco bay area professional 3D animator, art director, and graphic designer, Philip Metschan.  Through his career Philip has worked for Industrial Light and Magic and Pixar, and currently he’s also a visualization and concept artist for the DIRECT program.

The results are fantastic, and now you can see many new languages and scripts represented.  The final state for our puzzle globe is quite similar to the original.  The ‘hero’ version closely resembles the shape, and orientation of the original.

You can review more details about the revised identity, and see some of its current physical manifestations, here.

Aside from the puzzle globe, you’ll also notice a small refinement to the text underneath the puzzle globe.  To facilitate the incredible work of our volunteers in localizing the Wikipedia identity into over 250 languages and character sets, it was decided to use Linux Libertine (an open-source typeface) as an alternative to Hoefler.  “The Free Encyclopedia” tag line has also lost its italics to facilitate better on-screen reading (although we’re pretty sure everyone on the internet knows those words by now). You can see the incredible volunteer effort of localizing these new Wikipedia identies unfold here.

This is a small part of the next steps for Wikipedia in terms of look and feel, but we hope the revised logo is a useful and more practical tool for our volunteer chapters and volunteers around the world. We’d love to hear your feedback as well, because like any great and visible logo, small improvements are always in store.

Our thanks to the whole usability team, Philip Metschan, and the dozens of volunteers who have helped make this project a reality. We also recognize the original efforts of David Friedland, Paul Stansifer, and those early pioneers who brought this identity to life in 2003.  We hope it’s a lasting tribute and a testament to the incredible impact this symbol makes on millions of people every day.

Jay Walsh, Head of Communications

Categories: Highlights, Wikipedia
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183 Comments on Wikipedia in 3D

anon 6 years

Everything I can live with except the search box.

dev 6 years

The new features of Wikipedia are very good. I do not know what can be better than this. One can use Wikipedia more easily now.

--- 6 years

It’s a question you have to answer: what do you want the logo to look like?

paper, marble, stone, granite, plastic, wood, brick, cardboard, line-drawing, computer generated, blend between real and computer generated? What do you want the symbols to look like: engraved and inked in, written using a pencil, brush, typewriter, …, standing out, etc.

Were those questions asked and answered?

My preference would be to make it look like a blend between a computer rendering and a real puzzle of non-glossy marble pieces/paper that have height, length and width like in a real puzzle. I’m not sure how I would draw the symbols, no relief like in a book, or some relief (sunken or raised) like lettering on stone objects.

--- 6 years

The old logo doesn’t look that good when it is shown in bigger sizes. When it is in the smaller size, it does look very good.


It looks like a real puzzle you could pick up and play with.

The new logo doesn’t look like that. It looks like something created on the computer.

You can’t get a warm fuzzy, nostalgic feeling with a logo like that, so it is worse.

You can get a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feeling from the feel and smell from real puzzles and books. The old logo resembles that more, so it is better.

I think the new designer designed the new logo at a bigger size than we see on screen. At that size it might look slick, but at smaller sizes it suffers in comparison to the old logo.

And I know the convention nowadays is to put the search field in the upper-right side of the page, but that spot isn’t a “hotspot” of the users attention/gaze (in this design) so it is placed wrongly. The rest of your navigation is all in the left column (the elements surrounding the search box are irrelevant for a majority of your users), so why place this 1 element way out there? No first time user is going to notice it.

michael 6 years

The languages links at which used to be lined up on the left are actually the feature of Wikipedia I most use, both to find translations of words, and to find better articles in other languages when I’m not quite satisfied with the one I’m looking at. Hiding the languages options adds a click every time, and is frankly annoying to anybody who uses more than one language.

Cool Punk 6 years

wikipedia in 3d is agreat improvement .I have been using wikipedia for the past 6 year for now.

jose miguel 6 years

I think the new interface looks a little bit empty, and when i want to find an article, instead of moving the mouse up i move it to the left, i need some time to learn this new design, and the logo, the light and shadow effects are pretty, but is very sall compared with the text and the only two characters i can identify are the W and Omega, the other onnes are extremely small, but i can aprecciate the dedication :-D

Pelayo 6 years

I agree with most people here that the new design should still be polished.

First the most controversial one: the logo. I think it’s a great idea to re-design it while being faithful to the old one, like most people, but this version looks more like a quick preview render. There should be more contrast between the puzzle pieces. The older one looked like curved pieces forming a sphere, while this one looks just like a simple sphere with a texture. Probably it’s not only the render’s fault, but also the resample filter used to make the small version of it. Strangely, as other users said, the old logo looked 3D but this one looks like 2D, more exactly like a vector drawing with some shading. The changes in the characters are fine, as a trekkie I enjoyed the klingon character but I perfectly understand an encyclopedia’s logo is not a place for it. And the changes in the font for the Wikipedia text.. I didn’t notice that until I read it here, but apart from hating Comic Sans and loving Fixedsys Excelsior and Topaz I don’t pay attention to the fonts.

