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Original designer behind Twitter bird icon talks the 'X' rebrand

Original designer behind Twitter bird icon talks the 'X' rebrand

DELMAR, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Many across social media feel confused about Twitter rebranding its iconic bird logo to a simple "X" symbol. At his Albany, New York-area studio on Thursday, the artist behind the original logo talked about its creation and leaving the brand behind.

Phil Pascuzzo is hard at work in his quiet suburban home in Delmar, mainly designing the inviting covers that tempt you to pick up a good book. You’d never guess he’s the designer of the world-famous Twitter bird icon.

"It’s so interesting. Most people have no idea," laughed Pascuzzo. "It’s kind of like how Milton Glaser created the 'I love New York' logo, but when you see the I 'heart' NY, it doesn’t feel like anybody did it. It's just there."

Pascuzzo has run Pepco Studio, his independent freelance design studio, for the last 20 years, but he said that his first graphic design job out of college was where he met Biz Stone, one of the three Twitter co-founders. "We were both junior designers, so we were lowest on the rank, but he would just after every subway ride have all these wild ideas and we would just talk about them," Pascuzzo recollected with NEWS10's Mikhaela Singleton. "I would do these little doodles on Post-it notes, and he just liked my drawings."

He said that Stone approached him around 2005 looking for a unique bird-themed design. The iStock image by Simon Oxley that was used when Twitter first launched couldn’t be its official logo, as that would violate iStock's terms of service.

"I started sketching different birds. We knew we were going with blue, which — it’s great for like, feeling optimistic, feels like the future, blue skies," Pascuzzo explained. "[Stone] had a rough idea, but he really left it to me to get creative with. He's got a great sense of humor so he had all these ideas for little things he wanted the bird to be doing."

Pascuzzo said that first bird design took about 30 minutes and a chat between friends, landing him $500 for the work. "I was in an apartment in Arbor Hill at the time and thought, $500 will make rent so yeah let's do it," he said. "Twitter wasn't some huge thing like it is now that everybody is on."

For years, he continued creating many marketing items that helped Twitter take flight. Shifting the bird's design to a silhouette, Pascuzzo then sold the design to the studio outright in 2010, when it took shape in the most recent version used from 2012 to 2023. He added that he did reapproach his friend and the company to renegotiate pay for the logo design when Twitter truly took off.

"When I realized the weight of what this icon had become, I went back with an intellectual property lawyer, and it was extremely cordial," Pascuzzo said. "It didn’t give me anything close to Elon Musk money, but it was a down payment on a house."

On the topic of Musk and the many changes since his takeover of the social media giant in October, Pascuzzo said the news to clip the bird’s wings for a simple “X” symbol came as a surprise. "I was like, 'What?' What is this white — because it’s just a Unicode symbol," he said. "It’s not even a logo. Nobody even designed it."

After 20 years in the business, he said that he’s learned not to get too attached to any creation, so he's not sad to see the bird go. But he worries that Musk’s future for Twitter leaves behind much of what made the platform unique.

"He seems obsessed with the 'X.' I mean you look at his child with Grimes — X Æ A-Xii — he loves X. It’s everywhere. So in his world, it may make sense, but I think, in the Twitter world, it doesn’t really make much sense," Pascuzzo concluded. "I feel he threw away a lot of brand equity. The name, the color, the language — it’s so ubiquitous. It’s part of our lexicon."