First, congratulations on the upcoming graduation of your site!

My name is Kurtis, and I'm the Stack Exchange team member who will be working on the design for your graduated site.

I've read your suggestions regarding site development and ideas for common molecules as well as this discussion about Chemistry site graduation. Thank you for getting the ball rolling! These ideas will come in handy as we begin the design concepting phase. Feel free to add more logo and site design ideas to this post, and we'll keep them in mind as we move forward!

A couple questions as we begin the design:

  1. Can you describe the look and feel of the site? For instance, should it feel like a clean lab-like feel? Or should it be something completely different.
  2. I'd love to continue the discussion on what the logo should be. There are some great ideas in the earlier posts, but we're open to hearing any more ideas if you have them!
  • $\begingroup$ I feel relieved when hearing these news! I'll put together the train of thoughts and come back with an answer. (suggestion) $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ Great portfolio! $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ I edited some of the answers so that they would actually look more like a logo. :) $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 18:41

7 Answers 7


Font recommendation:

Please choose a serif body font that doesn't make Mathjax like $\rm SO_4^{-2}$ scream when embedded in a sentence. Math SE does it right. (Can we have a font that harmonizes with inline MathJAX?)

The font should also clearly distinguish between l and I (lowercase ell and uppercase letter "eye").

General design in my idea:

My vote is for a clean, minimalist approach to the color scheme, logo and the design in general. The logo might be an element symbol in a square, like a block from the periodic table, or it could be some iconic chemical line structure.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ In addition to I and l, we need to delineate also 1 and | (in order, capital "ey", lowercase "ell", the numeral 1, and the vertical line) $\endgroup$
    – Ben Norris
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 1:16

I'll throw a few more ideas out there. The beautiful thing about chemistry is that there are a lot of images and themes to draw from. Happy designing!

Site Logo

I've thought about the logo a bit, and it's a difficult task because the "Hot Network Questions" requires a very small logo. Personally, I like either a test-tube or flask:

enter image description here

While I might love a molecule, to other non-chemists, these are immediately recognizable as "chemistry" even at small size, which is important.

General Design

I'd definitely favor a clean feel. (Maybe I should say like a "perfect dream" lab, since real labs tend to get messy over time.) I think these sites tend to hold up well and attract return audience. :-)

I think the periodic table has been so iconic that the letter surrounded by a box speaks pretty clearly. (I'm thinking of Breaking Bad, but also all the dozens of t-shirts and greeting cards and everything else that spells out words with element symbols in boxes.)

enter image description here

I'd also love to see a smattering of symbols representing the history of chemistry, from alchemy to modern graphene and 3D molecular graphics... with beakers and test-tubes around on a lab bench.


First off, there's something you probably already know, but it's worth re-stating. There are two different ways of displaying molecules on-screen. There's the 2D line-art style:


There's also the 3D style:

enter image description here

I'm a bit biased, but Avogadro is open source and generates some pretty nice 3D graphics. You can load pretty much any molecule with File -> Import -> Fetch by chemical name.

There's a lot of good 2D depictions on Wikipedia too.

Vote Buttons

I'm not sold on the idea that the vote buttons need to be "chemistry" but the closest for me would be "spin up" and "spin down" electron arrows:

enter image description here

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Beyond the "look," I think there's a huge need to add some tools for formatting formulas using the chemistry MathJax extensions. It would also be ideal to allow molecule input and 2D / 3D display with something like ChemDoodle. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 14:25
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of a test tube or a flask. It's one idea that we're exploring primarily because of the reason you gave—it needs to be recognizable at a very small size. Does anyone else fear that this symbol is too elementary? (No pun intended.) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ @KurtisBeavers For me, no. My immediate response to your question is "what else would you use at this size, an atom?" That's what we co-opted for Avogadro, but chemistry is much more than just atoms. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 15:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Good point. Just wanted to make sure whatever we come up with is both recognizable and unique at the same time. Which is a challenging task for logo design. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ @KurtisBeavers No kidding. I don't envy you. :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 15:08
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Spin up/down is actually awesome and hilarious. I second it. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 7, 2015 at 8:05
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I also like the spin up/down for votes, and note that an aesthetic alternative way of drawing this is with the half-headed arrows in boxes rather than across a line. $\endgroup$
    – Aant
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 19:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ just be careful, answers with too many upvotes would be highly reactive. $\endgroup$
    – user137
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ @user137 Haha. ;-) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps for the general design something with fullerenes is quite cool. They are very remarkable. Aren't they in your research field, Geoff? $\endgroup$
    – Jori
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 11:36

