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Mary Thengvall for SparkPost

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The Sticking Power Of The SparkPost Flame

The Sticking Power of our SparkPost Flame

My premise today might be a hard one for you to swallow: software developers love stickers. (Note: in this instance, one could argue that the word “love” goes beyond the standard definition of “like very much or find pleasure in” and moves into the “obsessed” category.)



What’s that you say? It’s old news that developers love stickers and it’s a tragedy when they lose sticker history? Well that makes this blogpost a little… stickier, if you will. We love stickers here at SparkPost. Each laptop is unique, from “Social Media Ninja” to a silhouetted Snow White holding the “evil apple” to a variety of meetups, tools, and avocados of course. So I’m sure you’ll understand why I went to our amazing designer Lynn Murphy a little over a year ago and asked her to start thinking about designing a line of SparkPost stickers for us.

A Sticky Subject

Designing company logos, and then riffing on them, is a sticky subject to say the least. As any good designer will tell you, at a relatively new company, one of the top priorities is making sure the logo is recognizable, but that’s no easy feat. You have to stand out in all the right ways, and any branding you use has to be memorable.

It’s safe to say that Github nailed the “memorable” piece with their Octocat, designing over 100 stickers that are now sought after by developers around the globe, as you can tell from searching for Octocat on Twitter. As designer Cameron McEfee says in his post about Octocat’s history, “people use [the Octocat] to say, ‘This is me when I create software with GitHub.’”

With that in mind, I first approached Lynn, our designer extraordinaire and Director of Creative Services, about integrating our SparkPost flame into an event logo for our Bitcamp 2016 sponsorship as a special, limited edition sticker. The organizers were on board, and it was a relatively easy transition, since the base was a campfire. Lynn added our flame in place of the 8-bit flame in their logo, and Bitcamp attendees went wild for them.

One Stick at a Time

With the thrill of that success still fresh, I went back to Lynn, this time about our awesome client libraries. What could we do that would show off our libraries, as well as increase brand awareness via laptops around the world? Given the playful nature of our logo and her genius ideas, I figured we might be able to come up with something that would not only promote our client libraries, but delight our users.

Long story short, Lynn jumped in with both feet, looking at the programming language logos and brainstorming ideas. Some proved to be easier than others. Node.js, Ruby, and Python, for example, were relatively simple to incorporate, as she just substituted the center of our flame for the appropriate programming language logo. Others, like Java, took a little more time and creativity, but quickly became crowd favorites.

sparkpost client library stickers

“GoLang is my favorite,” says Lynn. “It was challenging to adapt the gopher personality, and we were able to use our Sparky character, which was fun. After that, PHP was certainly the most challenging. The PHP logo doesn’t have much brand personality, and it doesn’t fit well into our flame. We ended up going with the elephant in the center of the flame based on Enfys, the diversity elePHPant.”

SparkPost CMO Josh Aberant likes to visit Lynn’s desk and guess which language goes with each sticker. “I think that’s what makes them even more intriguing, rather than having each one explicitly lend itself to the corresponding programming language,” says Lynn. “It makes it more of a game.”

We quickly found that you all agreed! I’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve had people come up to the SparkPost booth at conferences and try to guess which client libraries we have based on the stickers alone. Once they’ve got a perfect score, they of course take one of each – you gotta catch them all! And the fun is contagious! Bringing new stickers to events is still one of my favorite things to do.

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Taking Over the Cities, One Sticker at a Time

Given the success of the client library stickers, we decided to take the next step: cities.

We started with New York City, where our Developer Advocate Aydrian Howard has a strong presence at meetups and conferences. What’s not only iconic and unique to NYC, but flame-shaped as well? The Statue of Liberty’s torch of course! That’s definitely got sticking power.

Next was San Francisco, where our marketing and sales teams are based, and Maryland, home to most of our engineering team. San Francisco was relatively easy: our classic flame is orange, as is the Golden Gate Bridge, whose silhouette fits perfectly inside the SparkPost flame. Maryland was a little more difficult. We went through various iterations of the Maryland flag, seafood, and lighthouses, before landing on the classic Maryland crab.

Since then, we’ve added other locations as we find a large swath of community members located there (aka Canada) or if we happen to sponsor a handful of local events (aka Seattle, Chicago, and Austin). While our collection remains small for the time being, we enjoy playing around with the flame and creating additional stickers for special occasions (aka Pride Month).

SparkPost city and event stickers

Stuck on You

As much fun as it’s been to collaborate with Lynn on these stickers and watch her brilliance at work, at the end of the day, these stickers are really about you all – our community. Believe it or not, I actually do know that stickers are a big deal to developers (or anyone with a laptop).

When I asked folks to show their sticker pride a few weeks ago, I got a great response from a variety of you from around the world, proud to show off what stickers you’ve collected along your developer journey.

Whether you’re like me and spend minutes (ok, maybe hours) poring over Amazon to find the perfect sticker(s) to put on a brand new laptop, or you just layer sticker upon sticker, the stickers we collect show our personality, our affiliations, and our preferences. As my friend Jon Johns says, “Laptop stickers are self-identification, and advocation by choice.”

Jon Johns's instagram post about stickers

We hope that the playfulness of our stickers inspire you to not only build something awesome, but make you feel like a part of our community, no matter what language you use or where you live.

Got an opinion about what our next sticker should be? Stick it below and we just might send you one hot off the press!

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