And about the vector theme: I don’t like the colors chosen, but this is only my opinion probably. I would use darker colors for the separation lines. I like the new placement for the shearch box, I know lots of people that didn’t use it previously because in the tool bar they thought it was only for searching inside the current article. We should understand that most Wikipedia readers aren’t wikipedians but casual users, and if almost everyone puts the search box in that place, it’s more intuitive. I think it would be better to move it to the space between the page-discussion| |read-source tabs, but it’s fine the place it is now. I don’t like the collapsing menus because I read always the same article in three languages. I think the default option should be not collapsing them and making the collapsed menus available in the options for logged users. Again, this is probably something that only I find annoying so I don’t want to rant about something only I want.

Pelayo, from Spain

Gotfryd 6 years

I don’t like the new logo. I agree with Nihiltres (, it’too flat.
But it’s good to know that you are working on things :)

Kristoffer Nolgren 6 years

Okay, so maybe i’m all wrong here, but shouldn’t a organisation that wants every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge, start by sharing the information they have availible?

How about making the 3D model publicly availibe and see what the community can do with it? It’s a very interesting object, both in digital and physical shape!

what do you guys think?

HARIDHAR 6 years

Phenomenon of changing planet and human interfaces always consists of bifocal stress.
Amazes are always wondering and mystic like Wikipedia’s Puzzle Design right from origin to till.

instead trying to change the seasons; Some great efforts like “WIKIPEDIA” need to be supported always for any reason and secure like us.

Cheers to the initiators and volunteers who made it possible…..

Ian 6 years

They changed it!Iv’e been waiting so long for

Brian 6 years


Please show some respect too, Casey took the time to reply to a number of points in this thread while clearly showing some thought and care. To suggest that Casey is insulting someone for having expressed thoughts in a set of words that would to many be perfectly acceptable is surely a little harsh.
It is easy in the midst of a busy day to choose a set of words that could be bettered, but Casey’s are by no means offensive. Like you I obviously have nothing to contribute to the thread and we ought to find something positive to contribute to the debate and encouraging creativity rather than intimidating those who wish to communicate, whatever the contrast in depths and sophistication of different contributors use of our often too complex and subtle language.

Thomas 6 years

@Casey Brown: Hey, please show some respect. “I’m sorry that you’re upset” may be a commonly expressed thought, but it’s more thoughtless than thoughtful. It’s one thing to express regret over the unfortunate actions of others, quite another when that other is the one whom you are addressing and claiming to empathize with!

Better to say, “I’m sorry we did something that upset you”. And if you feel you’ve caused no offense, then don’t insult your reader by using the form of an apology without the substance.

Barrie 6 years

Does it matter what the logo looks like? Who visits a site because it’s got a nice logo? I wouldn’t have a clue what the old one was!

Chris 6 years

The graphic suggests a world comprised of people of many languages working on a common construction. Judging by the discussion above, it also suggests a world in which many people live in ease and at rest. Rather than scrabbling around for enough food to survive, we have time to pass comment on a picture drawn on someone else’s website. A blessed world indeed.

Kay 6 years

Oh, and the logo on the prototype wiki is an improvement, texture-wise.

Kay 6 years

Er… Coxy: I’m a layperson, not a wannabe designer of any sort. And I say the logo sucks. So do most of the others. There’s a whole ton of us who don’t know enough about graphics to even pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with the new logo (other than, the font sucks, etc). But we know it looks bad.

It doesn’t take a “real designer” to see a bad logo.

And even if I were, I wouldn’t take on a job like this no matter how much you paid me, because I know I would get this kind of flak. So sympathy and kudos to the designer, but please fix it.

Coxy 6 years

I like the new design, and the logo. It makes the whole site look more modern. Most articles are much longer than the navigation though. maybe you can make it so the left hand navigation moves with the page when you scroll?

The new logo is good too… everyone is complaining… ignore them. They just want the redesigned logo in their portfolio. Design isn’t done by a committee. And if there really was a problem with the logo everyone would be pointing out the same problems and how they could be fixed. Instead all you get are personal comments and “I’d like it better if…”. Real designers don’t make decisions based on personal taste and things they like. :-( I hope those complaining are not real designers… just people at home with a cracked copy of 3D Studio MAX.

Alex 6 years

I don’t like the new version because the borders of the puzzle pieces looked better in the old one. Additionally, as a Russian user, I think that the letter Й should be restored since it looks more interesting and fancy than just И.

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