When you just search "Logo Chemistry" in the google image source, you will see, that the most common elements are

  • Hexagons
  • Erlenmeyer Flasks / Test Tube / Round Flasks / etc. pp.
  • representations of atoms and electrons on orbits
  • Element symbols from the periodic table
  • green and blue

Personally I always favoured something along the line of $$\Huge \fbox{$\ce{^{12}_{6}C}$}\text{hemistry}$$ (Just imagine the rectangle to be more of a square.) But this kind is so heavily overused, that I would not recommend it. In the hot questions list the logo is so tiny, that the numbers will blur to dots. (Also it riminds me a lttle bit too much about breaking bad.)

The Erlenmeyer flask is one of my personal favourites. However, I'd really like to see also the aspects of a more theoretical approach. Something like the following
Just so you can imagine a hot question:
hot chemistry Why is gold golden?

It is really very tiny, so I am not really convinced about that any more.

For the up vote buttons I would absolutely stick to something very simple and traditional. We use $\huge\ce{^}$ and $\huge\ce{v}$ in chemical equations, for evaporation and precipitation, why not stick to it?
Another idea would be to use $\huge\Delta$ and $\huge\nabla$, that might be a bit too nerdy though. Fun fact, $n$ are the dimensions, usually $3$: $$\Delta =\sum_i^n\frac{\mathrm{d}^2}{\mathrm{d}x_i^2}\\ \nabla =\sum_i^n\frac{\mathrm{d}}{\mathrm{d}x_i}$$

Also a simple $\huge\color{\green}{\checkmark}$ should absolutely suffice for the accepted answers.

And I almost forgot, as long as we get rid of that grizzly, wizzly, pastel blue background banner, I am completely happy.

  • $\begingroup$ So clean!! I like! $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ I definitely like the "element box" idea for the title image, although not necessarily for the logo. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ There also seems to be a consensus about arrows (mostly electron half-arrows) for vote buttons. Completely agree with the simple approach. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 19:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @GeoffHutchison I cannot see a consensus there, maybe a compromise. I really don't like the half arrow idea. The asymmetry would drive me nuts, but I thought it was not necessary to mention that again. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 3:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin I suspect we'll have more input as Kurtis proceeds. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 4:29

About the logo:

Molecules are really a great idea. Benzene itself can really work. But there's a problem: The simpler 2D structures of these molecules can easily be mistaken with some kind of geometrical shape. The more complex molecules, such as aspirin would look kinda messy. And we know that a logo should be recognizable by a majority of visitors, when doing a good job at demonstrating what the community's about at the same time.

I can give two suggestions about the logo:


Isn't it charming? In my idea, the possible misunderstanding caused by the Lewis structure or ball and stick model of benzene is easily and beautifully solved with a 3D space filling model. It's well-known, explicit, neat and "chemical". (Not to mention aromatic)


As @tschoppi mentions in this answer of his, chemistry has always been known to make acquaintance with labs. (Since Boyle declared chemistry an experimental science) As a logo, it would also be logical to use something like a lab tube or such.


Preferably, some bubbles can help demonstrate a reactive gas-releasing chemical (As are popular chemistry logos in Tom and Jerry cartoons) . The point is, a site can have a very serious logo, or a more "colloquial" one. Comments can tell which the community prefers.

  • $\begingroup$ I like the test tube idea (and even the coloring.. for some reason I thought of green with bubbles too!) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ I bet that was because of "Tom and Jerry"! ;) $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ I like the test tube clipart. $\endgroup$
    – t.c
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 2:43

About the general design:

I believe that almost all of chemistry.SE visitors are either users who visit frequently or who come from search engines and such.

I really vote for Fred's idea for a simple yet elegant design. "Clean", as you mentioned. @JohnSnow recommended in a previous answer of his to have included Bunsen burner as the sign of the acceptance of an answer. I really liked the idea. Mainly because I think the red flame is a really "distinguishable" indicator, especially for something important like accepted-answer.

You are the designer and you know what looks the best in here. There's a degree when visitors will get tired of so much fancy designs, and being overly simple won't catch an eye. Badges I think, are best to be simulations of Gold, Silver or Copper bars. (As mentioned earlier, there's no intention of "making copper bronze", and I really don't have ideas of how would the simulation stimulate bars) If that's not practical, again the handy lab stuff like test tubes and\or erlenmeyers can come collaborative.

Vote buttons:

The most fascinating debate has been about vote buttons! I'd like to add my share to the debate: Cyclopropanetrione! I think the space filling model would do the job the best possible way. (Seriously, if not the logo, this works awesome here)

The problem is, it may look simple to you guys or be misinterpreted. I agree. But it's yet a valid idea for developing. Maybe, in some way it can become better and more distinguishable as a molecule.

If there is to argue about the obscurity of the molecule I would say that I was looking for a real triangular molecule of that kind of geometrical 2D shape. Better ideas welcome.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How about a tetrahedron for the up and down button, something like methane? $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ If Kurtis attempts to show all of the three hydrogens, (or anything else around the central atom) in the 2D pic which is gonna be used as vote buttons, it would look even more vague. And if the 2D button was designed to show only two hydrogens, misinterpretation issue aggravates. (Sorry, you have to use your imagination) $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 20:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If you're going for something triangular, I'd suggest cyclopropenyl cation (i.e., aromatic). A bent water molecule might be interesting too. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ @GeoffHutchison, wouldn't demonstrating an H look messy? (I mean the Hydrogen that's attached to the "peak" of the triangle?) And, water seems to be "missing" something as a vote button. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @MARamezani For cyclopropenyl, you can use the common 2D depiction (i.e., carbons, no H). For water, you'd use H/O\H which would look "up" or H\O/H "down" by flipping it. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't that be a harm to the "chemistry" sense? People will just see a triangle. Though I see that you aren't insisting on the "chemistry" feeling of vote buttons. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ I love this one! $\endgroup$
    – L.B.
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 23:17

Some ideas for the vote buttons:

Benzene for "accepted" questions

enter image description here

You can see this in action here:

enter link description here

Charged cyclopropanes for vote buttons:

enter link description here

The $\ce{-H}$ can be removed, and the charge moved to the center of the triangle, if you want — this representation is also quite common though I wasn't able to quickly find any images of it. Of course, the downvote one should be upside-down :)

Erlenmeyer flasks would also be pretty awesome for the vote buttons. /r/chemistry uses a split thermometer, which is another interesting idea.

For the logo, jelly benzene exists and can be used directly (might want to ask Richard first, but IIRC he was okay with it).

I'm particularly fond of Geoff's suggestion for an Erlenmeyer flask as the favicon.


This is the chemistry icon I Designed; Hope it helps.

This is the control of Up and down Vote.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks! Could you give me a brief explanation behind the shapes you selected for the icon? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ They revolve around the idea of cyclic compounds with a hexagonal design. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ I used Flat Icons so as to make it modern. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ Red and green are the colors as they represent {Red - Bad} {Green - Good} $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ The idea of a "cyclohexane" vote button I favored! There are but problems with your logo design. "CH" won't be recognizable in that small place. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ Normally the voting arrows are the same colour - the direction is enough to for people to tell which is which ;) Also just using colour to differentiate stuff is poor UX for colour blind people and the actual colours are culturally dependent. Having said that the actual designs look OK. $\endgroup$
    – user157
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ Still color gives a meaning to the overall design $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 14:08

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